Photo: Mike Terry

Max Richter will release Voices, a new album project inspired by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The first single, “All Human Beings,” is out now via Decca Records.

Voices is Richter’s ninth studio album, following on from Memoryhouse (2002), The Blue Notebooks (2004), Infra (2010), and, most recently, Sleep (2015). He describes it as a “place to think and reflect.”

In a time of dramatic global change, Voices offers a message of hope. Richter invited people around the world to be part of the piece, crowd-sourcing readings of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to be interwoven into the work. He received hundreds of submissions in over 70 languages, and these readings form the aural landscape that the music flows through; they are the Voices of the title.

Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, in the aftermath of the Second World War, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was drafted by a group of philosophers, artists, and thinkers convened by Eleanor Roosevelt to address the great questions of the time.

Roosevelt’s voice can actually be heard at the start of Voices, as Richter incorporates the 1949 recording of the preamble to the Declaration into his piece.

Alongside Roosevelt and the crowd-sourced voices, there is also narration by US actor Kiki Layne (“If Beale Street Could Talk”), whose distinctive tones complement a choral, orchestral, and electronic soundscape.

“The opening words of the declaration, drafted in 1948, are ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.’ These inspiring words are a guiding principle for the whole declaration but, looking around at the world we have made in the decades since they were written, it is clear that we have forgotten them,” Richter explains. “The recent brutal events in the US, leading to the tragic deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, as well as countless other abuses around the world, are proof of that.”

Richter continues: “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is something that offers us a way forward. Although it isn’t a perfect document, the declaration does represent an inspiring vision for the possibility of better and kinder world.” He describes the album as “a musical space to reconnect with these inspiring principles.”

The album had its premiere in London in February, and it involves a radical reimagining of the traditional orchestra formation. “It came out of this idea of the world being turned upside down, our sense of what’s normal being subverted, so I have turned the orchestra upside down in terms of the proportion of instruments,” says Richter.

12 double basses, 24 cellos, six violas, eight violins, and a harp are joined by a wordless 12-piece choir plus Richter on keyboards, violin soloist Mari Samuelsen, soprano Grace Davidson, and conductor Robert Ziegler. The visuals are by Richter’s creative partner, artist, and film-maker Yulia Mahr.


01. All Human Beings—Part.1
02. All Human Beings—Part. 2
03. All Human Beings—Part. 3
04. All Human Beings—Part. 4
05. Origins—Part. 1
06. Origins—Part. 2
07. Journey Piece—Part. 1
08. Journey Piece—Part. 2
09. Chorale—Part. 1
10. Chorale—Part. 2
11. Chorale—Part. 3
12. Chorale—Part. 4
13. Hypocognition
14. Prelude—Part. 1
15. Prelude—Part. 2
16. Murmuration—Part.1
17. Murmuration—Part. 2
18. Murmuration—Part. 3
19. Cartography—Part. 1
20. Cartography—Part. 2
21. Cartography—Part. 3
22. Little Requiems—Part. 1
23. Little Requiems—Part. 2
24. Little Requiems—Part. 3
25. Mercy

Voices LP will be released on July 31. Meanwhile, you can pre-order here, and stream “All Human Beings,”the first single, below.

For more information on Max Richter, check out his XLR8R interview here.