The Blue Notebooks

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The Blue Notebooks
The Blue Notebooks (Front Cover).png
Studio album by Max Richter
Released 26 February 2004
Studio Eastcote Studios
(London, England)
Hear No Evil Studios
(London, England)
Length 40:29
Label 130701
Producer Max Richter
Max Richter chronology
The Blue Notebooks
Songs from Before
(2006)Songs from Before2006
Alternative cover
2014 reissue cover
2014 reissue cover

The Blue Notebooks is the second album by British producer and composer Max Richter, released on 26 February 2004 on 130701, an imprint of FatCat Records.

On 11 May 2018, a two-disc version of The Blue Notebooks was reissued to commemorate its fifteenth anniversary. It includes remixes by other artists, re-recordings, and two alternate arrangements of "On the Nature of Daylight".[1][2]


Richter composed The Blue Notebooks in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He has described it as "a protest album about Iraq, a meditation on violence – both the violence that I had personally experienced around me as a child and the violence of war, at the utter futility of so much armed conflict." The album was recorded about a week after mass protests against the war.[3]

The album features readings from Franz Kafka's The Blue Octavo Notebooks and Czesław Miłosz's Hymn of the Pearl and Unattainable Earth. Both readings are by the British actress Tilda Swinton.

Use in films and TV[edit]

The tracks "Shadow Journal" and "Organum" were included in the soundtrack of the animated documentary Waltz with Bashir (2008).

"On the Nature of Daylight" has been extensively used in cinema. It appeared in the 2006 Will Ferrell film Stranger than Fiction; Disconnect (2012), directed by Henry Alex Rubin; The Face of an Angel (2014), directed by Michael Winterbottom; The Innocents (2016), directed by Anne Fontaine, and in Arrival (2016), directed by Denis Villeneuve. It is also used on the soundtrack of Martin Scorsese's 2010 film, Shutter Island, in its original form and remixed with Dinah Washington's vocals from her 1960 hit "This Bitter Earth". It has also been used in the Hulu Original Castle Rock (TV series) During the ending scene of the episode "The Queen" following into the credits.

The track "Vladimir's Blues" is featured throughout all three seasons of the TV series The Leftovers. [4]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic5/5 stars[5]

The Blue Notebooks received widespread critical acclaim from contemporary music critics.

Mark Pytlik of Pitchfork Media gave the album a very positive review, explaining

The Blue Notebooks is a case study in direct, minor-key melody. Each of the piano pieces "Horizon Variations", "Vladimir's Blues" and "Written in the Sky" establish strong melodic motifs in under two minutes, all the while resisting additional orchestration. Elsewhere, Richter's string suites are similarly striking; "On the Nature of Daylight" coaxes a stunning rise out of gently provincial arrangements while the comparatively epic penultimate track "The Trees" boasts an extended introductory sequence for what is probably the album's closest brush with grandiosity.

Richter's slightly less traditional pieces also resound; both the underwater choral hymnal "Iconography" and the stately organ piece "Organum" echo the spiritual ambience that characterized his work for Future Sound of London. There is absolutely nothing exclusive or contrived-feeling about it. In fact, not only is Richter's second album one of the finest of the last six months, it is also one of the most affecting and universal contemporary classical records in recent memory.[6]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Max Richter.

1."The Blue Notebooks"1:19
2."On the Nature of Daylight"6:11
3."Horizon Variations"1:52
4."Shadow Journal"8:22
6."Vladimir's Blues"1:18
8."Old Song"2:11
10."The Trees"7:52
11."Written on the Sky"1:40
Total length:40:29
  • Track 1 reading from "The First Notebook" in Franz Kafka's The Blue Octavo Notebooks
  • Track 4 reading from "At Dawn" in Czesław Miłosz's Unattainable Earth
  • Track 7 reading from "The Third Notebook" in Franz Kafka's The Blue Octavo Notebooks
  • Track 8 reading from "The Fourth Notebook" in Franz Kafka's The Blue Octavo Notebooks
  • Track 10 reading from "The Wormwood Star" movement of "The Separate Notebooks" in Czesław Miłosz's Hymn Of The Pearl

Release history[edit]

Country Date
United Kingdom 26 February 2004
United States 18 May 2004


  1. ^ "RICHTER Blue Notebooks (15 Years Edition)". Deutsche Grammophon. n.d. Retrieved 21 July 2018. 
  2. ^ Lockie, Connor (17 July 2018). "Max Richter: The Blue Notebooks (15 Years Edition)". Spectrum Culture. Retrieved 21 July 2018. 
  3. ^ Richter, Max (8 July 2016). "Millions of us knew the Iraq war would be a catastrophe. Why didn't Tony Blair?". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 July 2016. 
  4. ^ Bradley Bambarger (12 March 2010). "'Shutter Island' soundtrack casts eerie spell". New Jersey On-Line. 
  5. ^ Allmusic review
  6. ^ a b "Max Richter: The Blue Notebooks Album Review | Pitchfork". Retrieved 2017-11-21. 
  7. ^ PopMatters review
  8. ^ Stylus review

External links[edit]