Blue Notebooks: The Unfathomable Void of the Internet and Max Richter’s “On the Nature of Daylight”

In which the Daniel shouts into the endless depths of social media, which, predictably, yields little result.

Blue_Notebooks

To my dear reader,

Keeping this blog can sometimes be a little stressful. That isn’t because I think anyone is reading very closely, but because I’m an anal-retentive perfectionist and feel the need to make every post as well-researched and punctual as possible (which usually doesn’t happen). At the same time, I sometimes think about this blog in a sort of glum, bored way, thinking “Well, if no one is reading that closely, why waste all that time? You’ll just keep writing post after post and shouting into the Unfathomable Void of the Internet for no one to hear.” This state of simultaneous frenzy and placidity is reminiscent of watching a snowstorm, what with the flurry of activity as thousands of snowflakes fall appearing, ultimately, static. It is also reminiscent of musical minimalism, and for me particularly, Max Richter’s On the Nature of Daylight.

In the wake of increasingly the thorny, dissonant, and cerebral music of the twentieth century’s avant-garde, minimalism arose as a new musical language of the masses. Often said to have first begun with Terry Riley’s 1964 composition In C, minimalism was brought to huge popularity through the works of composers such as Steve Reich and Phillip Glass. With its new focus on making more from fewer musical materials, and its contemplative, often meditative use of repetition, the genre found its way into all facets of American musical life, from elegant film scores to loop laden hip hop to stoned teenagers laying on their garage couches.

Max Richter initially composed On the Nature of Daylight for his 2004 minimalist album The Blue Notebooks. It was later popularized as the central musical theme of the 2016 sci-fi film Arrival, musically framing many of the protagonist’s melancholy musings on life and motherhood. In perfectly typical minimalist fashion, the piece is entirely diatonic, uses the same chord progression on loop, and is organized by its slow, steady process of adding lines of greater rhythmic activity to the simple texture that opens the piece. In this way, we see this snowstorm-like activity again, with increasingly more happening in the music, but with little sense of change or progression.

None of the things we attribute to minimalism or Richter’s piece are, of course, intrinsic. Arrival undoubtedly shaped many of my views on the work, and it’s hard to say how I’d feel about the piece without having seen that film. Nevertheless, I do firmly see On the Nature of Daylight as reflective of how I feel about maintaining an online presence. While both figuratively and literally flapping my arms and running circles, I  keep furiously writing and composing, trying to generate and maintain interest in what I do. At the same time, when I scroll through social media, and more generally the Unfathomable Void of the Internet, I feel an urge to close all my social media accounts and end this inane virtual-social dance. No matter what I want, however, the internet is not going anywhere, and in order to do so much of what I want – namely, writing and composing – I must use the internet as a tool. All that in mind, when I consider both how busy and, simultaneously, exhaustingly endless it is, Richter’s piece encapsulates my thoughts perfectly.

With all due respect,

Daniel Wolfert

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