Music For Writers: Max Richter

24 Postcards In Full ColorThat sense of convergence is one of my favorite aspects in electro/acoustic composition. When done right, the primary elements, seemingly opposed to one another, blend organically.

German born/British Max Richter crafts a unique brand of electro/acoustic, placing him as one of the most exquisitely gifted composers in contemporary classical music. Accomplished in the post-modern, multi-media songwriting realm (delving into stage, opera and even ballet) it’s no surprise that his minimalistic sound palette has also become instrumental for use in modern cinema as well. Richter has worked with Haruki Murakami texts and utilized Tilda Swinton reading Franz Kafka, to name a few.

In Richter’s work, the convergence is threefold: electronic, acoustic music along with narrative.

Fourth in his vast discography is 2008’s 24 Postcards In Full Color, a collection of miniatures, styled as ringtones. If that delivery mechanism seems at all off-putting at first, it’s natural. Writing for ringtone hardly seems like fertile ground for creative inspiration, but Richter’s sublime instrumentation and peerless studio acumen brings an abstract concept together into one of the most haunting and evocative records in the recent neo-classical movement.

The impression throughout 24 Postcards is at once bright and fuzzy. Beginning with its melodic opener, “The Road Is A Gray Tape” the album lumbers to life, eschewing sharpness and polish for a gorgeous blur. Richter builds to a drowsy, early morning allure through piano pieces like “Lullaby From The West Coast Sleepers” and “Circles From The Rue Simon-Crubellier”. There is some urgency built into the strings of “This Is Us” but Richter controls the image rather than losing grip, spinning us through an evocative interlude instead of an episode. If one seizes on the title concept of a postcard, a moment wrangled from anonymity, a snippet of time from somewhere other than home, Richter has written the bulk of his to capture his arrivals and departures. These songs don’t say, wish you were here as much as the proclaim, I have arrived.

Or, I am going.

Richter alters instruments between piano, cello and violin yet keeps the tone constant. Everything is soft and gently produced. None of the songs are very long. “A Sudden Manhattan Of The Mind” is the longest at 2:51 and still feels like more of a postcard than a letter.

With a series of emotionally dense, short songs, ones natural impression might be that the material on 24 Postcards anticipates larger, more developed pieces; but this is not necessarily the case. At just over a minute, “When The Northern Lights: Jasper and Louie” doesn’t foretell a bigger or necessarily grander movement. Instead, it dwells in that hazy transition.

Richter’s album is about simultaneous variety and tone; this isn’t a record to listen to for flow. Delve into his composer’s sketchbook as your creative impulses are just stirring to meditation. He is a sublime guide.

Bonanza for You Tube listeners. There is a link to a full stream of 24 Postcards In Full Color.