While some composers would be horrified if a new piece of music put an entire audience to sleep, Max Richter fully expects it. The German-British composer has created what's believe to be the longest continuous piece of classical music ever recorded. Called "SLEEP," its sole function is to provide a lulling soundtrack to your non-waking hours, immersing listeners in what he calls an "unconscious sense of fleeting through a landscape."
The project took two years to compose, with Richter consulting with American neuroscientist David Eagleman on the various phases of sleep and the sounds that best complement them. The end result is an eight-hour piece scored for piano, strings, vocals and electronics.
"It’s a piece that is meant to be listened to at night. I hope that people will fall asleep listening to it, because the project is also a personal exploration into how music interacts with consciousness – another fascination for me," Richter writes in the sleeve notes for "SLEEP." "We spend more time sleeping than we do anything else – in the average life it amounts to several decades. What a miraculous part of our lives, this state of suspended animation existing between being and non-being (and for me personally, where all my work is actually done). What happens to music here? Are there ways in which music and consciousness can interact other than in a wakeful state? Can music function as a truly shared creative space?"
Those anxious to experience Richter's "SLEEP" can actually give it a shot tonight. Starting at 8 p.m., his #ONEWORLDSLEEP site will stream the entire album for free for one night only. Participants are encouraged to turn down the lights, listen, fall asleep, and then post reactions on social media.
If you happen to be in Germany this October, Richter will premiere his new composition as part of an epic eight-hour concert from midnight until 8 a.m. "We basically will play in the round, so the band is in the middle, and ringed around it are four or five hundred beds," Richter told NPR.
Instead of the sweet sound of applause, Richter's gauge of success will likely come from the amount of snoring he hears around him.
"This whirlwind of a life – so fast, so little time. When I look at my children, I wonder where they will find rest," he adds. "Those moments of being that they used to have as tiny babies, arms outstretched, trusting of the world.
"I’ve long wanted to write something that might soothe them, so this is my personal lullaby for a frenetic world – a manifesto for a slower pace of existence."
SLEEP will be officially be released for purchase on Sept. 4.