THERE is a certain joy in finding beauty in the absurd.

Brought to the Canberra International Music Festival by The Street Theatre, Tura New Music and CIMF  and created by Sal Cooper and Kate Neal.

A performance of the tantalisingly bizarre, “While You Sleep” was a deeply beautiful and sprawling absurdist expression. Devised from the concept of a fugue as both a musical form and psychological state, the multimedia concert presented music that grabbed me by the shoulders and dialled my senses up to eleven!

Anxious, ever-changing musical patterns weave their way through dizzying visuals across the work. The dream-like experience is often comedic and playful, yet rarely not disturbing, and seems to recall the macabre sentimentalities of David Lynch at times.

With delicate yet stinging scratching on the strings or abrasively modern distorted blasts that wouldn’t sound out of place in Kanye West’s 2013 album “Yeezus”, the performance truly demands full attention. Any hints at musical or visual convention seem to immediately plunge even deeper into absurdity.

Of course, such a stunningly complex piece of art could not be achieved without significant technical capability. The performance ability on display by Jacob Abela (keyboards), Zachary Johnston (violin), Isabel Hede (violin), Phoebe Green (viola) and David Moran (cello) shines in this spectacular concert, delivering Cooper and Neal’s creative vision at a remarkable level of quality.

The unique pairings of visuals and music create surreal narratives in the performance, such as a hypnotic trip to the moon, a tense and terrifying plunge down an endless hallway, and a jovial piano piece played on a bookshelf, the latter being a favourite for Friday night’s crowd.

“While You Sleep” is an intense, layered journey into a surrealist fantasy, featuring fantastic performances and stunning artistic language. The beauty of this dive into the unknown comes through its confusing, difficult to interpret and challenging nature. Offering a truly dream-like experience that lives up to its name, “While You Sleep” is a strange and uncommon performance that left me gladly perplexed.

This article was written by Joshua Daffern from Canberra City News.