Week 182: “November” by Max Richter


November can be a pretty drab month.

By the end of the first week, your Halloween candy is all gone (all the good stuff anyway), and Christmas is far enough away that it still seems like a distant mirage.

The weather doesn’t help. It’s too cold for the romance of fall, not cold enough to reliably provide magical winter snow. Often, November gives you the unwelcome excitement of all four seasons in one day; it’s one of those months (in the climate I inhabit, anyway) that are almost impossible to dress for.

I’m not sure if unpredictable weather was the inspiration behind Max Richter’s “November”, but judging by the rain that opens the track, I’d say it’s a good bet. And maybe the next time I’m caught wearing shorts in a surprise freezing-rain storm, keeping this beautiful song in mind will allow me to view the weather as a moody artist, rather than a vindictive jerk who drops five dollars on the street and then gives you a wedgie when you lean over to pick it up.

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. The opening violin line. Either these are the highest notes a violin is capable of playing, or Richter had a miniature violin specially constructed for this song. Either way, turn up volume if you want to make all the dogs in your neighbourhood go simultaneously insane.

2. The arpeggiated violin that enters at about 45 seconds. I don’t play the violin, but this sounds frantically difficult. Is this the part the conductor gives to the violinist they don’t like very much? Are the other members of the orchestra jealous, or glad they’ve been spared? I can imagine the rest of the string section sitting there playing their slow, lumbering lines, shielding themselves from the droplets of sweat flying off the lead violinist.

3. As the song passes three minutes, Richter briefly cuts the frantic violin lines, with big swells in the cello and double bass.

Recommended listening activity:

Step 1: Take cold shower. Step 2: Do this.

Buy it here.