Black Mirror: Nosedive OST by Max Richter

Release date: October 27, 2017
Label: StudioRichter Via Deutsche Grammophon

Max Richter is a UK born, Berlin based, musician and composer. Classically trained, Richter’s scores and compositions often transcend genre, often sounding closer to the modern post-minimalist classical music of composer’s such as Steve Reich. This initially sounds daunting; but his multi-dimensional and hauntingly evocative compositions are capable of catching the ears of listeners who aren’t often interested in classical music, or haughty music terms such as ‘post minimalist’.

Recently, demand for Richter to score television and films has soared, allowing his beautiful compositions to soundtrack scenes of intimate joy and creeping anxiety. Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror: Nosedive provides the perfect visual and narrative counterpoint to Richter’s music. Nosedive presents a futuristic vision of Earth where inhabitants can rate their interactions with others from one to five stars, often with dire social consequences for those given low star ratings.

The pastel coloured episode presents a world that has been sanitised by social media interaction, where individuals are overly polite to one another in order to gain a high rating. However, below this surface level world of cutesy interactions and persistent politeness lurks a creeping anxiety. ‘On Reflection’, the recurring piece in the episode, is based around a delicate piano line that is punctuated by creeping strings. This piece says more about the underlying sadness of the world and the characters within it than they are ever allowed to express from the script.

‘On Reflection’ demonstrates Richter’s talents of merging traditional classical sounds, mournful strings and stately piano, with more modern sounds, like the rumbling synth bass that throbs in the background. This matches Nosedive’s imagery and themes beautifully, with the more classical elements evoking emotions that can never be muted by technology, while the rumbling bass echoes the hums of the machines and screens that keep the characters of Nosedive trapped within the systems of their world.

Richter claimed in an interview for Fact magazine that he wanted the score to match the clean aesthetic of the world director Joe Wright presented, but also to punctuate it with notes of anxiety. Richter achieves this in ‘On Reflection’ with the use of a string section towards the end of the track- ensuring that clean lilt of the piano is matched with strings that plant seeds of doubt into the listener’s mind.

Shorter pieces, ‘Dopamine 1’ & ‘Dopamine 2’, demonstrate that Richter is no one trick pony, as they are gorgeously crafted ambient electronic soundscapes. These pieces are in contrast to the classical sounds of ‘On Reflection’ and ‘The Consolation of Philosophy’, showcasing Richter’s compositional talents across multiple genres of music.  These short pieces provide a much-needed respite from the intense anxiety created by ‘On Reflection’. These two compositions sound almost like futuristic jingles on an advertisement, as if they are advertising the devices the characters use to rate one another on.

‘The Journey, Not The Destination’ is an absolutely gorgeous piece of music; a perfect fusion of Richter’s talent to create neoclassical mood pieces that can evoke an emotional response from the listener without sounding hackneyed. Much like ‘On Reflection’, it starts with a simple chiming piano line backed by strings, sound tracking the monotony of the characters social interactions. However, the composition begins to whirr with intensity as a clicking micro-beat drum pattern kicks into the song. This is a stunning piece of music, sounding like  Steve Reich meeting a well behaved Aphex Twin to create a dystopian whirlwind of atmosphere. The drum pattern drops out, leaving only mournful strings, mirroring the creeping doubt of the lead character that not all is well within the world of Nosedive.

These compositions are often centred around one revolving pattern, often using piano or pizzicato (plucked) strings. In the hands of a less gifted composer, this could start to sound monotonous, or drive the viewer or listener to distraction. However, Richter’s gift is using simplicity to great effect, creating stirring emotional pieces from humble beginnings. Richter’s work on Black Mirror: Nosedive not only works within the context of the viewing experience, but also works as a standalone listening experience. The haunting  music contained within will live with you for a long time after you finish viewing and listening to Nosedive.

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