Eric Whitacre ‘Sleep’ Study Guide

This study guide, written in 2013, is designed to help you bring the music of Eric Whitacre, one of the choral world’s most popular contemporary composers, into your classroom.

“It’s a wonderful resource”. – HOD Music, Auckland, NZ


Sleep, for SATB choirwill capture the imagination of your students with its lush musical language and fascinating background.

Sleep is a piece that has its feet firmly planted in the classical tradition, but its head in a dream world.

This resource will help your students uncover Whitacre’s compelling musical language and investigate the fascinating contexts (including many unexpected twists) surrounding this work.

In my opinion, Eric Whitacre is an authentic genius; his meteorically-rising reputation is more than merited. His music is unfailingly inventive, melodic, highly personal and stunningly skilful” – Stephen Schwartz, Composer/Lyricist WICKED, PIPPIN, GODSPELL

(Sleep featured at 2:45)

“The guide was informative and allowed an easy way for my students to learn about “Sleep” and Eric Whitacre”. – Music Teacher, Texas, U.S.A

This study guide has all the information you need to teach this topic at any level:

  • an extensive knowledge base of information about the composer and his musical background pulled together from a wide variety of sources
  • analysis of the poetry and background info on the poet
  • summary of the history of Western choral music
  • in-depth music elements analysis of every bar of the Sleep, including harmonic analysis in both Roman numerals and jazz/rock notation
  • illustrations and examples to help with understanding the analysis
  • key information and insightful quotes from the composer are highlighted throughout
  • hundreds of hyperlinks to websites, articles, downloadable scores, and videos to help students “follow their nose” to a better understanding of the topic.

Perfect for the new NCEA Level 3 standards (AS91423 Examine the influence of context on a substantial music work, and AS91422 Analyse a substantial music work), as well as music works standards at both Level 2 (AS91277) and Level 1 (AS 91095).

Q- Is Sleep “substantial” as required in the NCEA standards?

A- It is significant in many ways – changing the face of choral music through Virtual Choir, and one of the most popular choral pieces of the 21st Century (based on sheet music sales). And it is complex in harmonic analysis as a result of added notes (suspensions etc.) and ‘pandiatonic’ writing, as well as requiring significant skill for performance (wide vocal range, and dynamic range, a cappella etc.). Teachers could choose to analyse one other work from the ‘Light & Gold’ book (eg. Lux Aurumque) using the same harmonic language found in this guide and discuss them both as examples of the composer’s work.



Preview of “Eric Whitacre Sleep” 1-9

Preview of “Eric Whitacre Sleep” Analysis


  • NZ$100, which allows you to distribute the guide to your students.

A 60 page study guide will be delivered to your email inbox as a secure .pdf file, with your own unique password.


  • CD: Light & Gold, Eric Whitacre conducting $30 [consider downloading Light & Gold album from Itunes instead, approx NZ$18]


  • Scores: Light & Gold, Chester Music, to accompany the CD, NZ$27, includes the following sheet music (with piano reductions – very handy!):


    • Lux Aurumque
    • The Seal Lullaby
    • A Boy and a Girl
    • I Will Wade Out
    • Hope, Faith, Life, Love
    • I Thank You God For Most This Amazing Day
    • Water Night
    • Nox Aurumque
    • Sleep
  • Or the cheaper Sleep sheet music, Walton Music, NZ$4.70 per copy. Please note that this version of the score does not include a piano reduction and you will need to renumber the bars, starting with the first complete bar as bar 1, to match the analysis in the study guide.


Use this form to order your Study Guide and resources. If purchasing for an institution, please provide an order number.

Note: prices are in NZ dollars and exclude GST and postage, price may change without notice, due to exchange rate.

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