Stories » Quiet protest is the beating heart of The Blue Notebooks by Max Richter / Resident Advisor

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Quiet protest is the beating heart of The Blue Notebooks by Max Richter / Resident Advisor

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On February 15th, 2003, the world said no to war. Humanity linked up in what the New York Times called a "global daisy chain" of peaceful demonstrations against the US invasion of Iraq. It was the single largest anti-war protest in history, with up to 30 million people demonstrating worldwide. Max Richter was among those who took to the streets that day. About a week later he made his second album, The Blue Notebooks. It was recorded in only three hours, with a string quintet and the actress Tilda Swinton reading from texts by Franz Kafka and the Nobel Prize-winning poet Czesław Miłosz "for a token fee." When the LP came out a year later, in March 2004, the killing of four Blackwater contractors in Fallujah sparked a renewed period of bloody violence. 

Quiet protest is the beating heart of The Blue Notebooks, which has now been reissued on its 15th anniversary with additional material. "It's an attempt for music to comment on society," Richter has said. "Specifically, it's an anti-violence record." "Shadow Journal" is the album's protest song. In the opening bars, which are padded with ambient background chatter, Swinton recites the poem "At Dawn" from Miłosz's Unattainable Earth, a hallucinatory text about a city and some unnamed catastrophe, written in a confusion of past and present tense. The haunted composition that follows emulates the writing's lucid reverie and its projections of uncertainty via ominous bass rumbles and murky loops juxtaposed with a piercing violin melody. It captures the spirit of the "politics of unreality" that Richter says was emerging in 2003 around Iraq. 

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