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andrewcsmith on 05/21/2010 at 09:30AM

Every Heaven is the Best One...

Sam Ashley, Every Heaven is the Best One and Every Hell is the Worst One

The idea is that about halfway through, Sam Ashley is no longer really playing the drums. Instead, by balancing the two sides of his body, Ashley turns himself into what he describes as a "human VU meter," or a readout of the current state of his spirit possession. In his performance of "Every Heaven is the Best One and Every Hell is the Worst One," Ashley allows himself to become possessed by a particular spirit—one he has developed a relationship with over the years. Ashley's drumming quickly becomes involuntary; as the spirit is exorcised, his movement grows more an more violent until he is free of the spirit and the performance is over. However, this doesn't mean that the spirit possession itself is violent. After the performance, Ashley said that, while the spirit was initially a threatening presence, they are now on good terms. In other words, the spirit doesn't necessarily outright command him to play louder, but they do so together.

Sam Ashley is one of the highlights of ISSUE's Month of the Ecstatic Moment, happening through all of May. Although he is likely best-known as a member of Robert Ashley's opera ensemble (in Dust, Celestial Excursions, Improvement, and others) Sam has been working for decades as an experimental mystic. His focus is making certain mystical occurances—like spirit possession, or trance more generally—audible acts. The idea is that by making these events audible, a view will be opened to "things that occur in-between the 'real world' and something else."

Here's a video of the performance, and an audio recording is below.

Sam Ashley - Every Heaven is the Best One and Every Hell is the Worst One from issueprojectroom on Vimeo.

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