In Voices, he worked around the Declaration of Human Rights, with the orchestra backwards, as a metaphor for how the planet is.
Think about Max Richter (Hamelin, Germany, 1966) as in a true example of how a musician can navigate between what was once known as high and low cultures, and leave both with his figure reinforced in any of his interventions.
This is how the soundtrack crossovers of series such as The Leftlovers and Black Mirror with Voices, his new work, based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with an armed orchestra “upside down.” And, in between, flirtations with dance electronics from The Future Sound of London (on his 1996 album Dead Souls, which had singles that reached the Top 20 of the ranking UK sales) and jobs where the big Robert Wyatt read texts by the Japanese writer Haruki Murakami.
And, of course, his Sleep, from 2015: an eight and a half hour listening experience designed to adapt to a complete night’s rest, with thirty-one compositions, most of them lasting between twenty minutes and half an hour, and all based on variations between four and five leitmotifs. An ambient task that was chosen by the leader of the British band Pulp Jarvis Cocker as his favorite album of that year.
Then, below, the transcription of a talk by Zoom between a musician sitting in the comfort of his home near Oxford in England, and Clarion.
-The first question is almost inevitable: How are you dealing with these times of Coronavirus and how do you think it can influence your next jobs?
-It’s strange. On one level, nothing changed much for me, since I work sitting in my room (laughs), but of course we had to cancel a significant number of presentations. My friends and colleagues are mostly musicians, and their job depends on playing live, so it’s really difficult for them. There is a lot of anxiety, you can feel it. More than anything because it took a long time: at first we thought it was going to be a few weeks, and we think of it as if it were some kind of adventure.
-You were able to touch Voices, your new album, live before the closure. How can you see that work from a distance?
-We hope with hope to be able to play it live again, but we are clear that it will not be during this year, but that it could probably be next spring or early summer (boreal). We were very lucky to be able to present it in London in February, just a few days before the closure. And during the confinement Yulia Mahr (N. de R .: BAFTA award-winning filmmaker) was able to finish making the films that accompany the album. So in a sense we were lucky, because I think music is a community activity where you need people to work together …
-And that includes both the public and the musicians …
-Exact. This is a great project where you need a lot of people in a large space.
-Why did you choose, in Voices, work with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? At what point did you decide?
-I have been working on this play for many years. I actually started with this ten years ago, and that’s when I wrote the single. Mercy, which started out as a little piano piece for Hilary Hahn. And then it came back, I don’t know how to tell you… Dysfunctional? (laughs) There are a lot of things that are wrong right now. The pandemic is one of them, but it is also the environmental crisis, the worldwide growth of populist governments, the advancement of certain technology, the incredible inequity in the distribution of health. In short: too many problems. And I wanted to do a work that looked at all these questions, but from a hopeful place.
-It’s like a lot of things go wrong but music, from that way, can “heal” …
-It is that that is one of the things that creativity can do. It’s a place to think, it’s a place to reflect, and it is a place to try to understand all these matters. I am a musician and I live for music, but I do believe that creative work is, for everyone, a place to think about the world.
-Beyond Voices (Voices), in Songs from Before (2006) you have worked with Robert Wyatt, who has one of the saddest voices there is. And you did read writer’s texts Haruki Murakami. What was it like working with him, and how did you choose those texts?
-Murakami is a writer I love. And I love two things about his job: the emotional tone he handles and that kind of melancholy a little underrated, like a kind of quiet melancholy. And about Robert Wyatt, what to tell you? I think he’s a genius. Beyond being convinced that he is a great singer and songwriter, he has an amazing and very distinctive voice. The emotional tone of his work and that of Murakami’s texts worked very well together.