Unifying nations in quarantine – Max Richter’s ‘Sleep’ will bring listeners together this weekend

Max Richter’s eight-hour epic SLEEP, his ‘lullaby for a frenetic world’, returns to BBC Radio 3’s airwaves this Easter weekend in a simulcast with the European Broadcasting Union – uniting quarantined nations across the continent in moments of meditative stillness.

The BBC will join with broadcasters across Europe and beyond, including USA, Canada and New Zealand, for the live simulcast of Richter’s eight-hour lullaby, a re-broadcast of the world premiere from 2015.

The premiere, recorded at The Wellcome Collection, became the longest single continuous piece of music ever broadcast live on the radio, and the work has since been performed around the world in a variety of iconic venues including the Sydney Opera House, Grand Park in Los Angeles, Kraftwerk Berlin, the Philharmonie de Paris and most recently at the Great Wall of China.

SLEEP has been hugely successful worldwide – praised by critics and garnering over 350 million streams. In a sign of the work’s timely appeal, Richter’s Deutsche Grammophon album of SLEEP has recently returned to number one in the USA Billboard classical album charts.

SLEEP seeks to examine the relationship between music and the subconscious mind, and to foreground the communal aspect of music performance and listening. This remarkable broadcasting moment aims to bring together listeners around the world in a collective moment of musical reflection.  The piece indeed provides an apt soundtrack for these times of lockdown – when hours seemingly stretch into the distance. Sleep offers a mindful way to forget everything going on around us.

Sleep was composed in consultation with American neuroscientist David Eagleman. In Max Richter’s words: “Five years ago I wrote SLEEP as an invitation to pause our busy lives for a moment. Now we are all facing an unexpected and unwelcome pause. It is far from easy to adjust to this new normal, which daily brings fresh anxiety and suffering to our communities, to those we love, and to ourselves. At this time the magical ability of creativity to elevate our days and to connect us with one another is more valuable than ever, and I’m really happy that BBC Radio 3 and the EBU will allow us to listen all together across the world. Please stay home, stay safe, and enjoy this 8-hour place to rest with those you love”.

Radio 3’s original eight-hour live broadcast broke two Guinness World Records – for the longest broadcast of a single piece of music, and the longest live broadcast of a single piece of music.

The original world premiere performance will be rebroadcast overnight on BBC Radio 3 from 11pm on Saturday (April 11) to 7am on Easter Sunday (April 12) as part of ‘Slow and Mindful’ series, BBC Radio 3’s offering of music for the mind in the time of lockdown.  Meanwhile, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) will bring together radio members across the globe to air the full 8-hour piece – with in Europe and beyond, including USA, Canada and New Zealand. They will all broadcast SLEEP during the Easter weekend.

Main image copyright: MaxRichterMusic/YouTube

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