SAM ASHLEY'S invention of an experimental trance-mysticism has been a lifelong endeavor, and his art always reflects or incorporates, in some way, this unique mysticism. He has created and performed many original music, performance art and other, more abstract compositions that express this contemporary "shamanism", several of which--including the early pieces Seeing Things (1981) and How To Make Things Go Away (1979)--have had many performances around the US and abroad. Two current works-in-progress, Everyone Laughed When I Sat Down At The Piano and Happy As Can Be (expected)!, feature genuine spirit possession as performance. The essence of his life, then, is the artistic application of an innovative approach to mysticism.
Sam has been singing for more than 15 years, and has done a variety of non-singing vocal jobs as well, including the creation of unique characters for CD-ROM projects. He has been making instrumental, tape, electronic and computer generated music for a little longer. He has also worked in video, collaboratively creating 5 pieces. He co-founded and managed the Cactus Needle Project, acclaimed as an electronic/computer music ensemble, which performed around the US for 5 years (perhaps the most musically interesting concerts were at the Lab in San Francisco, at the Mills College Center for Contemporary Music and in the "Interpretations" series in New York). He also co-founded the music duo often known as AA Bee Removal, which mostly made tape pieces and which was continuously active for more than a decade. His most recent collaboratively composed piece, On Happiness and the Virtues of Field Transit, was presented at the Western Front in Vancouver (November 1995) and at the Intersection for the Arts in San Francisco (April 1996). Sam has also created/performed two experimental radio plays (on KPFA radio in Berkeley, CA). He has designed digital audio signal processing systems, designed custom music software (including a stint with Sound Traffic Control) and done a wide range of recording engineer, consulting and project studio jobs.
Sam currently performs solo, as a principal vocalist with Robert Ashley's opera company--with whom he has had leading roles in 6 operas--and with the ensemble, "Very Important Now", touring in the US, Europe and elsewhere. In a busy year he will give perhaps 60 performances of maybe 12 contemporary pieces of mostly music (and an increasing percentage of solo theater), about half of which will also have been created by Sam.