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Brighton Festival 2023

The Sleeping Tree Sound Performance

Invisible Flock with Nabihah Iqbal

Genre: Immersive, Multimedia

Venue: Brighton Dome


Low Down

Voice, bells, a low drone and the unmistakable mournful cry of gibbons fill the Dome canopy in a one-off performance amidst Invisible Flock’s Brighton Festival commissioned installation.


Songbirds are skittering around the ornate roof of Brighton Dome. The atmosphere is of a misty dusk, low lit and oddly green.  Bodies stand or sit or lie – the choice is ours – also chattering like birds and beaming their own lights.

Forest sounds echo around the space; listen – that’s the Thomas Langur monkey, a Lar Gibbon, the Red Junglefowl – helpfully named on a side screen, and recorded over a 3 month residency in Sumatra. It’s eerily evocative of heat and damp wood. Gradually human-made sounds emerge from the three performers on stage, as Nabihah Iqbal’s electric guitar chords and held vocal notes blend with electronic sounds created and mixed live by her and Invisible Flock’s Victoria Pratt and Ben Eaton.

The score builds to a loud drone that pulses through the body but doesn’t drown out the thrum of a motorbike or echo of a gunshot. A 90’s dance beat keeps time with the wail of a Sumatran elephant; the standing audience move their feet and hips a little. There are cicadas and bells, and plastic cups falling over.

Lying among other prone bodies on the floor I wonder if this is what taking a gong bath in the rainforest would be like. It feels both soothing and just a little invigorating; the live sounds complement the soundtrack a bit too politely. By setting out to show the connections between humans and the forest ecosystem it seems to miss a trick; the jungle is fragile, the primates are endangered, so what place do humans have there, beyond conservation and care? While there are interesting juxtapositions between live score and recorded sound, it’s a pleasant listen with little sonic challenge.

The Sleeping Tree is a place that encourages thought and aural concentration,  its only visual for this performance a circle of light-rays on a screen, created by the sound waves from the music like a slowly forming clock face. The three artists, studious behind their consoles and amps, make minimal connection with the audience until the final note fades and applause rains. Nabihah Iqbal, Guest Festival Director, joyfully thanks us for coming and wishes us goodnight.

Somewhere, far aware, the gibbons return to their trees for sleeping.

(Photo of Nabihah Iqbal by Peter Chrisp)






Show Website

Invisible Flock