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Max Richter’s Sleep documentary to air on BBC Four in January

In 2015 the composer Max Richter premiered SLEEP, an eight-hour musical piece to be played overnight to sleeping audiences. Staged at the Wellcome Foundation and subsequently at Kraftwerk in Berlin (a venue more widely known for its raves) the piece became an overnight sensation greeted by five star reviews worldwide, and earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records for the longest ever live broadcast with BBC Radio 3’s transmission of the show throughout its premiere night.

SLEEP follows the acclaimed composer and musician Max Richter (whose credits include The Blue Notebooks, Voices and Infra), and his creative partner, artist and BAFTA-winning filmmaker Yulia Mahr, as they navigate an ambitious performance of this celebrated eight-hour opus at an open-air concert in Los Angeles in 2019.

Transcending the work to explore its legacy, it is a ground-breaking visual portrait which echoes the contemplative essence of SLEEP, offering a poetic depiction of the ‘liminal state’ audiences experience when attending a live performance – where fans slumber through the overnight concert in beds, not seats.

This is a film for these challenging times, offering is an immersive and meditative respite from the chaos of the world, and exploring the power of music to offer refuge; the power of collective experience to unite us.

SLEEP is a compelling and deeply personal insight into the life and work of Max Richter and Yulia Mahr – a creative partnership spanning thirty years, responsible for large scale international touring pieces that address social and political issues through music and film.

Max Richter – SLEEP Kraftwerk Berlin am 15.03.2016
Foto: Stefan Hoederath

Directed by Emmy-nominated, award-winning filmmaker Natalie Johns, the film plunges deeply into Richter and Mahr’s life and process, and explores the tenacity and drive needed to sustain such work. Working outside of public funding and in a post streaming world, the film reflects an inspiring journey filled with love, companionship and determination.

Personal reflections from Max Richter, and visual archive from Yulia Mahr – the co-architect of SLEEP – help build this intimate portrait.  Drawing on performance footage from Berlin, Sydney, and Paris to create a rich portrait of a shared artistic process, along with contributions that illuminate both the science and story behind the work. The footage shot by Yulia was filmed across 15 years.

Yulia said, “Of all the shows it’s SLEEP I miss the most now that performances are on hold and there are no live shows. I miss that incredible collective journey. Max and I are shy of this documentary – but the other day we watched it, filled with a sadness. And we were amazed at seeing all those people standing / sitting / lying so close. I don’t know if we will ever get to stage the shows again – but I do hope that the film stands as a testament to just how important and life-affirming creativity can be. When we come out the other side of all this, we can do better.”

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”.

SLEEP seeks to examine the relationship between music and the subconscious mind, and to foreground the communal aspect of music performance and listening. This film aims to unite viewers in a collective moment of musical reflection.

Richter and Mahr have worked together for over 25 years as part of Studio Richter Mahr, a collaborative home for their creative projects. At its core is the belief that creativity exists as a social project that can illuminate the lives of individuals and society as a whole. Richter and Mahr continue to push the boundaries of music, art and technology forging new creative paths to embrace listeners worldwide. These projects are a call to contemplation and a celebration of community in changing times.

‘Max Richter’s Sleep’, will be broadcast on BBC Four on the 3rd January 2020. The film is also available to buy or rent via

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