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18 March 2016, 16:25
400 beds neatly laid out in a former power station and a night of exquisite, expansive minimalist music, thanks to Max Richter.
Classical concerts don't often last eight hours. Pianists rarely play to people in pyjamas, wrapped in snug duvets. Audience members might occasionally doze off during an adagio - but it's seldom encouraged...
We were in Berlin for the public premiere of Max Richter's epic 'Sleep', an eight-hour work for piano, strings, voice and electronics. In penning the piece, Richter worked closely in consultation with American neurologist David Eagleman, exploring the effect music has on subconscious minds.
Richter's score uses gentle rhythmic pulse, repeated slow-moving motifs and gently undulating textures to guide the listener into a state of sleep and semi-consciousness.
With an epic (slightly wonky) chandelier, and rows of simple, numbered beds, Kraftwerk Berlin - a former communist power station turned musical powerhouse - was transformed into what felt like an ordered, post-apocalyptic musical sanctuary.
With beds and eye-masks assigned, the performance from the composer and his ensemble began at midnight. Some sat close to the performers, many others took to their beds to listen and shelter from the cold of the room.
The composer says the work is his "personal lullaby for a frenetic world...a manifesto for a slower pace of existence." Want one moment to encapsulate this mood? Try Grace Davidson's spellbindingly beautiful descant over a haunting repeated line and probing harmony and breathy, Baroque-y organ in 'Path 5 (delta)' - or 2.45am, if we recall correctly.
How did we find it? Well, having taken to bed at around 3am, the music's ability to sublimely hold you in that state of gentle semi-consciousness was revealed, and it felt exquisite. Every slow, textural change. It may not have been the deepest night's sleep, but it was the most beautiful. You're left with the feeling that these motifs and textures have permeated your consciousness and sub-consciousness equally:
As 8am neared, as people slowly emerged from their rest, the audience once again slowly gravitated to the stage. Richter's score slowly descended into nothingness and he held the room in silence for almost 5 minutes before the applause. This was the most beautiful part of the entire night, or so I was told. AS I SLEPT RIGHT THROUGH IT. Oh well - I guess blissful, muso, deep sleep did come for me.
(did wake in time to get this photo...)
And some more places to get this incredible work:
From SLEEP: http://po.st/7SDs81