Robert Ashley will receive much welcome attention in New York next month. Amanda MacBlane, in Time Out New York, has a profile of the avant maestro, who turned eighty last year. There doesn't seem to be a specific reason for the current "groundswell," as MacBlane calls it, and there needn't be: Ashley is a major figure not only in the American experimental tradition but also in the recent history of conceptual theater. From Nov. 1 to Nov. 5, the Incubator Arts Project, based at St. Mark's in the Bowery, focuses on Ashley's chamber and instrumental music; there's info here. On Nov. 6, as part of Performa 11, there will be a daylong performance of Ashley's 1983 television opera Perfect Lives, moving through various locations in the East Village. And, on Nov. 19-21, the Kitchen, again in league with Performa 11, presents Ashley's pathbreaking 1967 opera That Morning Thing, which no one has attempted in forty years. One more event follows in December — a Spanish-language version of Perfect Lives, called Vidas Perfectas. Anyone who wishes to read about Ashley in depth should await Kyle Gann's Ashley book, which the University of Illinois Press will publish next year; there's a teaser page of musical examples on Kyle's site. No one has expressed interest in reviving the Ecstatic Radio Fantasia on Robert Ashley's "She Was a Visitor," which is just as well.
Illustration: Richard Merkin, from The New Yorker.