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Sh-h-h-h, it's music for slumber
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Aaron Molina organized a show called, "Slumber" at the Music and Arts Collective in Duluth. There'll be bands on stage, art on the walls, and pillows on the floor. The audience is encouraged to go to sleep. (MPR Photo/Chris Julin)
Aaron Molina is throwing a slumber party this weekend, but it's not for little kids. He's getting a bunch of bands together in Duluth. They're going to start playing Saturday night and they won't stop until breakfast time on Sunday. If you go, bring a pillow. You're supposed to go to sleep during the show.

Duluth, Minn. — A few years back, Aaron Molina moved to Duluth to retire. Never mind that he's only 32, or that he's held a job -- or two or three of them -- ever since he got here.

"I still work," he says. "But I only do jobs that I enjoy. So that kind of retirement."

He was sick of his job as an insurance adjuster in Minneapolis, so he moved to Duluth and started pulling espresso. Now he has a day job at an alternative high school.

He went through some musical changes, too.

"This is true," he says with a broad grin. "I used to play in a very loud punk band."

He still likes punk, and just about every other kind of music, but he doesn't play punk these days. He's half of a duo called "if thousands." They play electronic, improvised music: two guys, some keyboards, an electric guitar, assorted tape recorders, noise-makers and gadgets. Some people call it Experimental, or Drone music.

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Image if thousands

"We appreciate it when people fall asleep to our music," Molina says."Music is a way to escape, a thing to take you to a different place in life. And boy, if it takes you to dreamland, then it's doing a great job."

Molina got turned on to this style of improvised music when he was a kid in Northfield. And that's where he first got the idea for an all-night sleep show. When he was 12 or 13, he used to sneak out of the house and go up to Carleton College. He came across a musical duo on campus.

"They were called The Pretentious Art Ensemble," he remembers. "They did improvised music every Friday night from like 10 p.m. to midnight. It was usually pretty mellow, and I noticed that some people would bring their pillows. So, I've kind had this idea in me for a long time. I've just always thought that's a great idea."

Molina says he's heard that a musician in Britain put on a sleep show some time back. He thinks there might have been something similar on the West Coast. But he doesn't think anyone's done it here before.

He says he's tired of playing bars -- tired of the noise and the smoke and the inattentive audiences. So he's putting on this show at a non-profit called the Music and Arts Collective. It's a storefront art gallery with lots of empty floor space. Eight projectors will continuously beam silent movies and quirky photographs onto the walls, floor and ceiling.

People of a certain age might wonder how soothing it will be to have eight projectors going at once, but Molina is confident this will work.

"All the music, all the media, everything is intended to put people to sleep, make them relax, be quiet, enjoy what's going on around them," he says.

The show is called "Slumber." During the first part of the night, bands will play half-hour sets.

I don't imagine much dancing. I imagine a lot of gazing.
- Aaron Molina, organizer of "Slumber"

Several bands will come up from the Twin Cities. Other groups are coming from as far away as Chicago and North Carolina. A band from Australia will appear via an Internet hook-up.

By 3 a.m. things will get really mellow. That's when the stage opens up for an improvised jam.

"A lot of times what happens in an improvised music set is someone just starts out a basic drone, like a didgeridoo sound, or even a single note on an organ," Molina says. "Just a low, textured, layered drone. And you just kind of build on that. You add different elements."

The elements might include a recording of street noise, or a television newscast. There'll be musical instruments, too. The musicians who'll be there play everything from keyboards and guitars to cello, french horn and banjo.

Aaron Molina doesn't know what the late-night improvised session will sound like, but he's sure the musicians will keep it low-key.

"I've asked, please consider being quiet and being relaxing," he says. "And I trust them."

He expects members of the audience to show up with pillows, or perhaps beanbag chairs -- and maybe even in their pj's.

"I don't imagine much dancing," Molina says. "I imagine a lot of gazing."

"Slumber" begins at 7 p.m. on Saturday and runs until 8 a.m. on Sunday at the MAC in downtown Duluth.

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