Trouble Sleeping? A Composer Wants To Help : Deceptive Cadence If counting sheep isn't working, British composer Max Richter's latest piece might. Sleep is eight hours long and designed to help listeners get some shut-eye.

Trouble Sleeping? A Composer Wants To Help

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This next story begins with an apology. Sorry if you're trying to wake up because the music we're about to play might put you back to sleep.


INSKEEP: It's a composition called "Sleep." It's eight hours long, the perfect length to get a good night's rest.

MAX RICHTER: Sleeping and being asleep is one of my favorite activities.

INSKEEP: Composer Max Richter.

RICHTER: And I'm also keenly aware that I'm very fortunate in being able to get a good night's sleep. You know, many people are not. And really I - what I wanted to do is to sort of provide a landscape or a place - a musical place - where people could actually fall asleep.


INSKEEP: Mr. Richter is a well-known composer from Britain. He spent about two years writing and recording an album that few people will hear in full, especially if they fall asleep, which does raise a question. Why?

RICHTER: Our experience of being asleep is one of the most interesting things we ever do. I mean, this is just personal, and maybe I'm cranky and eccentric in that way, but, you know, it's just a fascination for me. And it's also a really big part of our lives. I mean, we spend decades in this state.

INSKEEP: Richter says he wants to engage with the unconscious mind. There is a problem, though. This composition is not easy to play.

RICHTER: Especially for string players, you know, long, quiet, you know, notes is their kind of - you know, that's the horror. You know, because it's - you need a lot of concentration to play like that.


RICHTER: It's physically really tough because, you know, people get really stiff and tense, you know. And they see a page of, or in this, you know, 25 pages of, like, you know, whole notes. (Laughter) They just - you know, they get the fear. It's very difficult.

INSKEEP: Richter and his small ensemble will face that challenge when they premier the piece in Berlin this fall. They plan to play from midnight to 8 o'clock in the morning in a venue customized for the occasion.

RICHTER: We basically will play in the round. So, you know, the band is in the middle and ringed around it are, you know, 400 or 500 beds (laughter) like a gigantic, you might say like a hospital ward or something. And everyone goes to bed and we start playing.

INSKEEP: If all goes well, they won't hear much applause at the end because the audience will be asleep.

RICHTER: That's success, yeah (laughter).

INSKEEP: Max Richter's new album is called "Sleep."

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