Circle of Sleep

Jan 20 — 21, 2012



Grand Luxe Hall / EDAM Studio, Western Front


10:00 p.m. – 6:00 a.m.


Circle of Sleep was a durational concert that explored themes of sleep, dreams, and the unconscious. Unfolding over the course of eight hours, Circle of Sleep featured work by nine artists whose practices explore electronic music, new media, improvisation, and performance. Audience members were invited to sleep overnight at Western Front and experience the audiovisual marathon while reclined on mats, pillows, and blankets arranged on the floor of the Grand Luxe Hall and EDAM Studio. 

The concert was divided into three parts, and began in the Grand Luxe Hall with the premiere of Once Upon a Time… (2012)—a bedtime story by Hildegard Westerkamp commissioned by Western Front. Spanning twenty-five-minutes, the recording combines two-channel audio with an original fairy tale about technology, capitalism, and noise pollution. The work is narrated by Westerkamp’s daughter and grandchildren, and features a hallucinatory soundscape composed of piano keys, lush panoramic layers, and sampled sound from the World Soundscape Project's environmental archives, with the recurring motif of the sound of a music box. 

Stele Oracles was a multimedia performance that explored the melding of composed and improvised new technology. With composer-programmer Navid Navab, Sandeep Bhagwati developed custom software that creates real-time sound instruments to create improvised duos between the computer and live performers. To debut the software’s capabilities, local improvisers Nikki Carter (saxophone) and Mei Han (zheng) performed in this digital oracle alongside Bhagwati’s software-driven prepared piano. Unfolding in polyphonic surround sound, the improvisations acted as a dream guide to help the audience navigate an unconscious landscape. 

To conclude part one of Circle of Sleep, Cheryl L’Hirondelle revisited her installation mocikihtatan e-nehiyawiyak (2009). Commissioned by Western Front, the work invokes the role of the pawâkan, or spiritual dream helper, to map the sites of sleep and sonically lure the audience into a deepened consciousness. 

Part two of Circle of Sleep began with a remounting of Gordon Monahan’s experimental audiovisual work Speaker Swinging (1982). In this piece, Monahan attaches a speaker to a rope and swings it overhead like a pendulum. As the speaker moves, it produces varying sound frequencies that are amplified and projected throughout the space. The swinging motion of the speaker creates a Doppler effect, causing the pitch of the sound to change as the speaker moves towards and away from the audience. Speaker Swinging was initially presented in the Grand Luxe Hall in 1984 and performed by two artists, one being Western Front founder Martin Bartlett. For Circle of Sleep, Monahan invited Mark Parlett and Rupert Common to perform the twenty-minute work in the EDAM Studio. Demanding the live performers’ physical strength, the work explores the relationship between sound, movement, and space while acknowledging the loudspeaker as an electronic instrument in itself. 

The final leg of Circle of Sleep featured sets by local ambient artists to draw the audience deeper into inspired dreaming. The event concluded in the Grand Luxe Hall with performances by Navid Navab with Souns and Fieldhead alongside a selection of audio works from the Western Front archive. 

Curated by DB Boyko. 

Video documentation of this event is available upon request.

Related People

Western Front is a non-profit
artist-run centre in Vancouver.

We acknowledge the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and səl̓ílwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations as traditional owners of the land upon which Western Front stands.