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Richter’s Scale: Scoring ‘Waltz With Bashir’

It was not accidental that Ari Folman asked composer Max Richter to create a score for his film, “Waltz with Bashir.” “I wrote the script…in six days, listening only to Max Richter’s albums,” explained Folman. Richter’s score for Folman’s animated depiction of the 1982 Lebanon war is both haunting and melodious, accented by both pounding battle beats and melancholic strings, evocative of perhaps what war might sound like in memories.

For his work on “Waltz with Bashir,” Richter was named Best European Composer of 2008 by the European Film Academy. Richter, who has composed for other films, the ballet and even a whole album of cell phone ringtones, thinks of music “as part of the storytelling tradition….It’s just another way to involve a listener on a journey, to tell a story.”

Born in Germany in 1966 and raised in the United Kingdom, Richter was highly influenced by the electronica and post-rock of his youth. He trained in composition and piano at Edinburgh University, the Royal Academy of Music and with experimental electronic composer Luciano Berio in Florence. He’s described his own work as “post-classical,” a term he coined “as a bit of a joke, but it’s got a kind of grain of truth in it.” Maintaining an aesthetic connection to traditional classical music, he treats his studio as an instrument. “The studio is littered with all this junk and pieces of paper and all these machines, and I just kind of grab whatever is the tool for that moment,” explains Richter.

That process has resulted in four albums, in addition to his scores for ballet and film. For his most recent, ‘24 Postcards in Full Colour,’ Richter wondered why most ringtones are so bad and set out to make them as a viable musical genre. The result: an album of musical vignettes to be played on the cell phone.

He’s also composed music that features actors reading works by Kafka and Haruki Murakami, and produced 1960s British folk legend Vashti Bunyan’s 2005 album “Lookaftering.” These days, Richter is deciding between three projects of varying levels of complexity and madness. He expects one to be released as an album at the end of this year.

Listen to two of Richter’s pieces from “Waltz With Bashir”:


I Swam Out to Sea / Return:

The U.K. trailer to “Waltz With Bashir”: