For someone whose self professed favourite activity is sleeping, it is hardly surprising that Max Richter went the length of working with neuroscientist David Eagleman to create an album that is ‘a person lullaby for a frenetic world’. The 8 hour composition was crafted for playing during sleep, taking natural sleep cycles into consideration, intending to ease sleeping listeners into a serene soundscape before re-emerging to a gentle blend of strings and bright harmonies.
Richter drew inspiration from Bach’s ‘The Goldberg Variations’, whose work was created for Count Kaiserling of Saxony to help him through sleepless nights. This opus offers us commoners the royal treatment – a chance to switch off and relax. But for the waking listener, SLEEP offers a temporary escape, therapeutic in its repetitiveness and simplicity, it’s ‘a big pause button’ as dubbed by Richter himself.
Repetitiveness in Richter’s case does not equal boring. He meticulously nets together tense duets for violin and piano, epic string quartets and ruminating keyboard melodies. Quiet as his lullaby is, SLEEP retains powerful yet delicate qualities. Its slow fusion of deep bass, chamber ensemble and shimmering electronics paints a soft-edged landscape where listeners sink into a state of bliss.
There is also an abridged adaptation entitled ‘from SLEEP’ that allows listeners to relish in music that is pure art, and remain fully conscious for the full experience. SLEEP as an art piece can therefore describe a state of being, rather than the act itself – it offers a sonic space to settle for a while before you are ready to face our restless world.
Max Richter’s SLEEP Deluxe box set is released 11th December (Fatcat Records). Order yours here.
by Ha Vu