Max Richter in “Such Stuff As Dreams Are Made On”
The acclaimed composer explores the science of sleep. Ordinarily, an audience falling asleep during a musical work would perhaps be a composer’s worst nightmare, but for British composer Max Richter, inducing slumber is unequivocally the aim of his “eight-hour lullaby,” Sleep.
“The work is made to be slept through, but there aren't any rules, and I'm curious to know what happens when people dip in and out of sleep while listening,” says Richter, whose fascination with how we experience music in different states of consciousness inspired the project. “We spend a third of our lives asleep, and it’s one of the most important things we all do.”
Sleep will receive its world premiere this September in Berlin, in a concert performance that will last from 12 midnight to 8am, and at which, instead of the usual seats, the audience will be given beds to aid their drift into unconsciousness. Despite the daunting challenge, Richter is confident that he and the performers from New York’s acclaimed American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME) won’t succumb to the soporific effects of the music.
“We will be going on to sleep time in the run up in order to be awake for the shows,” he explains. “Brian from ACME said that, ironically, the piece is so tough that you have to be very awake to play it – so there will be a lot of coffee on stage for us!”
On the question of how people will react to the piece, however, especially given the possibility of audience members sharing double beds, Richter is less sure.
“Certainly ‘amorousness’ is just as valid a response as sleep,” says the composer. “Berlin is Berlin after all. Though I suspect the venue managers will have the last word on this!”