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Buzz Bury and Stu North: Together in electric dreams

Music might get more credit for inspiring dance, but it can inspire slumber too. Buzz Bury writes about his and Stu North’s new monthly music nights at the Old Electric. Instead of dancing shoes, he says bring a pillow and some cosy clothes

I’m a busy creative meddler, youth work consultant and international trainer. I used to think my creative and constantly busy mind is what kept me young. Now older, wiser and feeling my age, I started to regularly struggle to have a good night’s sleep. So I began to explore ways I could improve his slumber. Being a DJ and big music fan it was no surprise I found a solution in music.

I’ve long been a music magpie and that is how my interest in world music – music that is more about promoting intercultural understanding than commercialism – grew. I started exploring the ambient, more relaxing pieces in my collection to see if any of them could aid me towards a better night’s sleep, calm my mind and relax my body.

My explorations led me to create immersive sleep-inducing playlists. More recently I discovered similar playlists on BBC Sounds, with titles like Night Tracks, Sleeping Forecast, Tearjerker and lots more. Clearly there was something in using music to aid sleep and it was from here that the Sound-a-Sleep project was born.

With a shared affinity for interesting soundscapes and having collaborated with me on a number of music events, Stu North jumped at the chance to embark on this latest aural adventure with me. During our sessions at the Old Electric participants bring their yoga or camping mats, pillows and cosy clothing and join us on an immersive journey of sound along the path towards a relaxed slumber, in an evening of contemporary, experimental and ambient late-nite listening.

Being a gardener with a love for the great outdoors, Stu likes to incorporate sounds from the environment into the sessions. Recordings of natural phenomena such as rolling waves or birdsong can be incredibly serene and are often accompanied by a very visual quality, which Stu finds fascinating. “It’s like a beautiful, timeless painting for the mind’s eye”, he says. “I believe music and sound truly possess the power to transport you.”

Stu adds that sometimes, to his ears at least, music deemed ‘relaxing’ actually comes across as overly serious, even sombre. “It’s all subjective of course, but I’d like to offer our Sound-a-Sleepers something a little more playful – like the quirkier dreamworlds we all may encounter during sleep. There’s an inherent strangeness to these realms, yet nevertheless there you are, trying to navigate them!”.

In fact, some indigenous cultures across the globe attribute as rich a significance to these dimensions as they do to waking life, equally valuing both as valid forms of experience. Visitors to Stu’s sound-world are encouraged to ‘leave their luggage in the lobby’ and just let the waves wash over them. You might even wake up the following morning with a little smile, as if returning from your holidays.

Audio to aid sleep is not something new and lullabies have been created and used for years to help children. So why not use music to help adults?

The Sleep Foundation note: “Music is a powerful art form. While it may get more credit for inspiring dance, it also offers a simple way to improve sleep hygiene, improving your ability to fall asleep quickly and feel more rested.”

Some music is just calming and helps to slow down your breathing, while others bring frequencies that connect and calm.

“We are hoping to use soundwaves to help restore participants’ (and our own!) natural circadian rhythms,” Stu says.

We are now looking to record the Sound-a-Sleep experiences and make them available on Mixcloud so that people can revisit the experience in the comfort of their own homes and beds.

In one study, adults who listened to 45 minutes of music before going to sleep reported having better sleep quality beginning on the very first night. Even more encouraging, according to the Sleep Foundation, is that this benefit appears to have a cumulative effect with study participants reporting better sleep the more often they incorporated music into their nightly routine.

It seems we are now surrounded by technology and maybe this is a chance to start making it work for us rather rather than being that constant distraction. Life is full of noise so this is a chance to calibrate and reset so that the noise becomes our assistant.

It is time to slow things down, relax and calm the mind.

Age Group 18+Dates: Thursdays – next Sound-a-Sleep’s are 3rd November and 1st DecemberTime: 8.00 – 9.30Price: £5 per person

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