Sleep. Perchance to listen.

Sleep. Perchance to dream.

There are of course plenty of pieces of music where sleep is an unintended, unwanted consequence, and let’s be honest it’s happened to all of us at one time or another, but with Max Richter’s eight-hour Sleep it is the objective. Described as an eight-hour lullaby when it was premiered in 2015 at the Wellcome Collection library in London – as part of an exhibition devoted to the science of sleep I recall – the audience had beds and sleeping bags. The recording of that premiere was broadcast again on BBC Radio 3 the night of Saturday into Easter Sunday morning, in response to lockdown-anxiety, and broadcast in many other countries over the same weekend. I knew more or less what to expect from the one hour extracts available on the from Sleep disc but I had never heard the whole piece, so that night I decamped to the spare bedroom (for the sake of marital harmony) with a Bluetooth speaker.

It is possible to read about how Max Richter worked with neuroscientist David Eagleman, to learn about how the music references sleep patterns, about how the pitch spectrum was chosen to bring the listener into a womb-like state, but that all falls away in the face of the sheer sensual beauty of the music. The subtle interplay between the live musicians (piano and keyboards, five string players, and the ethereal soprano of Grace Davidson) and electronics was such that at times I wasn’t even sure which I was listening to, and the transitions as one section segued into the next…blissful.

I didn’t want to fall asleep, so gorgeous was the music I wanted to keep listening, but after an hour or two I inevitably did and the music worked its way into my dreams. I woke a couple of times during the night and when I did I felt a sense of extreme contentment, lying in bed bathed in this magical sound world and knowing that other people across the country were doing just the same.

Sleep. Perchance to listen.

2 thoughts on “Sleep. Perchance to listen.

    1. Hello Alison, lovely to hear from you. We are fine, trust you are as well. From my understanding things are not that bad in Australia (?), but I hope your family in the UK are well. Where I live we are blessed really. We have a large house and garden in a village that is quiet enough in normal times (though remarkably it is now even quieter) and in a strange way there is a good side to things in having some down time to enjoy life here. We are also lucky in that we are having the perfect English spring, it really couldn’t be nicer than it has been recently.

      Teddy Hall 40th reunion dinner had to be cancelled of course, now rescheduled for September so fingers-crossed.

      Our main concern from a purely selfish personal point of view is that we also have a home in Nice and at the moment we have no idea when we will be able to get there again. We should have been there this last 2 weeks and were due to go back in May, obviously that has all gone. We’re now just hoping we can get there in the Autumn.

      Of course, I promise you that I do realise that many people have far more serious problems and we are the lucky ones if that is all we have to worry about.



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