Preview: Sky Orchestra: A Midsummer Night'S Dream, Townwide, Stratford-Upon-Avon

Shakespeare to reach a new high in Stratford

Charlotte Cripps
Tuesday 20 June 2006 00:00
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It's unclear how the residents of Stratford-upon-Avon are going to react to being woken at dawn by a flotilla of hot-air balloons broadcasting dreamy music and sound bites from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Tempest. Observers will find out at approximately 6.30am tomorrow (depending on the weather). A similar balloon test-flight in Bristol transmitting a Sky Orchestra composition in 2003 had people "jumping for joy", says the man behind the event, Luke Jerram.

Jerram's Sky Orchestra installations have been investigating the effects of gentle music and text on dreams, perception and memory since 2003. Jerram was inspired by a trip he made in 2002 to the Saharan town of Douz, southern Tunisia, where he was woken at regular intervals in the night by the Islamic call to prayer. "You could hear the sound drifting through the hot night air," he says. "It got me thinking."

The impact of sound on dream patterns was initially tested during a giant sleep-over at a dream concert, held at Thinktank, Birmingham's Science Museum, in 2004. "One hundred and twenty people arrived with sleeping bags," says Jerram. "We played them sound samples during the REM stages of sleep and then got them to jot down their dreams. The music is not designed to wake people up with a jolt. We are delivering a gentle artistic experience while people rest on the edge of sleep."

This ambient sound-score by Dan Jones, who co-scored David Attenborough's Life of Mammals, is interwoven with extracts from Shakespeare's plays read by the actors Patrick Stewart and Janet Suzman. But for Jerram, an art and science fellow of the University of the West of England, it is much more than "sonic sculptural art". "It is helping traumatised people who have re-occurring nightmares," says Jerram. "We have built a dream-director machine, where we can test the effects of sound upon dreaming content."

Tomorrow (0870 609 1110; www.rsc.org.uk); sleep-over event, Compton Verney, Warwickshire, 30 June

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