Music to fall asleep to
February 13, 2010 7:10 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for calm, soothing music -- mainly classical, avant-garde or electronic -- that would be easy to fall asleep to. More inside.

I found one similar question but I have a different set of criteria:

- no lyrics
- at least somewhat melodic
- no "dark" or spooky tracks (a big issue with many modern "ambient" artists, also with a lot of film scores)
- no rapid changes in tempo or volume (a problem with classical -- there are many pieces that I love but for one or two virtuosic passages)
- no nature sounds, world music or New Age

A few things that work for me:

- Most of Brian Eno's ambient albums (although except for "Neroli" and a few others I have to mix out some of the more lively or foreboding tracks : )

- Much of Stars of the Lid (although again I have to take out some darker tracks)

- William Basinski, "music for piano and tape"

- In a Silent Way, by Miles Davis (the only jazz album that seems to work)

- A lot of Erik Satie

Where else should I be looking? Thanks in advance for your suggestions!
posted by pete_22 to Media & Arts (47 answers total) 64 users marked this as a favorite
Music for 18 Musicians by Steve Reich
posted by ian1977 at 7:14 AM on February 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet, by Gavin Bryars.
posted by hermitosis at 7:15 AM on February 13, 2010

Oh never mind, no lyrics. I guess I skipped over that mentally because it is just one line over and over (and over, and over).
posted by hermitosis at 7:16 AM on February 13, 2010

You might like Gonzales's album Solo Piano. "Highly acclaimed by public and critics alike, it drew immediate comparisons to the work of Erik Satie..." etc.
posted by oulipian at 7:17 AM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Gas: Nah und Fern.
posted by Nelson at 7:27 AM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Amiina has some vocals on a few songs, but they're very much in the background and seem to be mostly wordless (or at least, not in English).

Liquid Mind is a little cheesy, or at least it seems like it should be, but it works. Appropriately enough, I really like Sleep.

I also like aMute's A Hundred Dry Trees. I don't know about their other stuff.

Some of the Pop Ambient collections may work for you, as may Christopher Willits.
posted by darksong at 7:35 AM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

The album Sounds of Sanctuary by Adiemus sounds about right for you. The "lyrics" are just vocal sounds composed after the notes were composed by a linguist to fit the music. It's kind of interesting to think about - composing the music then "composing" the lyrics to fit the music. But because of this it's all gibberish. To me it sounds a bit African in nature. I always loved it for studying because if a song has lyrics then I tune into that instead of focusing on my work.
posted by kthxbi at 7:42 AM on February 13, 2010

Seconding Amiina.
posted by drdanger at 7:42 AM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

You may have to weed out a few tracks here and there, but much of the music by artists on Ultimae Records could be up your street . . .
posted by protorp at 7:44 AM on February 13, 2010

Best answer: Classical:
Henryk Górecki Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs), a beautiful example of Sacred Minimalism; this will blow you away. Seriously.

Yasushi Yoshida: Secret Figure; exquisite laid back music with lots of layers. Yoshida incorporates sounds from daily life into the music in a subtle way. Very good for relaxing. His second album, Little Grace, is excellent as well.

Loscil: First Narrows; anything by Loscil is good really, hypnotic electronic music. I like it when I have to concentrate on work as well, but works for sleeping.
posted by sic at 7:44 AM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

David Sylvian and Hoger Czukay's Plight and Premonition has been my go to sleep music for years now. Especially the second track. It lives on a sleep compilation I made with various Brian Eno ambient tracks.

In fact the more I look at your question, the more you are describing Plight and Premonition.
posted by merocet at 7:48 AM on February 13, 2010

Though I bought the DVDs for the visualization qualities and simply ripped the audio into iTunes, Animusic also offers CDs. It's not uncommon for me to fall asleep to these. The individual songs are very consistent from a volume / tempo standpoint, however there is quite the variety of 'genres' between tracks. I like this; YMMV.

As mentioned above, I also like Adiemus. Agree that this might be an option if you can get around the vocal harmonies not actually being 'lyrics'. I will say that some of those songs, while consistent in tempo, tend to have significant crescendos or other variations in volume, or 'power' if you will, within some songs.
posted by SquidLips at 8:00 AM on February 13, 2010

Besides Erik Satie and Brian Eno, here are some others on my sleep playlist:

David Behrman (try 'Leapday Night' and 'On The Other Ocean')
Jean-Michel Jarre
posted by whiskeyspider at 8:04 AM on February 13, 2010

You might like Morton Feldman's Coptic Light"
Arvo Part's "Fratres" - There are many different versions of this for various combinations of instruments. Most are very tranquil, but some more than others.
You might also like the music of Toru Takemitsu.
posted by Alabaster at 8:04 AM on February 13, 2010

