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

Today, 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.

Published: 4 September 2015
I think of SLEEP as an experiment into how music and the mind can interact in this other state of consciousness.
— Max Richter, composer
  • BBC Radio 3 will air the world premiere live broadcast of Max Richter’s SLEEP live from Wellcome Collection on from midnight on 26 September to 8am on 27 September
  • Composer and musicians to perform eight-hour piece through the night for Radio 3 listeners and a sleeping audience in Wellcome Collection’s Reading Room
  • SLEEP will be the longest single continuous piece of music ever broadcast live on the BBC
  • Listeners invited to turn on Radio 3 overnight and hear composition while sleeping
  • Part of Why Music? weekend of events and broadcasts from BBC Radio 3 and Wellcome Collection

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, pictured, says: “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 8am. 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 says: “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 says: 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.

Notes to Editors

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 via 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 18 September closing at midnight on 22 September, with Sean Rafferty announcing the winners on In Tune on 24 September.