Richter has pared back sections of his best-selling 8.5-hour epic SLEEP to their basic structures
to create three extended solo piano tracks for this new digital EP, out on World Sleep Day
“The piano is where I go to daydream, because composing, in a way,
is daydreaming as well. It’s trying to encounter other aspects of your mind,
things maybe you’re not so aware of consciously”
Max Richter’s 2015 album SLEEP is a modern musical phenomenon, having garnered nearly 2 billion streams to date. Exploring new ways in which music and consciousness can interact, the original 8.5‑hour work has also sold out some of the world’s most prestigious venues for full-length live performances. The SLEEP by Max Richter App, featuring exclusive new sequences from this award-winning composition, as well as other music from across Richter’s repertoire, has had almost 440K downloads to date.
“SLEEP … grows into a piece of considerable emotional weight.
It becomes a meditation upon our being alive, our continuing to breathe
as the world rumbles continuously in our absence”
The Quietus, reviewing the original album
In 2023, Richter revisited some of the SLEEP material from an electronic perspective for SLEEP: Tranquility Base. For this new EP, SLEEP: Piano Edition, he has focused on his own instrument and created three extended reimagined tracks for solo piano. Featuring performances by Richter himself, the EP will be released digitally by Deutsche Grammophon on World Sleep Day, 15 March 2024. Short edits of each track will also be issued as singles, including Dolby Atmos versions. The first, Dream 0, is out today, 2 February. Non-Eternal follows on 16 February and Return 2 on 12 March.
To coincide with this, on the morning of Sunday 17 March, Max Richter will present a special audio-visual meditation ‘90 Minutes of SLEEP’ at London’s BFI IMAX Waterloo. It will be the first ever spatial presentation of music from his acclaimed SLEEP project, with visuals custom-made for the UK’s largest cinema screen. Tickets for the event, which will be introduced by Richter himself, go on sale today (here).
For Richter, the piano is a sketch pad – the starting point for new creative ventures, enabling subconscious ideas to float up to the surface as he begins composing. As he notes, the instrument also plays a key role in SLEEP: “One of the two main themes is very slow-moving, pulsed piano music – the instrument is one of the main characters in the piece.” It was therefore a natural choice to go back to the keyboard and strip certain sections of the larger work down to their basic structures.
Equally natural was the notion of revisiting an existing work and exploring what else it might have to say, to him and to others. “I don’t really believe in closed works of art,” he explains. “I’m very interested in the music remaining alive, not frozen, and in what the listeners bring to the piece. When we see a sculpture, we don’t always see it the same way we walk around it. We see different angles, different aspects. And in a way, this is maybe revealing different aspects of SLEEP itself.”
The first track to be seen from a new perspective on SLEEP: Piano Edition is Dream 0. Based on what was originally vocal material, it’s “a straightforward piano arrangement, but for piano duet, so there are two parts”. Meanwhile, “what I’ve done here,” says Richter about Non-Eternal, “is enlarged the colour palette of the piano by adding some tape delays and other things to it, to just shine a new light on it.”
For the third and final track, Return 2, Richter has adapted some of the music he originally wrote for strings. “It’s a piece I’m very fond of,” he says. “So I thought it would be nice just for me personally to play that material.”
SLEEP: Piano Edition has the same spacious and immersive qualities as its epic parent work. Whether we listen to one track or the seamless flow of all three, the slow, steady rhythms, repetitions and subtle transformations offer a sense of familiarity and security.
“SLEEP is a piece about finding a place to pause, a place to rest,” concludes the composer. “Because even though the world is very exciting, it’s also now very exhausting, especially psychologically, with the advent of 24-hour news, social media, the internet completely saturating our lives. We’re beset by ecological, social, political troubles. Obviously, the best way we can deal with these is to have a clear mind. In order to do that, we need to find ways to kind of settle our minds down. And SLEEP offers one such opportunity.”
ABOUT MAX RICHTER
Often described as the most influential composer of his generation, Max Richter stands as a pivotal figure on the contemporary music scene. With streaming figures measured in the billions, Richter’s works cross boundaries and genres, encompassing solo artist albums, ballets, concert hall performances, cinema and television scores, video art installations and theatre works.
His last major recorded project, The New Four Seasons, was released in 2022. It marked the ten-year anniversary of his Vivaldi Recomposed project, re-recording the piece with period instruments.