The Great Sleep is a series of 13 narrative audio mixes that will be aired on Internet Public Radio every first Thursday of the month from December 2019 to December 2020. For each episode, a musician and a visual artist from the Global URL Nation collaborate to develop the story with audiovisual material - a 1h mix and a visual cover, which then serve as a base for written text. Each month, we will post a new chapter meant to be heard, seen and read.

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E05 - Here and Now
with ASJ & ththn

As I get closer to the campfire, I notice the forest is getting more and more silent. A striking, intense silence, as if all the living beings, all the leaves on the trees, all the rocks and earth itself were holding their breath. The fragment I hold in my hand, which has been previously so animated and lively, is silent too, brought back to its initial state, as if it was keeping its wonders for itself.

From the distance, I seem to notice a small group of people dancing. I feel relieved to finally find peers I might interact with. I hesitate to approach them, thinking I should first observe them from afar. I try to progress undiscovered, my eyes closely fixed on their moving bodies. They dance very slowly, raising their legs, and then their arms. Pollen rises in the sky. The sun set far behind them.

Their dance resembles an ancestral shamanic ritual. One of them slowly waves long branches of yellow catkin up in the air, whose dust reaches the flames of the fire. This dust ignites and rises towards the sky like small crackling sparks.

No one is speaking. The only sounds I can hear are the cracking of the fire and the rustling of the clothes and gowns of these odd dancers. I stop walking a few meters from them, hiding behind a large fallen trunk. They are all dressed in long beige tunics with translucent and diaphanous glassy masks on their heads, blurring the outlines of their faces. The masks give the impression they all share the same face, erasing all of their individual expressions.

In my left hand, I feel the fragment softly vibrating. It seems to wake up, with a shy dim light coming from its core. I continue to observe the mesmerizing dancers, whose movements seem to find echo in the others. It’s as if one is a reflection of the other, as if they’re looking at themselves in a mirror. I am seized by an intense feeling of serenity. Their perfect synchronicity is of an enchanting beauty. They feel at peace with themselves, as if they knew that by watching the others, they would actually look at their own reflection, asserting their self-confidence through the others.

They reproduce the same gestures simultaneously. The dancers seem to communicate with each other by the repeated coincidence of their movements, responding to each other with their whole body. Through this attentive and repeated imitation, the dance becomes a model of symbiosis. It’s like they are learning to dance better and better when reproducing the actions of others.

I’m wondering what they are trying to express. They seem to be sending signs, developing a new sort of language - that of dance. By looking at them closer, I understand their dance is actually an exchange, a conversation that could not exist without the others. Their dance lives with the others, each motion smoothly leading to the next one.

All of a sudden, all the dancers turn towards me in perfect timing. Their eyes stare right at me. They don’t move at all, but their mouths are wide open without making any sound. The fragment I hold in my hand gets brighter and brighter. Its shape starts to shift once again. I can recognize its voice rising from its core.

I stand up. The object in my hand is alive again, I can hear its singing spreading in my whole body. The dancers are still looking at me, they don’t seem to be surprised. Actually, I feel like they are inviting me to join them. One of the dancers slowly raises their arm towards me, their palm wide open, encouraging me to approach. As I get closer to the campfire, the dancers gather around me, looking at me through their masks. The fragment keeps singing to me, it seems pleased, endowing me with delicious harmonies.

Still in perfect synchronicity, the dancers slowly take out of their long and deep pockets fragments similar to the one in my hand. All of them seem alive, shapeshifting in regular pulses, progressively spreading back and forth on each dancer’s arm, but they don't emit any sounds. They all look different, full of mysterious wonders I want to experience.

Slowly, the hips of the dancers start to wobble like pendulums, all simultaneously. Slowly.

Their translucent and blurred faces become more and more clear and precise. They appear progressively, and I’m able to discern men and women of different ages and different backgrounds. I can perceive deep in their eyes a comforting peace, a blissful serenity.

Gradually, I begin to hear one of the fragments’ voice in addition to the one in my hand. First there is a rhythm. Here as a source. Its sounds seem to lead the ones emitted by the fragment in my hand, but also the movements of the dancers around me. As if rhythm was the bedrock of all common action. It’s a signal.  The rhythm guides the motion, but the motion also guides the rhythm. Everything seems intertwined. The dance adapts to the sound of footsteps. The sounds are getting louder, more powerful.

The dancers come near me and insistently raise their arms, all together as if they were expecting me to do the same. As the soft fabric of their loose tunics falls down on their shoulder,I notice strange shapes carved in their skin, like signs of an unknown language.

Slowly, and not without shyness, I try to keep pace with their rhythm, their movement, to follow their dance. I close my eyes for a few seconds to focus on the rhythm. I hear in the distance a new sound, probably coming from another fragment. I aim all my attention towards it : it is delicate and captivating, full of rich textures, the kind of tingly wave that seizes you from head to toe. I open my eyes again and I hear it fully, complementing the other fragments in a beautiful way. I can hear it in all my bones and all my muscles, inhabiting every part of my body. My movements become smooth and coordinated. I go from one attitude to another, all the shyness from before just disappears. I dance to the rhythm and the harmonies that rise between us. Dance works on me like a maneuver of the body against fear of the self.

