Of all of the so-called “modern classical” composers that I’ve heard these days, the one that I continue to find most affecting is Max Richter. His previous albums — 2006’s Songs From Before and 2004’s The Blue Notebooks — are really quite gorgeous, combining chamber music arrangements with more experimental aspects such as spoken word and electronic flourishes to create some very haunting and affecting pieces of music.
His latest release, however — 24 Postcards in Full Colour — takes that experimental aspect a bit further. While his previous albums have been wrought around literary themes (the works of Haruki Murakami and Franz Kafka), 24 Postcards… is wrought around the idea of using the humble ringtone as a legitimate format.
An attempt an exploration of the ringtone as a vehicle for music performance , 24 Postcards… is an experimental work made up of 24 classically-composed ringtones, set to be premièred in various gallery spaces. The première is intended to be in the form of a series of installations where pre-registered audience members switch on their phones to receive SMS messages, each message alert playing back one or more of the tracks, so making up the performance. In tandem with this release, will be a micro-website hosting 24 photographic images, one accompanying each track. As Max explains: “Thinking about how we listen to music today, I wondered why it is that ringtones have so far been treated as unfit for creative music… Who says ringtones have to be bad?.. It’s like saying LPs or CDs are bad – its just a medium….”
The tracks range in length from 60 seconds to three minutes, but as his previous releases have shown, Richter is no stranger to using short compositions to create haunting impressions. As the website puts it, even his shortest pieces offer a glimpse into potentially much larger pieces, which is one reason why I find Richter’s music so compelling.
FatCat Records will release 24 Postcards in Full Colour on CD, LP, and MP3 downloads on September 23 (US, Canada) and August 25 (UK, Europe, everywhere else). More details, as well as samples, can be found at the “24 Postcards” website.