Robert Ashley, That Morning Thing, 2011. Photo: Paula Court. Courtesy of Performa.
Exerpt / Robert Ashley’s opera That Morning Thing is a rumination on spoken language. Split into three acts and an epilogue, the first piece, “Frogs”, sets the tone by motioning toward the inevitable misunderstandings and inconsistencies of language. The composition is introduced by audio of various frog species croaking, most likely sampled from scientific recordings, which then gives way to an essay read aloud by a man in a suit. Delivered in a resounding voice and assertive manner, the essay discusses the inadequacy of language to communicate human thought. Four men in a row repeat “1, 2, 3, 4”, and after multiple repetitions, their sounds begin to recall a chorus of frogs. At the same time, a group of women in matching white dresses and rounded goggles, with their hands held up in front of them with open- faced palms, walk in robotic lock step. Periodically, the female dancers collide with another and connect hands, an action that triggers flashing lights on the goggles. Their movements seemed both random and controlled, as if they were directed by a larger system. The chance connections between dancers remind the viewer that despite the obstacle of miscommunication, understanding is possible.
— “Robert Ashley’s That Morning Thing at the Kitchen” Performa Magazine, November 21, 2011