Pioneering composer Max Richter will release his new orchestral album Exiles on 6 August 2021. The world premiere recording of the 33-minute title piece, a ballet score, is central to the album which also features expansive reimaginings of tracks composed by Richter for a Virginia Woolf-inspired ballet, Fendi fashion runways, Hollywood blockbusters, Golden Globe-winning documentaries, and a track from one of David Bowie’s favourite albums.
“Composing is a way to talk about the things I care about”
Max Richter was profoundly moved by the tragedy of the migrant crisis and channelled his compassion into Exiles, his ballet score for Nederlands Dans Theater, which grew from a conversation with the Dutch company’s resident choreographers Sol León and Paul Lightfoot.
“Composing is a way to talk about the things I care about, so when Paul and Sol asked me to write a new ballet for them I immediately began to think about subject matter; what exactly should a new work made in Europe in 2017 talk about?” recalled Max Richter. “Reflecting on contemporary society, I decided to make a work on the universal subject of journeys … Many of us are lucky enough to be able to influence where we are going, but for an increasing number there are very few choices: the physical journey is a necessity in order for the journey forward through time to continue at all.”
Max Richter’s new album Exiles also features new orchestral versions of some of his best-known earlier works. The album was recorded in Tallinn in 2019 by Kristjan Järvi and the Baltic Sea Philharmonic, an orchestra that prides itself on fostering cross-border unity and artistic innovation. “It struck me that it would be nice to have that orchestra play music that matched that theme,” noted Max Richter.
Three of the newly orchestrated tracks are, like Exiles, described by Max Richter as “activist music”. On the Nature of Daylight, arguably his most famous composition, was featured on his second album, The Blue Notebooks (2003), an emotional response to the outbreak of the Iraq War, and has been used in films and TV shows including Arrival, The Handmaid’s Tale and Shutter Island.
The Haunted Ocean, from the soundtrack score to Waltz with Bashir (2008), deals with writer and director Ari Folman’s traumatic recollections of his military service during the 1982 Lebanon War; and Infra 5 is a mantra-like meditation on the July 2005 terrorist bombings in London. The new album also features Sunlight, one of Richter’s favourite works, from his 2006 album Songs from Before (one of David Bowie’s favourite albums).
“I wanted to put this notion of exile …into the heart of the music”
Exiles opens with the previously unreleased Flowers of Herself from Woolf Works (the critically-acclaimed Virginia Woolf-inspired ballet), which was featured earlier this year at Fendi’s S/S21 couture show in Paris. This rhythmically complex piece, inspired by the portrait of a bustling London at the start of Mrs Dalloway, is all about constant movement and acts as an effective mirror to the title work Exiles which is notable for its repeated melodic motif. “It’s a very simple idea,” explained Richter, “but I wanted to put this notion of exile, of walking, of movement, into the heart of the music in a technical sense as well as metaphorical.”
The poignant Exiles cover image was created from the painting Maman, 1950 by Max Richter’s artistic partner Yulia Mahr.
Max Richter believes that music plays in intrinsic role in culture. “It’s part of the conversation about how we should live. That’s what creativity is. When you make something, you’re trying to explore a question, or look at some aspect of our world and comment on it, or elicit thinking or debate. It’s like Nina Simone said: ‘An artist’s duty …is to reflect the times.’”
Max Richter’s new album Exiles will be released on 6 August 2021 and can be pre-ordered here.