The Blue Notebooks

“Shadow journal” was originally released in The Blue Notebooks (2004), the second solo album by German born British composer Max Richter. While classically trained, the musician is also influenced by Rock and Electronic music or by modern minimalists such as Philip Glass, Steve Reich or Arvo Pärt. Max Richter scores for classical formations but also makes extensive use of electronic loops and beats, ambient sounds or spoken word pieces. On “Shadow journal”, actress Tilda Swinton reads an extract from “At Dawn” in Polish writer Czesław Miłosz’s “Hymn Of The Pearl”.

Max Richter - The Blue Notebooks
Max Richter – “The Blue Notebooks” (2004)

Over the years, Max Richter’s music has been repeatedly described as nostalgic, elegiac or cinematic. It then comes as no surprise that his music has been used on the soundtrack of films like Shutter Island or for the trailers of several recent films such as J. Edgar, Prometheus or even Terrence Malick’s latest opus To the Wonder. “Shadow journal” is another case in point, and it is interesting to examine how two tracks from The Blue Notebooks ended up being used on Ari Folman’s ground breaking anti-war animated documentary Waltz with Bashir.

Waltz with Bashir

Film maker Ari Folman described in an interview how he came across Max Richter’s music:

I had never met him but I used to listen to his albums while I was writing. He was truly inspiring for me. I wrote the script for “Waltz With Bashir” in six days, listening only to Max Richter’s albums. I didn’t mean for that to happen like that, but it just happened. When I finished the script, I thought, “This guy has, in effect, written the soundtrack for the script.” Because scripts have soundtracks.

And here is Max Richter’s version of the same story:

Waltz with Bashir
Waltz with Bashir (2008)

Ari Folman had writ­ten [Waltz with Bashir] lis­ten­ing to The Blue Notebooks on loop as he wrote, so I was, in a way, embed­ded in the mate­r­ial before I started. But when I read it, I just thought it was per­fect for me. The film is about is the nature of real­ity and mem­ory and sto­ry­telling, and it’s about recov­er­ing facts and try­ing to work out what is imag­ined and what’s real—for me that’s one of the puz­zles about being a per­son, the way that we nar­rate our own lives. We’re constantly re-ordering, and being a per­son is a sto­ry­telling act. That’s one of the things that makes me want to write music.

In other words, while The Blue Notebooks was not written with the animated documentary in mind, the musical ambience of the album influenced to a certain extent the writing of a full length feature film. “Shadow journal” and one version of “Organum/Iconography” ended up on the “Waltz with Bashir” soundtrack and Max Richter composed the remaining tracks.