Max Richter - The Blue Notebooks (15 Years Edition)

The Blue Notebooks is an attempt for music to comment on society and specifically it’s an anti-violence record. It’s a subtle and peaceful protest against political, social, and personal brutality. Sadly it’s still very current today” - Max Richter

Deutsche Grammophon presents expanded new editions of ‘The Blue Notebooks’ by Max Richter, which are released in celebration of its 15th anniversary and will be available in multiple formats, including Super Deluxe.

Originally written in 2003 and remarkably recorded in just three hours ‘The Blue Notebooks’ was released in 2004 to minimal fanfare. Since then the world has caught up, with the album steadily growing from cult classic, to trend-setting influencer, to cannon-defining masterpiece that’s paved the way for a generation of successful young composers.

What this deeply rewarding album has to offer has steadily spread to the consciousness and hearts of many, having gained millions of plays on Spotify plus inclusion in multiple adverts, TV programmes and films.

Although commonplace now, when Richter made ‘The Blue Notebooks’, he was one of the first to combine classical and electronic elements with a post rock sensibility – something which was radical at the time.

These new editions include remixes from Konx-Om-Pax and Jlin – both of which offer a fascinating cultural exchange, showing how Max’s music and mindset crosses boundaries, making cohesive connections that might not initially be apparent.

Other new features include brand new artwork, a previously unreleased track and new arrangements of compositions written at the same time as the album, but debuting on tape earlier this year at Air studios. The Super Deluxe Edition also features a brand new track called ‘Cypher’.

On recording and re-arranging the previously unreleased material, Max explains “we’ve revisited a kind of hinterland to that record; these pieces form the background, almost like a reservoir that fed into the making of the record, but which didn’t actually make the finished article.

The bonus material matches the main album in quality and ability to evoke, and whether heard in its original or expanded incarnations, it makes for a record of simple, plaintive beauty, where rich organic strings meet gauzy, low fi electronics. Sense-stimulating textures, foley-style found sounds and the ASMR-like detailed capture of actress Tilda Swinton’s renditions create a deeply effective ambience.

Conceptually ‘The Blue Notebooks’ was carefully conceived as “a meditation on violence and its repercussions, inspired both by the Iraq war – which was looming – and my own experiences”, recalls Max. But although inspired by Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie and the original punk movement, his was a different kind of dissent.

“I wanted to invite the listener in, allowing them space to reflect, rather than be beaten into submission. The world is tough enough, and I don’t want to add to the brutality. Over the years, I’ve realised that there’s a balance to strike, and that actually, as our world spins into something quite threatening that’s increasingly based on loud and vicious rhetoric, I want to talk about quiet protest.”

The album is also intimately personal and Richter recalls that, “as a very sensitive child, I reacted to the violence around me by internalizing everything. My only refuge was music, and I totally disappeared into the internal landscapes it opened up to me.”

Indeed, an air of nostalgia permeates The Blue Notebooks, something acknowledged in the texts Richter selected for Swinton’s crucial monologues. “Everyone carries a room about inside him”, she begins, the words taken from Franz Kafka’s ‘Blue Octavo Notebooks’ – whose title Richter adapted for his suite – and later she recites Polish poet Czesław Miłosz’s ‘Hymn of the Pearl‘ and ‘Unattainable Earth‘, blurring past and present in vivid fashion: “I was here when she, with whom I walk, wasn’t born yet.”

“I chose the texts”, Richter says, “to reflect on my sense of the politics of the time. Facts were beginning to be replaced by subjective assertions in the build-up to the war, which seemed to be viewed as inevitable and justified in spite of all the evidence to the contrary. Kafka’s use of the absurd to investigate power structures struck me as highly relevant. He is, of course, the patron saint of doubt, and doubt – about politics, and the way society was heading – was what I was looking to express. The texts were specifically picked because they refer to childhood, or the passing of time, when everything around is failing.”

As he points out, this is something buried in The Blue Notebooks’ very architecture. “‘On The Nature Of Daylight’ uses a palindromic structure, so the present and the past coexist.” This track has since become the album’s most prominent and best-known, most notably due to its pivotal inclusion in Denis Villeneuve’s award-winning film ‘Arrival’, whose palindromic narrative, ideas on non-linear time and blurred visions of experiences, matched Max’s music perfectly.

The appeal and wide-reaching influence of ‘On The Nature Of Daylight’ is evident in the high number of films and TV programmes it has featured in, which includes Martin Scorsese’s ‘Shutter Island’, Anne Fontaine’s ‘The Innocents’, Michael Winterbottom’s ‘The Face of an Angel’, Henry Alex Rubin's ‘Disconnect’ and Marc Forster’s ‘Stranger Than Fiction’.

And so here we are, rightfully revisiting this classic album’s past and its rightful place in the present. Politically things are not only similar, but worse. Musically some of it’s the same but now experienced in a different light, judged under different critical circumstances, while other parts are new or have been changed. ‘The Blue Notebooks’ embodies a morphing cycle of observation and experience – and is the true definition of timeless.

