Contemporary classical music has been going through a bit of a spike in popularity recently part of this is due to the fantastic output of the Erased Tapes label alongside others such as Francesco Tristiano and Petre Inspirescu to mention just a few names who are pushing classical music forward and helping to develop a new audience for the genre outside of Radio 3. Central to and an inspiration for much of this has been the work of British composer Max Richter, who gained critical and commercial acclaim with his genre-splicing contemporary classical album The Blue Notebooks.
Richter’s use of piano, strings and synths often creates soundscapes, which are both haunting and beautiful. In other words he is the perfect person to compose a soundtrack to an episode of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror series, which has returned to critical acclaim on Netflix.
Throughout Richter’s soundtrack there is a juxtaposition of heart aching beauty and dark undertones. A great example of this is Dopamine 2, whereby strings and shimmery synth create an atmosphere of serenity before the use of string plucking and bass are introduced creating a much darker and jarring effect. The play-off between the two worlds Richter is creating is simply stunning.
Despite Richter’s ability with multiple instruments Piano takes central stage here apart from on a few electronic leading tracks like Nocturne. Many of the piano pieces on the soundtrack adopt a similar melody or key as to the lead track On Reflection, in doing so Richter drags the listener back to central haunting environment.
The overall effect Richter creates on this soundtrack is for the listener to feel trapped, through the use of similarity, repetition and juxtaposition the listener is transported into a similar state to that of the main protagonist in the Black Mirror episode. As far as conveying the central feeling of the character Richter is brilliantly successful. And whilst sometimes unsettling the overall sound is one of beauty.
However, step away from the Black Mirror episode and Richter’s soundtrack works very well as a stand-alone piece of music. Perfect listening for early morning train rides or late nights in bed when you are unable to sleep. The fact this release is available for £1.96 on Itunes makes it an absolute steal and well worth your investment.