Listen: Max Richter, The Blue Notebooks


Everyone carries a room about inside them. This fact can even be proved by means of the sense of hearing. If someone walks fast and one pricks up one’s ears and listens, say at night, when everything round about is quiet, one hears, for instance, the rattling of a mirror not quite firmly fastened to the wall.

Franz Kafka, The Blue Notebooks

I am going to come right out and admit here that I own an awful lot of music in the minimalist existential genre – by which I mean classically minimalist with a certain amount of angst built into the backdrop. The type of music that swells movie scores, or that you turn to on a grey day with a cup of tea and The Myth of Sisyphus in your lap. Music for introspection we could call it, though I’m sure that there are new music critics out there who would just call it sentimental and not dissonant enough to provoke.

In any case, of this burgeoning collection I am fairly convinced that the album I most cherish for its ability to put me into a deeply reflective (and often melancholy) state of mind is Max Richter’s The Blue Notebooks.

Richter defines his music as post-classical, drawing from electronic, classical, spoken word and spontaneous sound recordings. It is is with this palette he paints scenes that are almost visually evocative in their lush loneliness. A typewriter echoes in a seemingly empty room, a voice reads from the notebooks of Franz Kafka, the single note of a violin sails high atop the human experience, while we are anchored by an undulating, underwater rhythm – each part of the composition restrained into perfect interplay, pulling the listener into a deep state of affect, an internal landscape that holds disappointment and promise in the rise and fall of the guiding heartbeat (Shadow Journal).

While each song on this album employs different composition and recording styles, a sensibility of emotion holds them together as a whole. From a complex arrangement of electronic and stringed instruments, the listener is taken to the sounds of nature and then a choir against an organ backdrop – and then released again into the solo piano reflection which bridges into another spoken piece. As a listener I find myself drawn into the depths, only to be reassured by the moments of release and even lightness that Richter builds in. This is a believable intimacy as it fully engages the self, while at the same time satisfying the voyeur who overhears the inner thoughts of others.

Recorded in 2004, Richter has put out several albums and movie soundtracks since, but I have not had nearly the time with them that I have with this recording. I am hoping to write more in-depth about the music in my collection which I think moving and thus worth sharing. While there is lots of music I enjoy, there are only some albums which are worth talking about. This  – The Blue Notebooks – is a deeply affecting album, and thus one for those who need music for the quiet days inside them.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s