Industry Updates

BBC Radio 3 and Wellcome Collection present all-night world premiere live broadcast of Max Richter's "8 hour lullaby"


4 September 2015

Why Music article page

BBC Radio 3 and Wellcome Collection announce a world premiere live broadcast of Max Richter’s ground-breaking and experimental new composition SLEEP, to be performed live from Wellcome Collection into the early hours of the morning as part of the ‘Why Music ’ weekend.

BBC Radio 3 will air the world premiere live broadcast of Max Richter’s SLEEP live from Wellcome Collection on 26 September from midnight to 08.00 on 27 September.

Composed in consultation with renowned American neuroscientist David Eagleman, the “lullaby for a frenetic world” is meant to be heard whilst sleeping. Audiences across the UK are invited to hear the broadcast as they sleep whilst the composer experiments to find out what effect hearing music has on our subconscious mind.

Max Richter said: “The BBC Radio 3 ‘Why Music ’ broadcasts from Wellcome Collection neatly sum up what my piece is about.I think of SLEEP as an experiment into how music and the mind can interact in this other state of consciousness, one we all spend decades of our lives completely immersed in, but which is so far rather poorly understood. I consulted with the neuroscientist David Eagleman on how music can relate to the sleep state and have incorporated our conversations in the compositional process of the work.”

Thought to be one of the longest pieces of music ever recorded, SLEEP will be the longest single continuous piece of music ever broadcast live on the BBC. Richter will perform the piece with an ensemble of leading players and a soprano in the Reading Room at Wellcome Collection in a piece lasting eight hours, starting at midnight and ending at 08.00. The performance will be broadcast continuously live on BBC Radio 3 and will be attended by a small audience who will sleep over in the Reading Room, amongst bookshelves and artefacts.The broadcast will then be available to catch-up on BBC Radio iPlayer for 30 days.

SLEEP is broadcast as part of ‘Why Music ’, a free weekend of public events and one-off broadcasts from BBC Radio 3 in partnership with Wellcome Collection. The three day programme will include lectures and debates from neuroscientists, psychologists and psychiatrists, with performances from artists and musicians to explore the relationship between music and the mind, mental health, evolution, nature and behaviour.

Alan Davey, Controller, Radio 3 said: “I am excited that Radio 3 has the opportunity to present a world broadcast premiere that will bring an added dimension to the night for sleeping listeners everywhere. The impact of music on the human mind is a subject for debate and investigation, and is the key question at the heart of Radio 3’s broadcast weekend from Wellcome Collection. The broadcast of eight hours of new music from one of the UK’s most exciting contemporary composers is sure to be a highlight of this significant event.”

Rosie Stanbury, Events Manager at Wellcome Collection said: “We’re thrilled to be hosting the first performance of Max Richter’s new composition and to be working with BBC Radio 3, whose live broadcast will take SLEEP to a slumbering audience across the UK. It is a brilliant addition to the ‘Why Music ’ weekend, which will include a variety performances and events that explore, probe and challenge the nature of our human relationship with music. Inviting people to snuggle down to sleep through the night in the Reading Room will definitely be a first for us, but it seems a fittingly experimental event to take place in our most experimental space.”

In the week leading up to the performance of SLEEP, Radio 3 will be running an on air competition on In Tune and Breakfast offering 4 listeners a chance to attend the unique live performance in Wellcome Collection’s Reading Room. 

Kate Davis
Assistant Publicist
BBC Radio 3
T 07730194018

Holly Story
Assistant Media Officer
Wellcome Collection
T 07710919241

About ‘Why Music ’

Why Music is a partnership between BBC Radio 3 and Wellcome Collection. Asking the question Why Music , leading musicians will be joined by authorities in the fields of neuroscience, music therapy and music psychology for the three-day programme of live and recorded broadcasts exploring what makes music a vital part of being human from Wellcome Collection. Full listings of the weekend’s events and performances are available on Wellcome Collection’s website. Tickets to all of the weekend’s performances are free and are available Wellcome Collection’s website. Free tickets for the BBC Concert Orchestra’s Maida Vale performance are available from

SLEEP will be performed live by Max Richter and his small ensemble.

4 tickets to the performance of SLEEP will be available to win on In Tune and Breakfast from 18th September closing at midnight on 22nd September, with Sean Rafferty announcing the winners on In Tune on 24th September. 

About Wellcome Collection

Wellcome Collection is the free visitor destination for the incurably curious. Located at 183 Euston Road, London, it explores the connections between medicine, life and art in the past, present and future. The venue offers visitors contemporary and historic exhibitions and collections, lively public events, the world-renowned Wellcome Library, a café, a shop, a restaurant and conference facilities as well as publications, tours, a book prize, international and digital projects.

Wellcome Collection is part of the Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation dedicated to improving health. We provide more than £700 million a year to support bright minds in science, the humanities and the social sciences, as well as education, public engagement and the application of research to medicine. 

About BBC Radio 3

Radio 3 broadcasts high-quality, distinctive classical music and cultural programming, alongside regular arts and ideas programmes, jazz and world music. The station features more live classical music programming than any other and is the home of the BBC Proms – broadcasting every Prom live and more than 600 complete concerts a year – alongside daily speech programming, 90 full-length operas, over 25 drama commissions and over 20 new BBC music commissions a year. Radio 3 is the most significant commissioner of new musical works in the country and is committed to supporting new talent, from composers to writers and new young performers, through schemes such as New Generation Artists and New Generation Thinkers.  

Source: Wellcome Press Release

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