More than half the audience was asleep and at least one was snoring during the world premiere of Max Richter’s latest composition at the Wellcome Library in London. And the 49-year-old British composer couldn’t have been more pleased.

The piece, called Sleep (with the alternative title The Big Sleep) lasts eight hours, and it is designed to do exactly that: encourage people to fall asleep. And stay asleep.

Richter had the idea one morning. “You could say I woke up with it,” he tells the South China Morning Post in a recent interview in Oxford.

“I wanted to explore the boundary between sleeping and waking: it’s a fertile space and I wanted to see whether music could really send people into that space.”

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