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Graham Fitkin’s “Kaplan,” Max Richter’s “Blue Notebooks”

by Suzannah Tartan

The border between popular and new classical music has long been blurred. Glass, Stockhausen and Reich lurk in the background of much electronica and avant-rock, while many contemporary composers owe a debt to ambient or even punk. The upcoming performances of Graham Fitkin and Max Richter offer an opportunity to explore this gray area.

Fitkin receives commissions from orchestras and dance companies all around the world, yet “Kaplan,” a piece for two musicians performed with a video backdrop, could — with a little remixing — be club music. Inspired by the unseen character that propels Alfred Hitchcock’s film “North by Northwest,” Fitkin’s score is compulsively jazzy. Just as the elusive Kaplan sends Hitchcock’s characters around in circles, the composition twists and turns with a gleeful paranoia. Fitkin cites Wire as an influence and “Kaplan” mirrors that band’s skittish rhythms.

If “Kaplan” can work on the dancefloor, then Max Richter’s “Blue Notebooks” is destined for the chill-out room. Richter is a former student of noted electronic composer Luciano Berio as well as a collaborator with Future Sound of London and Roni Size. “The Blue Notebooks,” based on Franz Kafka’s “Blue Octavo Notebooks,” is an austere melancholic meditation on the alienated individual. Punctuating spacious planes of sound, with quotes from both Kafka and Polish poet Czselaw Milosz, Richter’s work is akin to an hour in the still waters of an flotation tank.