You might want to pack your best onesie for this year’s SXSW festival. If, that is, you are planning on attending the performance of Max Richter’s Sleep, which has its U.S. premiere at this year’s event. That’s because a onesie, pajamas, or something similarly sleepily comfortable is acceptable, if not requisite, attire for the concert.
Sleep, a meditative eight-hour contemporary classical symphony, is performed overnight while the audience is tucked in and preferably sleeping. That’s right, Richter actually wants people to sleep through his concert.
“People need to feel they are comfortable,” he advises. “That’s the most important thing. We’ve had a huge variety of sleepwear. There seems to be a bit of a onesie thing.”
He pauses and giggles: “Sort of animal onesies seems to be becoming a bit of a thing at overnight Sleep performances. I think it’s hilarious, and why not?”
But this is a serious piece of music. Richter wrote the epic Sleep as an inquiry into how music and consciousness fit together in the sleep state. “It’s central to it that it’s performed to a sleeping audience. It’s an inquiry into how the sleeping mind can encounter a music performance,” he explains.
Of course, not everyone sleeps through Sleep: “It’s really a mix,” Richter says. “We played it at the Sydney Opera House, played it in Paris, London and Berlin. Every audience is different. There are some who stay awake and listen all the way through and are completely exhausted by the end. Then you get some people who just go to bed and sleep all the way through. Most people do a bit of both.”