Max Richter's Sleep to be released for streaming in its eight-hour entirety on March 16th for the first time

On 16 March 2018, which is ‘World Sleep Day’, Max Richter’s eight-hour opus, in its true and original form, will be made available for streaming for the first time, allowing it to be experienced without interruption, to accompany the listener’s sleeping hours, as the composer intended.

His works tend to be derived from concepts he feels warrant wider attention, described by Richter as a “definite social purpose” for his creativity, aiming “to tell stories that ‘speak’ and pose questions, and take the listener on a journey”, said the 51-year old.

“I’m aiming to explore how the brain can be a space for music to inhabit when our consciousness is on holiday”. Composing Sleep involved Richter working closely with the American neuroscientist David Eagleman.

Sleep avoids the 'high notes', nothing above a couple of hundred hertz. This reflects the acoustic environment of a foetus in the uterus”, explained Richter to the editor of ZEIT magazine: “There are about 40 beats per minute, which is a very gentle resting pulse.” The reverberations in the recording are reminiscent of how music sounds when we are falling asleep. "Slow descending diatonic scales gently carry us into the realm of alpha, delta and theta waves. The work, which contains over 30 different variations, is a bed of sound into which the stressed can sink without hesitation. Richter follows in the footsteps of Johann Sebastian Bach, who in 1741 wrote his Goldberg Variations for a sleepless Count.

The availability of this quite unique stream of a singular work is not intended to be consumed as a ’sleep aid‘ but as an accompaniment to the whole ritual of the preparation and awakening and what lies between. The music is "so gentle and trance-inspiring that you cannot prevent yourself from falling into a state of relaxation", commented the generally prosaic Wall Street Journal.

The international success of the work shows just how right Richter was with Sleep. Along with The Blue Notebooks (the ground-breaking album which itself will be released in May 2018 in an expanded reissue), his adaptation of Vivaldi's ‘Four Seasons’ and his recent ballet work Three Worlds – Music from Woolf Works, Sleep is the British composer’s most famous opus.

This spring, Richter will also enthral the American public with his eight-hour lullaby for piano, string quintet, electronics and vocals. Following concerts in Berlin, London, Sydney, Amsterdam, Zurich, Madrid and Paris, Sleep will be performed overnight on March 12th at the legendary South by Southwest Festival (SXSW) in Austin, Texas, followed by an overnight performance on March 16th at Auckland Festival.

As with all ‘Sleep’ live performances, the audience experience the music in beds rather than concert seats. Expect pyjamas, sleeping bags, and an experience that both audience and media alike have found incredibly moving. Max, soprano (Grace Davidson) and small band (ACME Ensemble) take on the challenge of this 8-hour performance, knowing that "It's all long, sustained notes, and there's no room to hide, it has to be perfect” (violinist Brian Snow of the American Contemporary Music Ensemble, who originally made the Deutsche Grammophon recording of Sleep at New York's Avatar Studios.)

With his magnum opus, Max Richter has realised mankind’s most modern dream: to find a place away from the noise and enjoy some simple tranquillity.

Max Richter’s Hostiles soundtrack conveys the power of the human spirit to overcome hatred and division

The latest film score by award-winning composer Max Richter, for director Scott Cooper's Hostiles, evokes with beauty and restraint the wild landscapes of a world in which individuals collide with forces beyond their control. The film is hitting theatres from January 2018, while Deutsche Grammophon will release the OST digitally on 5 January and physically on 9 February.

Hostiles is set in the American West of the early 1890s, when the Second Industrial Revolution was fast changing society and the native population had finally been defeated after decades of war with the US Army. Based on an original story by Academy Award-winning screenwriter Donald E. Stewart, the film follows the relationship between a cavalry captain and war hero turned jailer, Joseph Blocker (Christian Bale), and Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi), a Northern Cheyenne chief held prisoner by Blocker at Fort Berringer, a dismal, dust-blown outpost in New Mexico. Blocker accompanies the dying Yellow Hawk and his family back to their tribal home in Montana, a journey that takes them through the striking scenery of America’s heartlands. Along the way they are joined by Rosalee Quaid (Rosamund Pike), traumatised survivor of a bloody Comanche massacre. As these three characters, whose lives have been shattered by violence, bloodshed and loss, fight to survive in the hostile landscape of the American frontier, they grow ever closer – mutual suspicion is replaced by tolerance, aversion by empathy.

Grammy and Emmy nominated Max Richter has been widely acclaimed for his work in film and television. Recent awards include The European Film Academy Award for Waltz with Bashir, , the International Film Music Critics Award for The Leftovers, and a German Film Award and Australian Film Critics Award for Lore.

Echoing the compelling human drama of Hostiles, the score for this period Western, performed by the Air Lyndhurst Orchestra, combines the haunting stillness and elegiac beauty of Richter’s Waltz with Bashir music with the noir-like intensity of his recent soundtrack for the hit BBC TV series Taboo. Tracks such as the plaintive “A Woman Alone”, recalled and varied throughout, mirror the film’s hard psychological edges and the transformation of conflict and ill-will into compassion and love.

The soundtrack also includes the heartbreaking “How Shall a Sparrow Fly”, written and performed by star Americana singer-songwriter Ryan Bingham and released by DG as an eSingle on 5 January 2018.