#writing #music: @maxrichtermusic

One of his latest albums, which I must find NOW.

Few instruments grip my heart quite like the violin. Piano will always be my first love, yes, but there is something ethereal about the sound of a violin, be it a quiet backdrop or proud melody. Violinist Mari Samuelsen was one of my favorite discoveries of 2019, and now thanks to her I have also encountered a composer I cannot wait to share with you: Max Richter.

German by birth and English by education, Richter’s been considered a master of composition since his debut album Memoryhouse in 2002. He re-imagines classic writers like Vivaldi. He writes cries of pain and hope with added text from Kafka. He captures the cosmos. He writes an opus to sleep. This man finds inspiration everywhere.

Before spring settles itself upon my ice-crusted Wisconsin landscape, let’s begin our sampling of Max Richter with a quiet walk backward into the raw, green-less lands of “November.”

A beloved track from Memoryhouse, “November” is both timeless and frozen in time: listeners may close their eyes and feel the world grow chill with winter’s promise. Frost adorns the wild grasses. A deer exhales white swirls about its nostrils. The air’s cold purifies. The morning sun strikes the frost, and for a moment all the world is a field of light.

“On the Nature of Daylight” is another beauty, one a soul could listen to while watching the sun climb horizon’s edge. As you can see, I couldn’t help but share the version that includes Mari Samuelsen.

Even though I can imagine both songs playing with the dawn, each feels a different season. Can’t you just see the sun awaken as birds shake night’s melted frost from their feathers? There’s a distinct warmth here in the unity of sound, the orchestra’s rhythmic rise and fall not unlike the wind drying out the grass for birds to gather for a new nest, a new generation.

Not afraid to experiment, Richter finds the creative possibilities not only in the music, but in the presentation of the music. In 2016 he performed an eight-hour opus entitled Sleep complete with the audience literally sleeping over in the Welcome Library in London. I love this venture beyond convention, something I’m sure helps make his scores for television and film so memorable, too. This track from Taboo shows how the man takes all that warmth and magic of the violin and twists it, burns it, drags it into the ground where dark things breed.

Restraint is the name of the game here. There’s that subtle foreshadowing of synth percussion every ten seconds until it starts rat-a-tap tapping at :45, slow, slow as clawed steps. Brass call out a low harmony over and over, like a beast hunting in the darkness.

Oh, 2020, you promise to be an exciting year for music. Not only do old favorites like Daniel Pemberton and Mychael Danna have new soundtracks out this year, but I’ve a whole new catalog to explore in the hall of Max Richter. Here is a man who has found the heart strings that play human nature to their joy and sorrow. Let his music inspire your storytelling of the human condition both real and imagined, and help you find your own unique story in this “great big world” of writers:


I’m keen to share some of my own writing! Yes, fiction with characters and setting and all that jazz. We also need to discuss the damage done when a writer alters characters mid-stream through a story arc. Oh, Last Jedi, you never had a chance…

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

32 thoughts on “#writing #music: @maxrichtermusic

  1. There’s a whole mass of Max Richter on Spotify. I’m just off there now – it might give me some melody ideas as I develop new ways to play around with classical guitar. ~ George

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hee hee! I took lessons for 6 years. I sounded all right, but one of my 3 teachers was hardcore into the Suzuki method–the one where you just listen over and over and learn by ear. HATED IT. She knew I already knew music because of piano, but it was like I wasn’t allowed to learn by music with her. So bizarre.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well I taught music and drama privately for many years Jean and I thought at one point…should I be using that method? And then I thought how my lessons were best summed up by the two kids who got the floor wiped with them in first year music, who along the lines of ‘ You go to Mrs. So and Ao, what do you mean you don’t know what Middle C is?’ and who replied, ‘ Cos we learn other things there.’ I can mug most instruments by ear but alas not the violin. My other run in with one was at this charity bash where we were staging a theatrical show and in the middle of the chaos of the only real rehearsal as the stage was being erected around and under us as we rehearsed, I am not kidding and we were in full flight of stepping onto blocks as they went up, up asking for me and she said she was a violinist and she wanted out of respect for the person who had died young of the disease we were raising money for, to play at one point. Do you know I went, ‘ yeah. yeah. That’s great, but I need to hear it for five.’ So while she brought out her violin and this guy I was rehearsing was going, ‘Who is she trying to get on here with all of us? She better be good enough.’ Then she struck up Massanet, Reflection and the entire hall shut up which was really saying something cos there were sets going up everywhere. And afterwards that guy mouthed, ‘ I don’t know we are good w enough to be on with her….’

        Liked by 1 person

      • I can’t fathom having the stage built as I practice, but to meet such a performer must have been really electrifying. Wonderful! Violin was fun to learn, and I’m glad I did, but something about my stance or hold or something just prevented me from ever having a decent hold of the bow on those strings.

        Liked by 1 person

      • You should have been more sweeping–lol– in your hold my darling. Yah a lot of the theatre I have done is far from traditional. and this was in a huge hall with bits set up everywhere and stages constructed on blocks.

        Liked by 1 person

      • LOL! I should have! What was really weird was that not one of my three teachers would let me order one of those neck braces for the violin to help me hold it. I’ve got a long neck, man! “No, no, you don’t need that.” It actually took me several months to learn how to hold my shoulders again because I started keeping my left shoulder slanted upward for my normal posture. Gah!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yyyyyup Each one was nice in her own way, but honestly, I think the most I got was out of the first teacher. Despite my shoulder issue, she helped me through a lot of other good basics–and encouraged me to read the music!


  2. On the nature of daylight is the theme song of the movie Arrival. It complements the somber tone of the film and enriches the free will versus determinism debate it revolves around. A more minimalistic version of the same song is She Remembers from The Leftovers. Einuadi, Richter, Helen Jane Long and Angele Dubeau have moved my spirit with their music. I love Dubeau’s rendition of I Giorni by Einuadi. It helped me write some of my saddest poems. Your writing is lyrical and beautiful. I’ve never read a post about music written so beautifully.


    Liked by 2 people

    • I’ve not seen that movie, but when I saw he did the score I got excited! I am also a HUGE fan of Ludivico Einaudi, his song “Divinere” one of my absolute favorite pieces of all time, especially the rendition performed by Mari Samuelsen with the harps instead of piano. Hauntingly beautiful.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for the introduction to Max Richter, he sounds intriguing. I did watch the Taboo series, but I hadn’t remembered how good that music was, or realised that I should investigate further.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I never watched the Taboo series, but the music itself intrigues me enough to check it out. That’s one thing I love about YouTube–discovering music and building my own imagery with it without the influence of its original media 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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