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Max Richter - Voices (Decca, 31st July)


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Over a decade after its inception, groundbreaking composer Max Richter has announced his new album Voices, inspired by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, will be released on 31 July 2020. The first single, ‘All Human Beings’, accompanied by a music video, was released today.

Regarding the concept behind ‘All Human Beings’ Richter explained, “The opening words of the declaration, drafted in 1948, are ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights’. These inspiring words are a guiding principle for the whole declaration but, looking around at the world we have made in the decades since they were written, it is clear that we have forgotten them. The recent brutal events in the US, leading to the tragic deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, as well as countless other abuses around the world, are proof of that. At such times it is easy to feel hopeless but, just as the problems of our world are of our own making, so the solutions can be. While the past is fixed, the future is yet unwritten, and the declaration sets out an uplifting vision of a better and fairer world that is within our reach if we choose it. Voices is a musical space to reconnect with these inspiring principles and Yulia Mahr’s striking film depicts this inspiration in a beautiful way, while offering a glimpse into her full -length film of our project to come.”

Max Richter invited people around the world to be part of the piece and interwove hundreds of crowd-sourced readings of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into the work. These readings form the aural landscape that the music flows through: they are the Voices of the title.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was drafted by a group of philosophers, artists and thinkers, convened by Eleanor Roosevelt, to address the great questions of the time and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. Richter incorporated the 1949 recording of the preamble to the Declaration by Roosevelt at the start of Voices which also includes narration by acclaimed US actor Kiki Layne (If Beale Street Could Talk) whose distinctive tones complement the choral, orchestral and electronic soundscape.

“I like the idea of a piece of music as a place to think …” – Max Richter

Max Richter explained, “I like the idea of a piece of music as a place to think, and it is clear we all have some thinking to do at the moment. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is something that offers us a way forward. Although it isn’t a perfect document, the declaration does represent an inspiring vision for the possibility of better and kinder world.”

Max Richter’s Voices had its world premiere at the Barbican in London in February, which was performed live on stage by more than 60 musicians. The music features an ‘upside-down’ orchestra, a radical reimagining of the traditional orchestra formation. “It came out of this idea of the world being turned upside down, our sense of what’s normal being subverted, so I have turned the orchestra upside down in terms of the proportion of instruments,” said Richter.

Voices is is not only a showcase of Max Richter’s extraordinary talent but also a message of hope, a call for contemplation, and a celebration of global community in dramatic changing times.

Voices is Max Richter’s ninth studio album, following on from pioneering recordings including Memoryhouse (2002), described by Pitchfork magazine as a ‘landmark’, The Blue Notebooks (2004), named by The Guardian as one of the best classical music works of the 21st Century, Infra ( 2010), which Pitchfork noted includes “some of Richter’s very best work”, Recomposed: Vivaldi -The Four Seasons (2012), which topped the classical chart in 22 countries, and his landmark eight-and-a-half hour concert work Sleep (2015), praised by Pitchfork as one of the 50 best ambient album of all time, which has been broadcast and performed worldwide.

Max Richter stands as one of the most prodigious figures on the contemporary music scene, with ground-breaking work as a composer, pianist, producer, and collaborator. From synthesizers and computers to a full symphony orchestra, Richter’s innovative work encompasses solo albums, ballets, concert hall performances, film and television series, video art installations and theatre works. His music, despite its underlying sophistication, remains accessible to all. His enduring appeal has led him to surpass 1 billion streams and 1 million album sales.

 

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I'm a huge Richter fan, really looking forward to this. The Four Seasons Recomposed is by far the best neoclassical versioning there is, the version on record is impeccable, the available live performances a bit more raw due to the difficulty of some of the parts of the piece, but still bloody brilliant. On The Nature of Daylight is something I can recognize under three seconds anywhere, and although the cinematic score of Villeneuve's Arrival is bookended by the versions of if, Jóhann Jóhannsson's soundtrack still got an Oscar nomination. Richter's style is mostly simple, almost naive, unabashedly emotional yet modern. I would love to hear a collaboration between Richter and Ludovico Einaudi.

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3 hours ago, dcom said:

I'm a huge Richter fan, really looking forward to this. The Four Seasons Recomposed is by far the best neoclassical versioning there is, the version on record is impeccable, the available live performances a bit more raw due to the difficulty of some of the parts of the piece, but still bloody brilliant. On The Nature of Daylight is something I can recognize under three seconds anywhere, and although the cinematic score of Villeneuve's Arrival is bookended by the versions of if, Jóhann Jóhannsson's soundtrack still got an Oscar nomination. Richter's style is mostly simple, almost naive, unabashedly emotional yet modern. I would love to hear a collaboration between Richter and Ludovico Einaudi.

This. "Spring 0" and "Spring 1" are my happy place and at the top of my playlist for testing new equipment.

As for the new piece, well, I don't really like my music to be fraught with overt "messages" (probably one of the reasons I mostly listen to instrumental electronic music), but I'm sure he'll do it subtly, and if it sounds good, then I'm all for it. And, well, The Four Seasons sort of has a theme too, I guess ...

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The use of human voices and such in his music is one thing that sets him apart from a lot of modern classical / 'post-classical' composers, so the voiceless mix on disc 2 is a touch underwhelming. That said, the actual reading of the human rights bill feels a touch on the nose - if it were less formal sounding and to-the-fore it might be more effective, but overall I think the Pitchfork review sums it up quite well: "After a few times through, the primary text of Voices starts to take on the rigidity of an employee conduct handbook from HR."

The use of background voices is really nice and totally lifts it above the voiceless version, but ultimately both versions are slightly underwhelming for different reasons. Also, as someone who's followed him for 15 years now, I'm finding he could really do with varying his compositional style a little. Some of the more energetic pieces on Woolf Works were a wonderful contrast to his usual style, but here none of the compositions bring anything new to the table.

Which isn't to say it's bad - he still writes the most beautifully simple heart-wrenching pieces, and 'Chorale' is immediately one of his best compositions to date. But on the whole it's a bit underwhelming.

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