Ashley's piece Outcome Inevitable was written for the Relache ensemble in 1991. The double bass plucks a constant 16th-note beat on middle C throughout (the kind of task that Relache's human metronome Douglas Mapp is superb at). The soloists play in succession one at a time, each playing a line that consists mostly of upward steps and the occasional downward interval of any size. The lengths of the sustained notes are in multiples of a dotted quarter. The number of scale notes, and the length of the sustained notes, are determined by a permutational number sequence that Ashley worked out in his youth, and which he has applied to many pieces. The viola and keyboard accompany the sustained notes, playing in the same rhythm. The viola starts in unison with the melody instruments, and with each new solo moves one step further away; in the example below it is a fifth away from the English horn. The drum plays a series of repeating rhythmic patterns, a new one for each section and soloist; here, notated in 16th-notes, it is 4 + 4 + 5 + 2 + 2 + 4, 21 16th-notes in total length, as noted in the example.
You can hear the English horn solo (played by Lloyd Shorter), starting at about 7:45 on the Relache recording, here:
A score excerpt of the beginning of this passage is below:
The entire piece, 16 minutes long, has the same texture and atmosphere, minimalist in its extreme limitations but unpredictable in many details. It is, for me, Ashley's loveliest instrumental work.
You can buy the Relache recording of Outcome Inevitable via Amazon; there is also a recording by the MAE Ensemble.
Return to the Robert Ashley page