As It Happens

Composer Max Richter wants to make you sleep with this 8-hour lullaby

Composer Max Richter hopes to lull his audiences into deep slumber by offering them beds, and then sedating them with his latest eight-hour-long oeuvre, entitled "Sleep".
Max Richter (Mike Terry)

Normally, when you put on a concert, you don't want to put people to sleep. However, that's not the case for neo-classical music composer Max Richter.

His latest work is called "Sleep" and is billed as "a lullaby for a frenetic world." It's also eight-hours long — a world-record length for a classical piece of music.

Appropriately, Richter is performing this work live in Berlin and inviting the 400-or-so people in the audience to sleep. He's even providing the beds.

Max Richter in studio recording "Sleep". (Screen capture)

"Sleeping has always been one of my favourite activities," Richter tells As It Happens guest host Laura Lynch. "I've always been fascinated by consciousness and how the mind operates in the different states. Music itself is a kind of thinking aloud or a dream state." 

The concert will take place in an abandoned power station. In the centre of the venue, Richter, along with a string quartet, a keyboardist and a couple of singers will play "Sleep" for its entirety on a small platform from midnight to 8 a.m.

"The piece is structured so there's a coming and going on and off the platform," he says. "Not everyone plays all together at the same time and people get breaks."

Richter explains that one of the reasons why he composed "Sleep" was to respond to the pace of the "information universe." 

"It's a kind of gigantic pause, a moment to reflect," he says. "We have a lot of information coming at us in our time but we don't really have the time to engage with it properly, it's a little bit one-dimensional, I think it's because everything is going so fast. Sleep is, in some ways, a point of repose, an empty space, a quiet space to just reflect on the material."

But isn't there a risk that he'll fall asleep during the performance?

"It's got these big expanses and you do find yourself nodding off," he says with a laugh.

The full eight-hour version of "Sleep" will be released digitally on September 4. A one-hour version will be available on the same day in both digital and physical formats.

Here's a preview of "Sleep":


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