AS91422 resource for “Sleep” by Eric Whitacre

I have available a new resource to accompany the “Sleep” study guide.

Sleep 91422 v2 Internal Assessment Task Cover Page

Achievement Standard 91422 v2 (internal) – Analyse a substantial music work

Here is a sample of a few pages from the resource:

Sleep 91422 v2 Internal Assessment Task SAMPLE

Teachers wishing to use this resource will need to be convinced that “Sleep” is  “substantial” as described in the achievement standard:

  1. Substantial indicates that the music work has significance and/or complexity in the chosen style or era. The work is of sufficient substance to allow for critical and perceptive analysis.

What makes “Sleep” significant?

“Sleep” is a widely influential piece of music. It is one of the most performed works of the most popular and most performed choral composer alive today. Whitacre has a unique sound that comes from his use of unresolved suspensions and added note chords. This sound is clearly evident in “Sleep”. His approachable “super-tonal” style is helping to popularised choral music today, as seen in the Youtube phenomenon of Virtual Choir. “Sleep” was the test piece and later used for the second virtual choir that went viral as choristers from all over the globe joined together in a new form of music-making. Virtual choir challenges our notion of “what is a choir” and pushes boundaries of conventional thinking. One could say that “Sleep” has helped revolutionise choral music today.

“Sleep” is an unusual and amazing example of the interplay between words and music. The back-story explores an intricate dance involving the composer, lyricist and copyright lawyers… The way the artists resolve the musical and lyrical problems is a triumph and a really interesting way to have students explore the roles each person plays in the composition of a new piece of music. Certainly the lyricist here played a more significant role than usual.

What evidence is there that “Sleep” is complex?

The complex harmonic language of “Sleep” and other works by Whitacre have been the subject of doctoral dissertations and analyses. “Sleep” is not straightforward to analyse as can be seen when working through the study guide. The dense chords and modern ideas of tonality encourage students to dig deep for musical meaning.

As a performer “Sleep” is complex to sing well due to long slow phrases,a  wide range in dynamics and the complex harmonic language used at times. The singer’s technique and breath control are really tested.

The music is very well composed with motifs developed throughout. As an example of how a composer can take simple ideas and make of them a complex piece of music, this work shines.

Not yet convinced? Here are some more ideas:

  • Why not add a second of Whitacre’s compositions, such as “Lux Aurumque”, that shares significant stylistic features with “Sleep”.
  • Or, as suggested in this resource, analyse several of the incarnations of “Sleep” which cover traditional choral music, virtual choir, and concert band. Comparing and contrasting these versions can lead to a deep understanding of the composers work and style.

Please use the form below to order the resource (NZ $40). I will send you an email shortly with the resource and an invoice that can be paid via Paypal or internet banking.

Note: prices are in NZ dollars and exclude GST