#AmWriting: 10 Soundtracks to Write To

I’m currently working on a mammoth project – a (possible) 70 000+ word manuscript for an action/thriller novel that I’ve been planning for a few months now. It’s a scary thing to think about, and so writers often need something to help get them through the process. F. Scott Fitzgerald had his (ahem) indulgences, as did many other writers including Oscar Wilde, who even imbued his famous character Dorian Gray with some of his own habits. For me, well, there’s music.

Music is the perfect mood creator. It helps to set the imaginative landscape and gives the writer much-needed energy to put down words. And with a good pair of headphones and the right music, you can really create a cocoon for creativity.

I’ve written on the subject of film soundtracks before, and in this post I’ll highlight my favourite pieces to listen to while writing such monstrous things like a first draft manuscript.

Film and game music are designed to keep audiences engaged with visual content. And since, as writers, we’re creating visual scenes through the magic of words, these two mediums work beautifully with each other. Below are some of my favourite scores to listen to while writing.

I should mention that, while I present these pieces in the context of writing, they’re suited to most creative tasks where a little mood music can go a long way.

1. Man of Steel (Hans Zimmer)

The soaring orchestrations and endlessness of the guitars set a beautiful sonic landscape for your words to flow. The deluxe edition has a brilliant “sketches” session, where Zimmer explores in a continuous mix the various ideas and themes that permeate the Superman reboot.

2. Oblivion (M83)

M83 created an electronic-infused score to this Tom Cruise science fiction blockbuster. It’s very atmospheric with lots of rising strings and melodies that almost urge you onward to the next word, the next paragraph, scene or chapter. It’s an especially nice listen when you’re wanting for inspiration, at the beginning of a writing session, and gives your imagination a nice kick start.

3. Assassin’s Creed: Revelations (Jesper Kyd)

This is a soundtrack designed to help you focus. Since it’s scored for the (insanely cool) Assassin’s Creed games, it works really well when writing scenes of intrigue, action, or contemplation. I sometimes listen to this to get into the writing mood.

4. The Dark Knight Rises (Hans Zimmer/James Newton Howard)

In case you don’t know by now, I’m a huge fan of Hans Zimmer. He’s my go-to guy for a musical fix when I’m working on a creative project. The Dark Knight Rise score is powerful, with great highs and lows perfect for almost any kind of scene. And if you just want to feel inspired, the rousing chant from the movie certainly does the trick, as does Junkie XL’s remix “Bombers over Ibiza”.

5. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Howard Shore)

You can never go wrong with Lord of the Rings. The quintessential high-fantasy drama, its soundtrack is powerful, rousing, and the perfect mix for creating an immersive creative environment. The final tracks, with Enya’s ethereal voice singing in Elvish, is hauntingly beautiful.

6. Game of Thrones: Seasons 1-4 (Ramin Djawadi)

Since I’ve gotten into the Game of Thrones world, I’ve become enchanted by its music. Ramin Djawadi scores a diverse soundtrack that’s a mixture of exotic eastern strings, thunderous trumpets and some chilling lyrics like Sigur Ros’s “Rains of Castamere.”

7. Skyfall (Thomas Newman)

Skyfall is one of my favourite new Bond movies, and Newman’s score is a mix of electronic and classical, that’s perfect for action scenes and scenes that are particularly dialogue-heavy. It’s also great to listen to before sessions, to get into that mood (along with Assassin’s Creed and Oblivion).

8. Da Vinci’s Demons (Bear McCreary)

Bear McCreary is a genius. The theme for Da Vinici’s is written as a musical palindrome –it’s the same forwards and backwards. The rest of the score is good mood-setting music, in a similar vain to the Assassin’s Creed score mentioned above.

9. 300: Rise of an Empire (Junkie XL)

Junkie XL is a rising electonic-based musician, and his score for the latest 300 film is action-packed with definite eastern accents that articulate the sequel’s plot line. “History of Artemisia” is my favourite track on this score.

10. Inception (Hans Zimmer)

Where do I begin with Inception? Well, firstly: “Time” is perhaps the best Hans Zimmer piece written. Ever. In fact, watch it in the video below, performed live by Zimmer and his orchestra. It’s emotionally-charged, carefully crafted and powerfully executed. As is the rest of this score, one of my all-time favourite motion picture scores. Its subtle piano notes, contrasted by heavy brass and thunderous drums, create a highly immersive environment that helps one emotionally connect with their work, as with the music itself. It’s Hans Zimmer at his finest.

(I might write a future post on the status of the above-mentioned manuscript. It’s going as well as can be at this stage and I’m getting closer to the midpoint).

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8 Great Film Soundtracks and Scores

I’ve written before about how much I admire the music of films. Not just the soundtracks, but the actual orchestral scores of certain good movies. A film like Star Wars has iconic music that has made the franchise instantly recognisable directly through its sonic vision. On the other hand, Quentin Tarentino’s Pulp Fiction has perhaps one of the best soundtracks to a film ever done – Dick Dale & His Del-Tones’ famous surf-rock guitars straining over the title sequence to the tune of Misirlou contributed significantly to crafting one of the most memorable openings for a film ever.

So I decided to compile here a list of some of my favourite soundtracks and scores to my favourite films. Please share your favourites in the comments, too 🙂

Pulp Fiction

(Dick Dale & His Del-Tones).

Star Wars

John Williams.

Inception

Hans Zimmer.

Slumdog Millionaire

AR Rahman.

The Social Network

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.

Inglourious Basterds

Ennio Morricone.

Drive

Cliff Martinez.

The Dark Knight Rises

Hans Zimmer.

What’s your favourite? Share it in the comments below!

The Music of Films

I’m a big fan of the music behind some of my favourite films. My iPod is always primed to play the original orchestral score of master composer Hans Zimmer, or the emotive, big-stage dramatic strings of John Williams. There’s just something about the music that powers film that is at once emotive, gripping, and immersive.

When studying, I enjoy listening to the calming, mind-engaging (quite literally) sounds from Inception. It just somehow forces me into a contemplative mood. Off this soundtrack, Time, Old Souls, Paradox, Waiting for a Train and Radical Notion stand out. However, every single track is brilliant. Hans Zimmer truly is a genius at eliciting the soul in his compositions.

Then there is the new sounds of composers like Daft Punk, for Tron:Legacy which are really cool to listen to, and on a deeper level, engage you with instruments unconventional for film (in this case, electronic music with computers and synthesizers).

A piece that really showcases how transcending music from film can be, and how iconic it can be of a film, is definitely the Imperial March by John Williams, first heard in Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back. It’s haunting, foreboding and just plain intrepid. Definitely a track with some serious street cred.

There’s so much I could say about the music of film, and perhaps I will write more about it soon, but for now: I’m going to retreat once again into my sonic world of film scores.