Composer Max Richter announces the release of VOICES, a major new recording project inspired by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, The first single from this important new work, All Human Beings is already available on Decca Records, accompanied by a new music video. VOICES was released on 31 July, 2020.
‘VOICES’, described as a musical and technical feat, has been 10 years in the making, with an ‘upside-down’ orchestra, crowd-sourced voices, and narration by Kiki Layne. It offers a musical message of hope in times of global challenge. Max Richter invited people around the world to participate, crowd-sourcing readings of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to be interwoven into the work. He received hundreds of submissions in over 70 languages. These readings form the aural landscape through which the music flows. They are the VOICES of the title.
Explaining the concept, Richter says: “The opening words of the declaration, drafted in 1948, are ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights’. These inspiring words are a guiding principle for the whole declaration but, looking around at the world we have made in the decades since they were written, it is clear that we have forgotten them. The recent brutal events in the US, leading to the tragic deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, as well as countless other abuses around the world, are proof of that. At such times it is easy to feel hopeless but, just as the problems of our world are of our own making, so the solutions can be. While the past is fixed, the future is yet unwritten, and the declaration sets out an uplifting vision of a better and fairer world that is within our reach if we choose it. VOICES is a musical space to reconnect with these inspiring principles and Yulia Mahr’s striking film depicts this inspiration in a beautiful way, while offering a glimpse into her full length film of our project to come.”
Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, after the Second World War, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was drafted by a group of philosophers, artists and thinkers convened by Eleanor Roosevelt. Her voice is heard at the start of VOICES, as Richter incorporates the 1949 recording of the preamble to the Declaration into his piece. As well, there is narration by acclaimed US actor Kiki Layne (If Beale Street Could Talk) whose distinctive tones complement the choral, orchestral and electronic soundscape.
VOICES had its world premiere at the Barbican in London in February. More than 60 musicians were configured in a radical reimagining of the traditional orchestra. “It came out of this idea of the world being turned upside down, our sense of what’s normal being subverted, so I have turned the orchestra upside down in terms of the proportion of instruments,” says Richter. He has scored the work for 12 double basses, 24 cellos, 6 violas, 8 violins and a harp. They are joined by a wordless 12-piece choir with Richter on keyboards, violin soloist Mari Samuelsen, soprano Grace Davidson and conductor Robert Ziegler. The striking visuals for this large project are by Richter’s creative partner, artist and film-maker Yulia Mahr.
VOICES is Max Richter’s ninth studio album, following his trailblazing recordings Memoryhouse (2002), The Blue Notebooks (2004), Infra (2010), Recomposed: Vivaldi – The Four Seasons (2012) and most recently SLEEP (2015).