‘I built my first syn­the­siser with a sol­der­ing iron when I was 13, hav­ing heard Kraftwerk’

The Herald - Arts - - COVER STORY -

stage and get into bed, get out of bed and go onto the stage. It’s like that. It’s re­ally phys­i­cally hard.”

From Sleep is more than just a con­densed ver­sion of Sleep, how­ever. While Richter likens the sec­ond to “a big pause in your daily life”, he sees the first as “more like a day­dream­ing space”.

“It’s about con­tem­pla­tion. I think of it like a di­a­logue with the lis­tener. Rather than mo­nop­o­lis­ing the con­scious­ness with loads of data, loads of mu­sic, it’s kind of a low in­for­ma­tion zone. A space to re­flect. That’s how I see the shorter ver­sion. There is some shared ma­te­rial be­tween them but there’s lot of things which are in one and not in the other at all.”

Also on the programme in Ed­in­burgh is a rare per­for­mance of an early work, The Blue Note­books, in­spired by the jour­nals of Franz Kafka and the work of Pol­ish poet Czesław Miłosz. It was recorded in three hours in 2004 for just £500, with most of the money be­ing used to hire a string sec­tion. We can as­sume, then, that the par­tic­i­pa­tion of Tilda Swin­ton as nar­ra­tor was undertaken as a favour (ac­tress Sarah Sut­cliffe reads Swin­ton’s part on tour).

For Richter, now held up as one of the pre-em­i­nent com­posers of his gen­er­a­tion, the de­ci­sion to per­form The Blue Note­books is more than just a whim. As with the in­clu­sion in his EIF show of Me­mory­house, an even older piece, it’s a way of re­mind­ing him­self that while pop­u­lar now, his trail­blaz­ing col­lage of min­i­mal­ism, con­ser­va­toire clas­si­cism, art rock, found sound and un­der-stated elec­tron­ica had to strug­gle to find its place. Me­mory­house may have been re-is­sued on vinyl two years ago and the piece hailed as a clas­sic, but when it was first re­leased in 2002, he notes, it re­ceived no re­views and lasted only six months be­fore it was deleted and the record la­bel closed.

“At the time I thought: ‘Well it’s dis­ap­point­ing but in a way it means I can keep on do­ing what I’m do­ing and no-one will know. Be­cause no-one’s lis­ten­ing there’s noth­ing to be afraid of. No­body’s go­ing to hear this stuff’. So I went into The Blue Note­books very much with that frame of mind.”

Both it and Me­mory­house were “shots in the dark,” he adds. “Re­ally, no­body was do­ing this sort of work, this sort of hybrid of writ­ten-down mu­sic, elec­tronic mu­sic and post-rock. It didn’t re­ally ex­ist. So when I started play­ing it [The Blue Note­books] again I felt pleased that I had been bloody minded enough to make a sec­ond record.”

And how does the piece shape up af­ter 12 years on the shelf?

“It has been re­ally in­ter­est­ing to re-encounter it not quite from the point of view of a lis­tener, but with some­thing of that ob­jec­tiv­ity about it,” he says. “The main thing that I have taken away from play­ing it again is that I’m glad I didn’t give up.”

Born in Hamelin in Lower Sax­ony in 1966, Richter grew up in Bed­ford and, af­ter study­ing pi­ano and com­po­si­tion in Ed­in­burgh, won a place at the Royal Col­lege of Mu­sic in London. He later stud­ied in Florence with Ital­ian avant garde colos­sus Lu­ciano Be­rio, whose

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