Back in 2013 Heinz Riegler made a tape for A Guide To Saints, the cassette offshoot of Room40, called Sleep Health. It was designed conceptually as a sleep mechanism – Riegler was hoping that the rhythms would act as a therapeutic salve for his own insomnia and for a family member who was also struggling to find respite in the blissful arms of slumber. It isn’t the first time someone has composed music in order to aid or be heard during our sleep cycles - Cage, Terry Riley, LaMonte Young - even bloody Jeff Bridges has done an ambient spoken word recording designed to lull people into hibernation.
Now we can add to this rather obtuse sub-genre another work – SLEEP by British composer Max Richter – and it might be the big daddy of them all. SLEEP is thought to be the longest single piece of music ever to be recorded, at eight hours in length. Sound boring? That is kinda the point – Richter has designed the piece to render people unconscious – that is, to send listeners to sleep, “an eight-hour lullaby”. Richter describes it as a “manifesto for a slower pace of existence.” How it works is is an exploration of music, consciousness and human connectivity...
Now I can tell you I REALLY WANT TO GO TO THIS PREMIERE (anyone out there listening???). SLEEP will receive its world premiere this September in Berlin, in a concert performance lasting from 12 midnight to 8am at which the audience will be given beds instead of seats and programmes. For real. This is actually happening.
Now the full version will be released as a digital piece, with a one-hour rendition to be released through Deutsche Grammophon (pre-order here). And I'm sure the truncated piece will be great too – but who gives a shit? I want to go to this exhibition/performance piece and see if I can fall asleep to music and wake up a different person. Hang on – I DO THIS EVERY DAY. I think this is an incredibly interesting idea – but how do you gauge its success? If it bores you to sleep? What if you are genuinely tired? Will the music really have an effect? Will everyone have the same dream, or fall asleep at the same time? Will there be people placed in the crowd on meth, to see if it is a universal aural sedative? So many variables. At any rate, I want to see the result – but I can imagine tickets/beds to this thing will fly out the freaking door, so you better be quick.