Adagio by Albinoni is restful and beautiful.
This adagio movement of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata on classical guitar is beautiful.
You're Beautiful by Kenny G.
Nearer Still Nearer, classical guitar by Rafael Scarfullery is very peaceful.
A Quiet Place on classical guitar.
None of the songs have lyrics. Hope you enjoy!
posted by srbrunson at 8:04 AM on February 13, 2010

Zoe Keating
posted by transporter accident amy at 8:31 AM on February 13, 2010

I fall asleep to Explosions in the Sky .. particularly the The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place.
posted by duckus at 8:41 AM on February 13, 2010

If you would like to try to fall asleep on a British time schedule then BBC Radio 3's "Late Junction" often plays lots of music that fits into you criteria. Here is a sample episode.
posted by rongorongo at 8:44 AM on February 13, 2010

I like Cylob for this, both the albums Cylobian Sunset and Mood Bells. It's experimental electronic music, the experiment seemingly being "How much warm, sensual reverb can we pack into any given piece?" Great stuff.
posted by klangklangston at 8:44 AM on February 13, 2010

Best answer: Bach piano music performed on classical guitar would probably work. The one I linked to, for example, is very even in volume throughout, very mellow, and very non-intrusive.
posted by smcameron at 8:57 AM on February 13, 2010

Best answer: Alina, by arvo part.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:02 AM on February 13, 2010

I am sure you would like The Passing Measures by David Lang.
posted by dfan at 9:28 AM on February 13, 2010

Library Tapes, Sketches [ILike][MySpace]
Charlie Haden & Pat Metheny - Beyond the Missouri Sky (Short Stories) [ILike]
posted by prinado at 9:34 AM on February 13, 2010

Kenny G? Really?

Rafael Toral
Alva Noto & Ryuichi Sakamoto (you may also like solo Carsten Nicolai)

On Fax (some avail on iTunes):
Tetsu Inoue (only the ones on Fax)
2350 Broadway
Jet Chamber
posted by rhizome at 9:42 AM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

i am nearly certain that jonsi and alex fit the bill. it is a side project from one of the guys in sigur ros. no vocals except occasional ambient choir-like non-words. very pretty. they have a previous album out under the name riceboy sleeps.
posted by apostrophe at 9:45 AM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


(much of it very Satie-esque)
posted by archivist at 9:46 AM on February 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

hmm maybe there is only one album. sorry for the confusion.
posted by apostrophe at 9:47 AM on February 13, 2010

My all-time favorite fall-asleep music is by Lambchop, especially their album Is a Woman. There are lyrics, but you can't really understand any of them, and it's oh so soft...

I've been known to doze to Philip Glass' Solo Piano.

As for jazz, if you don't mind filtering out the more upbeat tracks, check out Bill Evans, with or without his trio.
posted by Paris Elk at 10:16 AM on February 13, 2010

Best answer: While probably cheesy, when I was stressed out and having trouble falling asleep, I bought a few CDs to fall asleep to that were very soothing: Baroque for Beauty Sleep, Brahms at Bedtime, Beethoven at Bedtime, and Bach at Bedtime.
posted by tastybrains at 10:18 AM on February 13, 2010

Alone in Kyoto
posted by SarahElizaP at 10:23 AM on February 13, 2010

The Durutti Column's instrumental songs--stuff like "Sketch for Summer" maybe?

The Dirty Three would probably be most excellent. "Obvious is Obvious," "Some Things I Just Really Don't Want to Know," "I Really Should've Gone Out Last Night," etc.

Instrumental stuff from Rachel's

I feel like there must be an explosions in the sky song or two that's not too bombastic/dynamic, but I can't come up with one offhand. Maybe "Your Hand in Mine"? Or "The Long Spring"?

Piano Magic has a lot of softer instrumental songs along with their more openly poppy and vocal stuff. You might like their soundtrack to Son de Mer.

Slowdive's done some pretty great instrumental tracks.
posted by ifjuly at 10:57 AM on February 13, 2010

Though they sometimes get dark, they rarely get spooky; I love falling asleep to Boards of Canada.

I've had some pretty amazing dreams thanks to Boards of Canada. I'd strongly suggest it.
posted by ejfox at 11:08 AM on February 13, 2010

If you've already got Eno you probably know his two collaborations with Harold Budd (The Pearl and Ambient 2: The Plateaux of Mirror) -- if not, get them right now, they're exactly what you're asking for. I've fallen asleep to them hundreds of times.

There's lots of related stuff which is in the same vein -- Budd has several other albums. I particularly like Budd's work with John Foxx, "Translucence" and "Drift Music". John Foxx's "Cathedral Oceans" 1 and 2 are also great.
posted by xil at 11:29 AM on February 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

Less bombastic (and far more soothing) than Explosions in the Sky is Balmorhea. I'd recommend their album All is Wild, All is Silent, but they have a new one out in a couple of weeks that should also be excellent.

Also recommended:
Julianna Barwick - put out an amazing ambient vocal (but no words) ep called Florine last year.
Julia Kent - a cellist whose work soothes wonderfully.

