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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Tokyo concert leaves crowd snoring for more


Staff writer

Feeling sleepy . . . slowly dozing off . . . zzz . . .

News photo
Sleep inducing: Violinist Iwao Furusawa performs during the "Dreams: good sleep concert" held June 12 in Tokyo's Yurakucho district. Audience members, who purchased "good sleep seats" tickets, get comfortable with the pillows and blankets that came with the seats. KAZUAKI NAGATA
News photo

That's a sensation people wish to avoid in many situations, for example when they are at a classical music concert.

But the "Dreams: good sleep concert" held last month actually encouraged its audience to fall asleep during the performance.

"It's usually not good form to fall asleep in concerts," renowned violinist Iwao Furusawa said at the beginning of the concert held at Tokyo International Forum in the Yurakucho district.

"But please feel free to fall asleep tonight," Furusawa, one of main organizers of the event, told the audience of about 1,400.

The concert featured a variety of musicians, including singers Masafumi Akikawa and Aoi Teshima, guitarist Yuji Toriyama and pianist Tsuneyoshi Saito.

The root of this unusual concert is a CD called "Dreams" released in March 2007 by Hats Unlimited Co., which recorded music meant to induce sleep.

The CD was also produced for Japan Airlines to play on its planes to help passengers relax, according to Fumiaki Mizukoshi, a music producer at Hats Unlimited.

The CD contains 12 songs. The selection was chosen out of an initial 70 to 80 songs that were first narrowed down to 20.

The 12 songs chosen followed scientific sleep experiments conducted 170 times over four months by Takuro Endo, who runs Sleep Clinic Chofu in Tokyo.

The CD, which has sold about 110,000 copies so far, won the 22nd annual Gold Disc Award for the Best Instrumental Album of the Year.

Following on its success, "Dreams II" was released in March.

The concert featured some of the artists who performed on the CDs.

Furusawa said he was curious to see what would happen if artists from the albums held a joint concert.

"But I thought it wouldn't really be a concert if musicians from these CDs played, because people would fall asleep," Furusawa said during the concert.

"Then why not hold a concert where people can sleep?"

The concert venue had 300 "good sleep seats" prepared. Ticket holders were given pillows, blankets and slippers to feel comfortable.

However, before the concert many audience members said they were unwilling to nod off during the performance.

"I like the concept because we don't have to remind ourselves not to fall asleep. It makes us more relaxed," Akiko Matsufuji of Tokyo, who is in her 40s, said at an entrance to the venue.

She hadn't planned to sleep because she felt that would be a waste.

A woman in her 60s, who came with a friend and wished to remain anonymous, also said she did not intend to sleep.

"We actually had some coffee before we came," she said.

That's understandable.

There probably aren't many people who want to pay ¥6,500 to ¥7,500 just to fall asleep at a concert featuring their favorite musicians.

And when the concert actually began with Furusawa's violin melody, the audience appeared to be getting in tune.

But the melody gradually lulled some of the audience into slumber by the end of the first half.

When the intermission began and the lights came back on, some were still reclining in their seats, heads listing.

"I actually did fall asleep," Yasuko Sekiguchi of Kanagawa Prefecture said during the intermission.

"But even when I was asleep, I was still listening to the music," she said, adding the good sleep seats offered extra comfort. "These are pretty comfortable," she said, pointing at her slippers.

The second half kicked off with tenor Masafumi Akikawa, followed by Yuji Toriyama on guitar. Furusawa played a solo finale, and then collaborated with the other musicians.

"I was asked to play the latter part of the concert, so I was worried that many of the audience would be sleeping by that time," Yuji Toriyama joked on stage.

When the concert ended, a shower of applause ensued from the fully awake audience, many of whom expressed their satisfaction.

Tony Gomes from South Africa and Margarida Silva of Portugal, who were visiting Tokyo together, said the concert was "very good."

Since they liked the music, they bought the CDs later.

"We have different pieces, slow sounds and others more lively. I think it's great," Gomes said.

While Silva said she slept a little, Gomes said he did not fall asleep but mentioned, "We had some people behind us snoring."

"That was so great. It was the best concert I've ever experienced," said Miyako Yoshiyama of Tokyo, 77, praising the quality of the performance.

"And you know what, I did fall asleep," she said, even though "I had no intention of sleeping."



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