Composer Max Richter On 'Voices' And The Universal Declaration Of Human Rights Composer Max Richter's new album drew inspiration from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document spearheaded by Eleanor Roosevelt which he calls "a blueprint for a better world."
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Composer Max Richter On 'Voices,' A New Album That Envisions A Better World

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Composer Max Richter On 'Voices,' A New Album That Envisions A Better World

Composer Max Richter On 'Voices,' A New Album That Envisions A Better World

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DAVID FOLKENFLIK, HOST:

And finally today, Max Richter. He's the composer behind many Hollywood movie soundtracks. Now he's turned his attention to an unexpected subject - the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights, written more than seven decades ago. Here he is talking about his latest album, "Voices."

MAX RICHTER: We live in a time of anxiety, a troubled time in a way - dark times. And I wanted to put something into the center of the piece which provided kind of a hopeful perspective. And the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights is this extraordinary document which comes out of another dark time, the Second World War, where the world was basically in ruins and ashes.

And yet, these people came together under Eleanor Roosevelt and wrote a blueprint for a better world. And I think that's a wonderful human achievement. And there's something very inspiring and hopeful about that text.

(SOUNDBITE OF MAX RICHTER AND MARI SAMUELSEN'S "MERCY (VOICELESS MIX)")

RICHTER: So when I started thinking about how to present the text, I decided I wanted it to be spoken, not sung, because I wanted it to be completely intelligible and clear.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ELEANOR ROOSEVELT: I'm going to read you the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights.

RICHTER: And I came across this recording of Eleanor Roosevelt from 1949 reading the preamble. And since she's so fundamental to the writing of the declaration, I just thought it would be wonderful to start with her. So she reads the opening of the preamble in this incredible sort of posh voice from that time. And then she hands forward 70 years to KiKi Layne.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KIKI LAYNE: Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the country to which a person belongs.

RICHTER: I went to KiKi Layne to do the main narration because I'd heard her narration in "If Beale Street Could Talk," which is a fantastic film a couple years ago. The thing about her voice is it's a very young-sounding voice. And I really wanted to convey that sense of youth and potential in the performance because the declaration is really - it's really about the future. It's about the world we haven't made yet.

(SOUNDBITE OF MAX RICHTER'S "ALL HUMAN BEINGS (VOICELESS MIX) - PT. 3")

RICHTER: I wanted to make the record feel as universal as possible, as democratic of space as possible, and that meant having other voices in there. So we put out a call on social media and just asked people to send in recordings just made on their phones or whatever of them reading part of the declaration.

(SOUNDBITE OF MAX RICHTER AND IAN BURDGE'S "ORIGINS")

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Unintelligible).

RICHTER: We had an amazing response, hundreds of recordings flooding in, in all kinds of languages. And I used those recordings to make a kind of landscape that the music flows through.

(SOUNDBITE OF MAX RICHTER AND IAN BURDGE'S "ORIGINS")

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Unintelligible).

RICHTER: "Voices" was 10 years in the making, so it isn't a direct response to the present moment. But obviously, the issue of rights abuses and social justice are - you know, that issue is unfortunately always relevant because human rights are under attack around the world all the time. It's natural that we look at these questions through the lens of the present moment. And obviously, in America, the moment there is a, you know, there's been a kind of systematic and widespread racial abuse for, you know, kind of forever. And that's all coming to the head at the moment. So it's very natural that we should see it also in those terms. But "Voices" is a piece about the really fundamental questions underlying all of this, which is a basic human equality.

(SOUNDBITE OF MAX RICHTER AND IAN BURDGE'S "ORIGINS (VOICELESS MIX)")

FOLKENFLIK: That was composer Max Richter talking about his new album, "Voices."

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