No French After Oatmeal

Robert Ashley’s brand new recording of his opera Celestial Excursions is up in its 111-minute entirety on Postclassic Radio. I think it’s his most musically beautiful opera ever, even though there’s not particularly much more music in it than in the other ones – something about the rhythms of the words, the way the repeated phrases make music. It’s his opera about old people:

Old people are special because they have no future. The future is what to eat for breakfast, or where did I leave my shoes. Everything else is in the past. Is this understandable?

So, sometimes old people break the rules. Especially the rules of conversation and being together. They laugh a lot. I mean real, full laughter. Did you ever notice that? They break the rules because, for one reason or another (illness, anger, damage, enough of that, whatever), the rules no longer apply for them.

Or to quote the song about the baguette:

The plate was taken away. The heavy door shut. I heard the lock.

I thought to myself, if Beckett wrote in French,

He must have had to have a baguette for breakfast.

You can’t write in French after a breakfast of oatmeal.

That is, when Beckett decided to write in French,
He had to have a baguette for breakfast.

No, I thought to myself, think clearly. This is your chance.

Beckett wanted to have the baguette for breakfast, though he knew this desire would lead

Him irrevocably to writing in French.

You can’t have the baguette for breakfast and write other than in French.

He chose. It takes courage to be a writer.



  1. Michael says

    We just received this at my college radio station – I immediately put it on, without really knowing the contents. Hey, it’s Robert Ashley, I’ll play it! Within a few minutes, a woman called up to thank me. She grew up “listening to music like this,” she said, and had told her dad to listen in over the internet. It’s a beautiful work, captivating and fascinating throughout.