Once again, the dreaded part of the semester is upon us. Just saying the words “final exams” aloud is enough to make any student cringe. Luckily, there’s a way to reduce the stress and anxiety of finals: by studying.
Certain kinds of music can help students stay focused while having an intense study session. Unfortunately, some genres of music are a little too distracting. Sorry Beyoncé, but you are indeed too bootylicious to help us get any work done.
Instead, I recommend listening to movie soundtracks. Note: I am referring to original film scores (which are usually orchestral but don’t have to be), not compilations of normal songs found on the radio like some movies use (i.e. Guardians of the Galaxy using “I Want You Back” by Jackson 5 or 50 Shades of Grey with “Love Me Like You Do” by Ellie Goulding). Each of the following soundtracks are subtle enough to study to without getting distracted but interesting enough to keep you entertained.
From industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails’ lead singer Trent Reznor and graphic designer Atticus Ross comes the Academy Award-winning soundtrack for The Social Network. This untraditional soundtrack uses almost no instruments. Most of the score was composed electronically, with instruments thrown in only occasionally.
There is a theme that is reprised at pivotal moments throughout the soundtrack that corresponds to key events in the film. This gives a nice continuation throughout the soundtrack even though most of the tracks are fairly different from one another. Another advantage is that most of the tracks are upbeat. This will help keep your mind awake while spending those countless hours studying.
Hans Zimmer has made numerous iconic soundtracks in his roughly 30-year career including The Lion King (1994), Gladiator (2001), The Pirates of the Caribbean “quadrilogy” (2003, 2006, 2007 and 2011) and The Dark Knight trilogy (2005, 2008 and 2012) to list a few. However, it is Interstellar’s Academy Award-nominated soundtrack that sticks out the most because of its departure from Zimmer’s typical sound.
While most of Zimmer’s soundtracks have an epic and grand sound from brass and string instruments. In Interstellar, the pipe organ plays a central role. Therefore, much of the score is actually on the quiet side with some ambience thrown in. But there are still some notable tracks that are loud and epic — specifically “Mountains” and “No Time for Caution.” The recurring theme throughout the soundtrack nicely ties together both the quiet and loud parts to create a well-balanced score.
Cloud Atlas’ phenomenal soundtrack presents many different sounds, but they all tie together fairly well. There is much variety because the film follows six separate storylines, each with a different genre. There is romance, science fiction, comedy and drama, so the score is naturally diverse.
Most of the score is comprised of traditional sounds from an orchestra, but some tracks are more electronic in nature, such as “Papa Song.” This allows for a good variety of music, and the score never becomes dull or repetitive.
In order to account for this, the composers created a singular theme that is reprised throughout the movie. This theme is the driving force that ties everything together, both in the music and in the film. Not only is the theme beautiful, but it is also very infectious, making the soundtrack good to study to. The catchy theme will get stuck in your head and keep you focused as you continue working.
From director Spike Jonze (Lost in Translation, Being John Malkovich) Her’s Academy Award-nominated score is one of the most romantic aspects of the film. The soundtrack was composed by indie-rock band Arcade Fire member William Butler and Canadian composer Owen Pallett with additional input by Karen O (lead singer of the indie-rock band Yeah Yeah Yeahs).
Filled with beautiful-sounding guitars and synthesizers, this soundtrack is not only calming, but also emotionally uplifting.
Beautiful solo piano music winds in and out throughout the score, breaking up the more upbeat guitar parts with slower music. The music is not quite as flashy, but instead gently fills the background, making it the perfect music to study to.
These are only a few of countless soundtracks that deserve special attention. I always feel that soundtracks are more enjoyable if you also like the movie. So one way to find good soundtracks is to start with your favorite movies. But be careful — it’s also easy to just start daydreaming about the movie instead of studying for finals.