Music and art often combine to infuse richness to the cultural community around them, creating understanding and utter beauty in the process. At Moogfest, an annual music festival that celebrates electronic music pioneer Robert Moog’s work, music and art are paired with technology to add another level of depth to the already juxtaposed duo. And while a music festival – especially one dedicated to electronic music – is likely to have you imagining a few sleepless days and nights devoted to dancing, year after year, Moogfest makes sure to put festival goers to sleep.
Robert Rich’s Sleep Concert, an experimental event that bridges the space between one’s perception and the technological realm, interweaves performance art and collaboration – the concert uses a blend of pre-programmed drones, nature sounds and improvised accompaniment – to coax an audience to sleep. Or, at least, an interesting sleep-like state.
As a musician and an artist, Robert Rich aims to “use music and lighting to create an environment where sleep becomes strategically disrupted; where you can explore thoughts that happen in that state between asleep and awake.” This kind of lucid dreaming state, when induced, enables a safe space where the audience can purportedly explore their unconscious and tap into their creative potential.
Rich is a composer of ambient music and has been performing sleep concerts since 2003, where listeners are encouraged to bring their own pillows and sleep beside 75 other strangers in an empty ballroom. It’s an immersive experience meant to take you out of the trite routine of everyday life, fostering a sense of intimacy as strangers become neighbors lying beside you perceiving the same otherworldly harmonies.
When you arrive at the concert, you’re first greeted by loud cricketing sounds from nature with bass undertones. Preparing for sleep seems abrupt and impossible but Rich skillfully blends the discordant with the soothing hums of drones. Rich’s barely perceptible shifts in music tone stimulate the brain to reset between sleep stages, allowing you to snooze for longer in peace. The hushed ambiance is further accented by lights, where bright white lights and dimmed blue neon are utilized intermittently to induce waking and sleeping patterns.
While the whole concept of a sleep concert may seem like a totally strange experience, it is a unique exercise in mixing art, music, technology, and the potential future of sleep. And even though this year’s Moogfest has come and gone – the event usually takes place in May – you might want to start bracing yourself for next year’s festival. By skillfully manipulating natural disruptions in sleep with music and light, this ambient concert, and others like it, might be the best new place for you to get a good night’s sleep.