Beyond the Wall of Sleep

In late 2013, I was asked to create a work for Ultima Thule Ambient Radio's 25th Anniversary show, and when I read the brief for submissions, I knew immediately what I wanted to do. 15 years back, for the 10th Anniversary, I had used for my inspiration one of my favourite pieces of Gothic literature: Edgar Allan Poe’s The Pit and the Pendulum. Since then I’ve been intending to do a companion piece to that track but somehow have never managed to get around to it.


So the journey to my second Ultima Thule concerns another far-off place taken from that wonderful staple of Gothic horror: H. P. Lovecraft’s Beyond the Wall of Sleep.

Very briefly, Lovecraft’s story concerns an unnamed worker at an asylum (our narrator) and his encounter with a patient, one Joe Slater, a simpleton whose dreams have been occupied by an alien entity. Using a special device of his own invention, the narrator is able to travel into Slater’s dreams, where he converses with the entity and crosses space and time to visit fantastic worlds completely outside of any human experience.

When I began to work on my track, I started searching for some voice content that would give me the same kind of hypnotic repetitive quality I used in my Poe piece. My first stop was Librivox, a huge collection of audio works that are in the public domain. I quickly located a reading of Beyond the Wall of Sleep that had the exact tone I was looking for.

Then, as often seems to be the case when I’m writing, I had a wonderfully serendipitous thing happen. I discovered in the vast treasure trove of Librivox, two oddly strange works - The Insomnia Collections 1 & 2. These readings are intended exclusively as sonorous spoken backgrounds for people who like to go to sleep to the sound of the spoken word. The recordings consist of the most bizarre treatises, including General Instructions For The Guidance Of Post Office Inspectors In The Dominion, The First Thousand Digits of Pi and  Some Mooted Questions In Reinforced Concrete Design. Imagine my delight to discover, though, Rules and Regulations of the Insane Asylum of California, a reading that melded with my ideas so perfectly that I couldn’t have intentionally created it to be better. That it was designed to alleviate insomnia was the icing on the cake.

So the voices you hear in Beyond the Wall of Sleep are a kind of blend of Lovecraft’s weird tale and some technical information concerning the governing of a Californian mental asylum in the late 1800s.

Lovecraft’s story also mentions "The insect philosophers that crawl proudly over the fourth moon of Jupiter", and you can hear in the track an odd glissando effect that is in fact a NASA radio frequency recording of sounds from Jupiter’s atmosphere. 

~Peter Miller 2014 

Beyond the Wall of Sleep is available in the shop for a very short time as a limited edition of 20 signed CDs. After this stock is gone it will be available as a digital download.

 ©Scribbletronics 2011