Each fragment gives off a different sound, joining in one after the other. Their union starts to fill the space around us. I find myself at the center of the group. I let my body be guided by my feelings, knowing they also influence the sounds emitted by the fragment in my hand. I feel confident. I have the feeling of living the moment with these strangers. We communicate by an absolute language, that of dance, and we generate it because we do it all together.

This pleasure does not run out, it continues to rise in me in a passionate way. My movements are repeated by others. But it feels like one motion naturally leads to the next one. It feels like there is a whole driving us. Even if the dancers reproduce my movements, I am not governing them. I am leading the dance, but the self vanishes in favor of the whole.They follow me, but I follow them too. That is how the dance exists by itself, through the whole, aligning bodies and minds alike.

Joy takes me away. The rapture is so strong that I feel a kind of euphoria taking hold of me. The music got me. The dance drags me into an uncontrollable trance, carrying all my movements, contracting all my muscles, as when the fragment had taken possession of my body in the forest.

This time, it's the melody that overwhelms me. I open wide my eyes, and I see the dancers in front of me spinning at an incredible speed. Night has fallen, and the campfire projects their waving shadows on the leaves above our heads, as if the trees were also joining us.Their silhouettes become blurred. They stretch, drawn by the force of their own inertia. I keep looking at them dancing as they become nothing but moving and hopping shapes. They slow down, then speed up again. They turn themselves into living forms that frolic and run. It’s hallucinatory and exciting. I feel my heartbeat getting faster when a hand seems to catch mine. I follow this long toga and I run behind it.

The other dancers run around us. My perceptions are altered, but I feel like I'm free for the first time since I woke up. I am somewhere else with them. Time no longer exists. Music does not belong to any dimension. Our bodies and our faces seem to change, expand, grow, following the emergent movements of the whole. I feel good, healed. I laugh. One of the dancers grabs my hands and pulls it, dragging me into a frenetic swirl. As I keep spinning, I’m going from one dancer to another, like an erratic and chaotic waltz. I feel like dance makes me eternal, omnipotent, freed from physical constraints. A fulfilled being in a fleshless body.

I close my eyes and it feels like the whole world is revolving around me. It makes me wonder about my actual place in it, but my thoughts quickly take me down on the path of darkness and daunting memories. I remember that I don’t know where I am, who I am or what I’m supposed to do. I remember that I am lost. I remember I have nowhere to go. I try to bury these troubles in order to come back to the ecstatic state I was in moments before, but it is too late. I feel the panic rising from the depth of my chest and the anguish haunts me again.

I'm trying to stop the dance but I can't. I feel like my anger and my frustration have taken over the control of my body. It carries me away like a whirlwind in the middle of a siphon. I ask to stop. I scream. It has to stop.

My eyes are filled with tears when I feel a hand on my shoulder. I open my eyes again. It is one of the dancers, whose peaceful gaze helps me to calm down. I realize that while caught in turmoil, I ended up squeezing the fragment in my hand so hard that it made me bleed. The dancer’s hand unclenches my fist. The fragment is still here, pulsating in rhythm with the other ones. It is magnificent. I remember the wonders it showed me earlier. I remember its delicacy. I remember how it made me feel belonging to a whole more than once.

I look around, the dancers are still moving with an astounding elegance. The sounds of the fragments strike me again. Their composition is even more entailing than before. The beauty is such that my body can’t resist it. As I let my movements be guided both by the music and by the motion of others, I start to forget my worries. With these strangers I feel acknowledged for who I am, here and now. I might be lost, but I exist. Through the others I see myself.

The music keeps evolving, and we keep dancing. We dance, again and again. It doesn’t take long for me to let myself go, losing track of time.  We dance. We dance through the night, until the early hours.

As the sun rises, we are still dancing. My body feels numb, but my mind feels liberated. I’ve been dancing for hours. I feel exhausted, but I don’t want it to stop. Although the dancers don’t seem tired : they keep moving in a smooth and coordinated motion, activating every part of their body. Obviously I can’t keep up with them... I lie down full of joy, cradled by these graceful shapes and these exquisite sounds. My eyelids are getting heavier by the second. I close my eyes, just for a little while before joining the dancers again.

I wake up a few hours later, aches all over my body. The campfire is just a heap of smoking ashes. The sun is up in the sky. I raise my arms in front of my eyes and I notice it is carved with similar signs the dancers had. I observe it in detail without understanding what it means, or what I’m supposed to do with it. With my hand, I look for the fragment : it is here, right beside me. But strangely, there is something else next to it. It is one of the dancers’ masks. I sit up and look for its owner, but there is no one around me anymore.