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Max Richter talks with stuff.nz about 8hour lullaby - Sleep

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Can an eight-hour 'adult lullaby' soothe our frazzled brains? Thomas H. Green talks to its composer.

It is almost midnight and I'm lying in bed, lights out, awaiting sleep. However, all is not quiet. Very gently, a stereo is playing. A slow, mantric piano motif floats from the speakers. "It sounds like the music they play when I have my foot massage," my girlfriend yawns drowsily. I am not finding it quite as easy to drift off. Lying in the stillness, the revolving notes seem intrusively loud, simply because my consciousness is focusing on them. I turn the music down. Then I turn it down again. Riding the verge of inaudibility, but still a clear presence, it works much better, massaging my brain into dreamland.

The music is Anglo-German composer Max Richter's new project, unambiguously titled Sleep. It is eight hours long and designed to help soothe the brain during the sleeping hours. Its appearance is timely, given recent surveys of Britons' sleeping habits. According to the Sleep Council, we now get only six and a half hours' sleep a night on average, up to two hours less than 60 years ago. And, according to the Economic and Social Research Council, a third of us suffer from insomnia and another quarter have some other form of sleeping problem, all of which have a serious impact on our wellbeing - from poor mood and cognitive function to increasing levels of obesity.

Richter's music - which will be performed live for the first time on BBC Radio 3 on the night of September 26 in front of an audience lying in camp beds - is being billed as a "lullaby" for an always-connected, frenetic world. "In our daytime environment, we expend a lot of energy curating all that stuff coming out of our screens," Richter says. "I wanted to make a piece that was so big, listening to it would be like a pause button on that information flow, going on holiday from it."  

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