I’m not sure if today’s kids still do it, but when I was younger we often used to play this story memory game, where the first kid whispered a sentence (usually a long and silly one) into another kid’s ear, who had to pass it on to another one. And so it went on, ideally with as many kids as possible, and the last one in the row had to say what (they thought) they had heard out loud, which was always something completely different from the original version.
Hilarity ensued, but it also taught us some things about the workings of our memory, and not just about our capacity to forget or misinterpret, but also to recreate, reinvent new meaning. Whether they are deliberate or not, faithful or reworked: shared stories tell something about the way we define ourselves, take position, carve out a place for ourselves in the world. It’s us telling ourselves how to find meaning in surroundings that often impose chaos, insecurity and doubt.
Sleep, Shared might also be about storytelling and the passing on of stories. When Czech tape label Genot Centre invited Stijn Hüwels to the 4th edition of their Silent Night-series (ambient/soundscape events taking place in the charming Ponec theatre in Prague), Hüwels also shared a story. With music, of course, but starting from a tape loop given to him by Japanese artist Norihito Suda. The basic outline/motif was there, but the Belgian added his own twist, tweaked and expanded its meaning, made it his own.
The A-side presents the entire piece as it was performed in Prague, with Hüwels adding edited guitar loops, static hiss, additionally using an old walkman and recordings made during a trip to Japan. The result is a dreamy, slowly intoxicating trajectory, like a musical version of an impressionist novella, with textures replacing each other like fluid mood shifts, hiss moving like tides and gently kneaded sounds swelling and evaporating into a stretched near-silence. Mesmerizing in itself, but given an extra dimension on its B-side.
Hüwels got the idea of having Suda rework the performance (that started from his own offering), allowing him to reinterpret it. And even though it starts from Hüwels’ elaborate statement (that long sentence), his version of the story, even though it has the exact same length, comes with different nuances, other and more pronounced volumes and shadings. It’s different from the example I started with, in that it’s a deliberate distortion/reworking, but it’s still a stirring example of how individual impulses lead to new shapes, with shared stories receiving shifting outcomes.