Sam Ashley

Freedom From Happiness, 2003/2012 • TONSPUR 51


“Freedom From Happiness” is a musical exploration of clairvoyance.
Scientists and athletes want to be perfect. And they are not the only ones, but only prime examples of that perfection we all strive for. We strive for perfect happiness, but it always remains a little out of reach. We try not to make mistakes. We admire those who are special. So in music, we revere those who play ‘well’.
As a mystic, I wanted to create a work that would be played by great pianists – the best I could get – but whose layout would at the same time prohibit their skill from having any effect whatsoever on the performance of the piece. Nevertheless, it should emphasise the beauty of the playing of the pianist in question. I wanted to focus on the pianist’s happiness, not on his or her technical skills.
Contrary to popular belief, noise, chance and luck are not the same thing. Yes, in truth they have hardly anything to do with each other. Chance, for example, is the opposite of determinism; luck, on the other hand, can easily intervene in a strictly deterministic process. This is precisely why science finds it so difficult to admit the fact of luck at all. Luck resists any attempt to break away from it. Noise and chance, however, can be objectified and thus serve as a background against which happiness stands out. This fact is often exploited for clairvoyance. “Freedom From Happiness” exploits it equally.
Sam Ashley, February 2012

Sam Ashley – read

Sam Ashley, lives and works in the Mojawe Desert.

Opening: Sun 16.02.12, 17h
Introductory words:
Georg Weckwerth [Artistic Director TONSPUR]
Volker Straebel [musicologist] – read


  • Sam Ashley [USA]*
  • Freedom From Happiness, 2003/2012
  • 8-channel sound installation
  • Length 6.21 min
  • Thanks to Robert Ashley, Blue Gene Tyranny,
  • Carlotta Schoolman and Tom Erbe
  • *35th TONSPUR Artist-in-Residence at quartier21/MQ
  • 17.02.12-05.05.12
  • MuseumsQuartier Vienna
  • TONSPUR_passage [between MQ Hof 7 and 8]
  • Daily 10-20h