Classical Composition SLEEP Is an Insomniac’s Dream

sleepingThere are plenty of people out there who have taken inadvertent naps while listening to classical music, but most pieces aren’t designed to put you to sleep (except for the Goldberg Variations, but that’s a whole different blog post). The composer Max Richter will soon change all that with SLEEP, his composition which he calls an “eight-hour lullaby for a frenetic world”.

SLEEP will premiere in Berlin this September in an overnight concert from midnight to 8 am. The artists will perform in the midst of approximately 500 beds – one for each audience member, who will drift off to sleep as the concert continues through the night.

Most of the musicians will not be performing for eight hours in a row. The instrumentation includes piano, electronics, a string quartet, and two sopranos. The concert has been organized so that different groups of instruments will be performing at various times. Richter himself will be performing for the entire concert.

When asked why Richter has created an eight-hour piece meant to put listeners to sleep, he said:

The first thing, really, is that the piece is an experiment and an investigation into how music can coexist or operate within this other state of consciousness – which, y’know, neuroscience tells us is actually not a passive state. It’s very busy, but just busy in a different way…It’s functional music, in the classical sense, and it’s the length it is because it’s intended to be slept through. It’s as simple as that, really; it’s to accompany the act of sleeping.

I listened to a 3-minute excerpt of this work on YouTube (available at the end of this post), and it is an insomniac’s dream. The piano part has the delicacy of Satie, and the string lines arch up and down like the slow breaths of deep sleep. It sounds like a lovely way to fall asleep, although I wouldn’t want to do it on a bed in a concert hall with 500 other people. I think I’ll just wait for From Sleep, an hour-long adaptation which will be available as a digital album through Deutsche Gramophone.


Photo via Flickr by Betssssy

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