At The Corner of Alive and Jesus (36:29)
Self released cassette, San Francisco, 1988
Written by Melody Summer Carnahan
Barbara Golden, Robert Ashley, David Cremin, Sheila Davies, Barney Jones, K. Atchley: vocals
Mary Oliver: violin and viola
Maggi Payne: flute
Larry Polansky: guitar
William Winant: percussion
Barbara Golden: keyboards
George Brooks: saxophone
‘At The Corner Of Alive And Jesus: A Cantata‘, as it was first called, was premiered in San Francisco in 1987, with the following performers: William Winant (percussion), Sarah Willner (viola, vocals), Barbara Golden (narration, keyboards), Mary Oliver (violin), Laetitia de Compiegne & Sheila Davies (vocals), Miguel Frasconi (pan pipes), Larry Polansky (guitar) – information according to this source. Robert Ashley hadn’t joined yet, apparently. Barbara Golden (b. 1941 Montréal, Canada) graduated from Mills College in 1982, studying with Robert Ashley, Terry Riley, Maggi Payne and Lou Harrison. The wonderful gamelan music of the latter probably led her to join the Gamelan Sekar Jaya orchestra with which she still performs to this day. She also plays in bands WIGband, & Shroomy.com and host a radio show called ‘Crack o’ Dawn’ on KPFA, San Francisco (listen to past shows here).
Melody Summer Carnahan (b.1951) started as a mail artist in the late 1970s and later graduated from Mills as well, where she had started writing texts for avantgarde composers (see bio). Her best known disc is ‘The Time Is Now’, Frog Peak Music, 1996, where she invites composers and musicians to create music from her book of the same title, Burning Book Press, 1983, and including the participation of Joan LaBarbara and Robert Ashley. Her writings have extensively been set to music by US composers.
The narration tells the story of one ‘Barbara’, an eccentric woman whose original and funny behavior is told by Barbara Golden in a poetic and dreamy voice. The story is pure American Surrealism, with strange apparitions and unusual events. Musical interjections are used to dramatically or poetically enhance a scene or event, according to the situation (Mary Oliver’s joyous fiddle, Maggi Payne’s dreamy flute, George Brooks’s tender saxophone). Robert Ashley appears at 29:05 as The Voice in a dream Barbara experiences. The dream itself (including broken marble columns, pink clouds, orange flames, a Tiny Hooded Lady and a monkey) is hardly different from Barbara’s own everyday life. The whole passage is brilliant with its heavenly female choir and irresistible Ashley tone.