Study Soundtracks

Listicles

So it’s been a while since I’ve posted here — since back-to-school all those weeks ago, I haven’t had a chance to sit down and watch new movies yet. (But I will! Spectre‘s on deck for the next post.)

Anyway, in honor of midterms this week, I’ve decided to share my favorite study mix, which is entirely soundtracks, and take you track by track. If you just want to listen to the mix, it’s at the bottom of the post.

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  1. “Two Figures by a Fountain,” Dario Marianelli – Atonement OST

This soundtrack is probably my favorite film soundtrack. It has a simple-but-haunting motif, and a particularly clever use of a typewriter as percussion that ties into the film’s use of fiction as a plot device and a metaphor. (Can you tell I wrote ten pages about this soundtrack for my freshman-year seminar?) The typewriter is best showcased in a longer piece, “Briony,” but those of you who’ve seen the movie should understand me when I say that I can’t actually listen to that piece without feeling tense and stressed out, so this version of the motif is shorter, punchier, and a quick way to get into a writing mood.

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2. “Darcy’s Letter,” Dario Marianelli – Pride & Prejudice OST

If it isn’t also super obvious, I’m a fan of Marianelli soundtracks. The man knows his way around a piano. This piece flows pretty smoothly from the next one but picks up the pace, reminding you to get back to work.

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3. “Time,” Hanz Zimmer – Inception OST

Even putting aside the fact that Inception is one of my favorite movies, this song is incredible. Starting out with just piano and then quickly joined by some beautifully unnerving strings (cellos, yo, they will break your heart when played properly), the build in this piece in unbelievable. By the end, you want to cry, but also sort of feel like you just took over the world. So, hey, if it can do all of that, it can definitely get you through midterms! (But no joke, I’m listening to it right now and have chills running up and down my spine. This song gets to you.)

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4. “Mulan’s Decision”, Jerry Goldsmith – Mulan OST

I’m 90% sure I loved this song before I even really paid any attention to movie soundtracks, aka when I was a little Asian girl and watched this movie on repeat. You want inspiration, this song has it in droves. It’s tense and ambitious and it also kinda makes you want to go out and crush the patriarchy, amirite? (No? Maybe that’s just me.)

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5. “Define Dancing”, Thomas Newman and Peter Gabriel – Wall-E OST

I’ll be honest, at first I put this in my playlist to fulfill 8track’s song requirement minimum. But It’s actually a really good fit. After the sudden drop from the previous piece, this one brings the music back on a softer note—after all, it is a romantic scene, albeit between two completely adorable robots. It feels like raindrops dancing on piano strings, if that metaphor makes any sense. It’s light and sweet and quick and delicate, like stars, and transitions well into the fantastical magic of the next piece

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6. “The Crystal Chamber,” James Newton Howard – Atlantis: The Lost Empire OST

Which is, also, one of my favorite soundtrack pieces ever. (I have a lot of those, but what can I say, a girl likes her movies and her music.) The delicate star-like music of Define Dancing is similar to the eerie bells that open this piece. The deep strings carry it forward with increasing momentum, while the vocals lift it to an unearthly level. Listening to this piece feels like being allowed to witness to an ancient tradition.

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7. “Arrival of the Birds,” The Cinematic Orchestra – Les Ailes Pourpres

For the comedown of my mix, this piece and the next are quiet and gentle after the increasing drama and urgency of the previous pieces. Also, the 3/4 beat of this piece just screams “waltz”. I’m going to dance to this one someday.

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8. “Gatsby Believed In The Green Light,” Tobey Maguire and Craig Armstrong  – Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby OST

And I’m closing this soundtrack out with the closing number from The Great Gatsby. Starting with the piercing “green light” string solo, the song fades out into melancholia, spiraling higher and higher under F. Scott’s (a Princeton alum!) well-worn words, ending your study sesh with a eulogy for tomorrow’s efforts and the mournful descending violin.

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