Max Richter keeps getting better

A few years ago I stumbled upon Max Richter’s Blue Notebooks and fell in love. It was poignant and true to who I was at the time. As I’ve gotten older, so too has Richter. His maturity and honesty are shining though the sparse grey tapestry he paints. I recently listened to Infra, a ballet score based on T.S. Eliot’s poem Wasteland and found it to be vastly different then Blue Notebooks in both breadth and emotion.

There is something to be said for music that lets you just feel. It doesn’t tell you what your emotion should be, but rather it lets you discover what emotions are bubbling to the surface ever so slowly. Richter’s Infra pulls the emotion out of you so slowly that when you realize what has happened, you are hit with a sudden moment of deep introspection.

His use of electronics in Infra 1 set a nostalgic, almost sentimental feeling to the work as a whole, but its tonal brevity combined with the transmission effects and voices produce something much more real and concrete then simple nostalgia. It’s as if he reaches into space, pulls the radio signals from the air, and lets your mind create the music before he does. The effect and emotional response to this is sublime. When the shimmer sounds come through, you can almost touch the golden and silver rays of light that seem to rain down upon your face. And when the strings enter the picture for the first time, grounding the sound, it is as if they are your tether to the earth, while you have been suspended between land and space.

This is the sound of the vision of the sun cresting the horizon, or the light passing through clouds after a terrible storm.

By Infra 3 the piano takes a primary role. There is no other instrument with such a serene and ferocious sound, to which Richter uses both in tandem. He produces the sounds of hope in the darkness, something which we all can relate to. His oscillating chords give rise to movement, and the overarching theme sends a message of overcoming the torment that riddles you. His notes are like an orators words, lifting you up from the ground on which you had been knocked down.

While each of the movements from Infra have a cold and grey sound to them, they provide the perfect background to a message of hope. But then again it is a ballet based on Wasteland.

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