In terms of classic music, Chopin's Nocturnes never fail to lull me to sleep, as do a number of Debussy's piano compositions.
posted by sleeping bear at 2:10 PM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Hildegard von Bingen, Heavenly Revelations (beautiful, medieval chants, I fall asleep to this lots - there are lyrics, but unless you speak latin, it's not much of a concern)

Biosphere, Substrata - might be a teensy too dark for you, but I find it very restful, and arctic.

Bang on a can allstars, Brian Eno's Music for Airports, live - Eno, with real instruments. Great stuff.

The Necks, Sex - Improvisational three-piece. All their albums are pretty chilled. I really like this one to fall asleep to.

Vladislav Delay, Anima - you might like this, crumbly, soft electronica.

Chopin, Nocturnes - everyone should have a copy of this in their record collection.

THom Brennan, Mist - this is flirting dangerously close to New Age territory, and yet for falling asleep I find it eminently listenable, and actually real music not just chinzty diminished 7th chords played over and over on a synth with lots of sustain.

Also seconding Harold Budd and Sakamoto.
posted by smoke at 2:23 PM on February 13, 2010

Nobody seems to have mentioned J S Bach's Goldberg Variations yet--written (allegedly) for exactly that purpose. Bach's keyboard music generally is worth investigating, although it can get pretty virtuosic. And try Keith Jarrett's "The Melody at Night, with You".
posted by Logophiliac at 2:47 PM on February 13, 2010

Try looking at some of the stuff here for lots in a similar vein to the things you listed, there are samples on the individual pages for the albums.
posted by tallus at 5:48 PM on February 13, 2010

Seconding Jonsi and Alex.

Here's one of my absolute faves.

posted by sciencemandan at 5:51 PM on February 13, 2010

Imperial Horizon by Kevin Drumm is one track called "Jusy Lay Down and Forget It." (I bought the disc from the label.)

Selected Ambient Works Volume II by Aphex Twin. One time I set a stereo's alarm function to spin this up... I never woke up.

Casino Versus Japan

You should try browsing Boomkat's "Home Listening/Modern Classical/Ambient" stuff.
posted by Ultra Laser at 6:09 PM on February 13, 2010

The Chopin Nocturnes played by Ivan Moravec is a muscular version that is one of the best. Nothing effete or wimpy, and wonderful to fall asleep to. Amazon also offers an mp3 version.

The 2 volume, 4 disc set of Handel Suites played by Gavrilov & Richter have just right the amount of complexity to soothe a busy mind.
posted by Napoleonic Terrier at 10:06 PM on February 13, 2010

Tangerine Dream
posted by gonzo_ID at 11:48 PM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have a rotation of albums that never fail to send me to sleep. In a good way, I mean.

Broken Social Scene - Feel Good Lost
Do Make Say Think - & Yet & Yet
Bonobo - Animal Magic and Dial M for Monkey
Boards of Canada - The Campfire Headphase and Music Has The Right To Children
Cinematic Orchestra - Motion
Tortoise - Millions Now Living Will Never Die

That's all I can think of for now. Sleep well!
posted by Acey at 8:02 AM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Nthing other suggestions for:

Gorecki's 3rd Symphony
Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians
Almost anything by Arvo Part

For going to sleep I also listen to selected movements from larger, less sleep-appropriate works. The 3rd movement of Mahler's 6th symphony is spectacular and without a large dynamic range.

In the super-ambient category, I also go to sleep to...

William Basinski's Disintegrating Loops
Nine Beeth Stretch (though only some parts of this are appropriate for going to sleep).
posted by mathtime! at 11:01 AM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Frederick Delius (almost anything)
some quiet Maurice Ravel (piano music, string quartet, or transcriptions)
Haydn flute trios
any other 17th- or 18th-century (flute) trios
classical solo guitar music (Villa Lobos, or look for compilations by Williams or others)
piano music by Chopin or Grieg (or transcriptions thereof for just about any instrument you prefer - same for the Ravel piano stuff)
Mendelssohn piano music, if you like him
or Schumann piano
Gregorian Chant?
Palestrina or other 16th century polyphony?
Poulenc, or any of those early 20th century French guys (friends of Satie (Les Six))

A lot depends on the instruments you like. Solo violin would drive me crazy. But you can often get transcriptions of good and/or popular works into flute or versions for other soothing instruments.

If you don't like like virtuosic or allegro movements in the classical pieces, you could try ripping the movements you like and making a compilation. I know what you mean. This would work for the Bach Goldberg Variations.
posted by feelinggood at 12:21 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for all these suggestions will take me a while to work through them, but I've marked a few best answers for my favorites so far that I hadn't known about. "Alina" is really amazing...
posted by pete_22 at 7:23 AM on March 1, 2010

Not the question that you asked but... podcasts. "What you missed in history class" has me out in 10 minutes.
posted by notned at 3:15 PM on June 8, 2010

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