The Blue Notebooks

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The Blue Notebooks
The Blue Notebooks (Front Cover).png
Studio album by
Released26 February 2004
StudioEastcote Studios
(London, England)
Hear No Evil Studios
(London, England)
ProducerMax Richter
Max Richter chronology
The Blue Notebooks
Songs from Before
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, the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, directed by David Gelb,[4] 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 TV series Castle Rock during the ending scene of the episode "The Queen" following into the credits. The BBC used it for their coverage of the centenary of the Battle of the Somme in 2016. In 2019, it has been used in a Korean TV series "Dazzling" during the 11th episode.

The track "Vladimir's Blues" is featured throughout all three seasons of the TV series The Leftovers. [5]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic5/5 stars[6]

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 on 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.[7]

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

The Blue Notebooks: 15 Years Edition[edit]

Released in 2018 by Deutsche Grammophon. Includes seven bonus tracks.

All tracks written by Max Richter.

12."A Catalogue of Afternoons"1:21
13."On the Nature of Daylight"6:36
14."Vladimir's Blues 2018"1:30
15."On the Nature of Daylight (Entropy)"6:54
16."Vladimir's Blues"3:45
18."This Bitter Earth (written by Clyde Otis)"6:13
  • 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


Credits adapted from The Blue Notebooks: 15 Years Edition interior booklet:[1]

Reader: Tilda Swinton (1, 4, 7, 8, 10)

Piano: Max Richter (1, 3, 6, 8, 10, 11, 12, 14-16)

Electronics: Max Richter (1, 3-5, 7-10, 17)

Violins: Louisa Fuller and Natalia Bonner (2, 4, 7, 10, 15, 18)

Viola: John Metcalfe (2, 4, 7, 10, 15, 18)

Cellos: Philip Sheppard and Chris Worsey (2, 4, 7, 10, 18); Chris Worsey and Ian Burdge (15)

Max Richter Orchestra conducted by Lorenz Dangel (13)

Vocals: Dinah Washington (18)

Release history[edit]

Country Date
United Kingdom 26 February 2004
United States 18 May 2004
United States 11 May 2018


  1. ^ a b "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. ^ "Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2012)". Soundtrack.Net. Autotelics, LLC. 9 March 2012. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  5. ^ Bambarger, Bradley (12 March 2010). "'Shutter Island' soundtrack casts eerie spell". New Jersey On-Line. Advance Local Media LLC. Retrieved 19 December 2018.
  6. ^ Allmusic review
  7. ^ a b Pytlik, Mark. "Max Richter: The Blue Notebooks Album Review". Pitchfork. Retrieved 21 November 2017.
  8. ^ "The Blue Notebooks review". PopMatters. 21 May 2004. Archived from the original on 23 May 2004. Retrieved 19 December 2018.
  9. ^ Schepper, Ron (10 March 2004). "The Blue Notebook review". Stylus Magazine. Archived from the original on 1 September 2006. Retrieved 19 December 2018.

External links[edit]