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Music Under the Radar: Movie Scores

Stephanie DePrez | Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Situation: Music hunters seek, read, blog and cull music from radio, print and most often, the interwebs. Music gatherers collect mix CD’s, free digital downloads and whatever their friends happen to be listening to. If you are a gatherer, this space is for you. If you are a hunter, e-mail me your latest find, and I promise you’ll find it written up here. (Seriously. E-mail. Even if you’re not a student.)

Let’s face it. Right now, academia is sucking all the joy, motivation and warmth out of our lives.  (Yes, I blame school for the weather suddenly taking a sharp turn into the neighborhood of “horribly cold”). The leaves may be looking lovelier every day, but they only herald the inevitable: fall break is coming, and that means midterms. So don’t pack up your flippy floppies just yet, because first you must survive the backbone of the education system: Midterm Week of Frustration and Hell.

Though the only desire for music anyone has right now is to blast Katy Perry and dance around like a mindless fool, that doesn’t exactly facilitate focused study (at least, for most). For your listening pleasure, I present a slew of movies that have scores perfectly fitted to keep your head in your laptop.

Michael Nyman, “The Piano”

Nyman coined the term “minimalism.” (No, seriously, he used the word in a review in the sixties.) Since then, Minimalism has become a term embodying the most recent major movement in “classical” music. And where does today’s “classical” music live? The movies, of course. This soundtrack not only features solo piano pieces that will send your brain into overtime (writing that paper) but also orchestral movements that are compelling without being distracting.


Thomas Newman, “Wall-E”

Right now you’re thinking, man, I can’t believe I haven’t listened to that yet! Want to know how to make a successful movie with zero talking for the first 45 minutes? Get Newman to write the music. Not only will it keep your mind on your work, it will lift your heart just a little bit with every musical “ha!”


Danny Elfman, “Alice in Wonderland”

Pretty much anything this man has done is prime- pickings for good study music. His latest endeavor is a fair balance of signature Tim Burton choral creepiness and strong woman power “movie music.” As Elfman’s list of films grows, his sound matures. The music of “Alice in Wonderland” is tightly knit and refreshingly cohesive.


Hans Zimmer, “Inception”

I’m pretty sure everyone was too busy thinking, “Woah, woah, wooooah!” during this movie to pay specific attention to the music, but it is not to be missed. Lots of deep throbbing bass and low, brassy horns ground this score as a sweeping epoch of sound. The ominous pulsing horns will keep you awake without shocking you every three minutes, as most action film scores are want to do. Just don’t listen to it at 2 a.m. in the darkest corner of the library.


The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer. Contact Stephanie DePrez at [email protected]