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Sleeping with 158 strangers, for art sake / VOGUE Q&A with Max Richter

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Little did we know when we extolled the virtues of Max Richter's Sleep-an eight-hour-plus ambient music piece meant to be listened to while one, you know, sleeps-that within mere weeks the piece would be given its New York premiere. Which is how I found myself hopping the subway on Friday night at 9:00 p.m., headed to Tribeca's Spring Studios, outfitted in my favorite pajamas and carrying a toothbrush and toothpaste in a small bag. (Ever felt like you're not getting the attention you deserve? Make your way through New York City's MTA system at night, wearing purple pantaloon pajamas, and voilà: Attention-the perhaps not the kind you were yearning for-follows you!)

In keeping with Richter's other Sleep premieres around the world-including performances at the Sydney Opera House, the Philharmonie de Paris, and Amsterdam's Royal Concertgebouw-the venue was outfitted with a vast array of beds, 160 in this case, courtesy of Beautyrest (the beds will be donated to local homeless shelters when the performances are complete), on which concertgoers where encouraged to lounge, to rest, and, yes, to sleep.

I caught up with Richter-who, understandably, given that he was about to spend almost nine hours in front of various keyboard accompanied by the American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME), was spending some time getting his head together in a small, quiet room-for a few minutes before the work's 10:30 p.m. start. Mostly, I wanted to know where this crazy idea to create this piece came from.