One of Britain’s leading contemporary composers has written what is thought to be the longest single piece of music ever to be recorded. Sleep is eight hours long – and has been composed with the sole purpose of sending the listener off to the land of nod.

“It’s an eight-hour lullaby,” says its composer, Max Richter.

The piece is scored for piano, strings, electronics and vocals, but features no vocals as such. “It’s my personal lullaby for a frenetic world,” Richter says. “A manifesto for a slower pace of existence.”

SLEEP will receive its world premiere this month in Berlin, in a concert performance lasting from 12 midnight to 8am and the audience will be provided with beds to make sure the piece has the desired effect. The eight-hour version will be available as a digital album or as a one-hour adaptation of the work that is being released on CD, vinyl, download, and streaming formats today, via Deutsche Grammophon.

“You could say that the short one is meant to be listened to and the long one is meant to beheard while sleeping,” says Richter, who describes the one-hour version as “a series of windows opening into the big piece”.

Richter consulted eminent American neuroscientist David Eagleman while composing, to learn more about how the human brain functions while sleeping. “For me, SLEEP is an attempt to see how that space when your conscious mind is on holiday can be a place for music to live.”

You can watch a short video about SLEEP here.