When revising for my GCSEs my mum never allowed listening to music with lyrics in. She said there was a study that proved you couldn’t concentrate while doing it. She was right of course but I was very annoyed at the time. It resulted in me listening to a piano version of pop music as some failed attempt at rebellion.
I moved on to film scores in college doing my A levels and now listen to them when working on a regular basis. They’re incredibly relaxing and beautiful but also motivating. I’ve had a couple of years to perfect the list of the best film scores to listen and work to.
Before I get into this Iist I give an honorary mention to the entire soundtrack and score to the majority of David Attenborough documentaries. I would definitely recommend checking these out, the only thing to note is the fact that because of the roller coaster of emotions that is a David Attenborough documentary the pacing of listening to the soundtracks is a little all over the place but some of the pieces are beautiful so if you have the dedication to curate your own playlist based on the vibe you want I would highly recommend.
We Bought a Zoo
The first film score I fell in love with. Composed by Icelandic musician Jónsi you can hear the Scandinavian tones throughout. I will say it is the only one on the list that has the occasional lyric, so I would recommend this one for more lighter study but I listened to this one so much during my A levels Jónsi was one of my top artists for the year. ‘Gathering stories’ and ‘Sinking friendships’ especially are beautiful with ‘Gathering stories’ making the long list for best original song for the 2011 Oscars. I’d recommend this score to just relax to as well, it’s good all round background music.
The Theory of Everything
The best one on the list! It’s no wonder it won best scores at the BAFTAS, Oscars and Golden Globes with it perfectly encapsulating the feeling of studying and working in Cambridge. The academia vibes from Jóhann Jóhannsson through his classic combination of acoustic sounds and electronic instruments. It’s the right mix of calm and beauty with a special mention to ‘Cambridge, 1963’ for being my personal favourite, you can truly pretend you’re working in some old university library in Cambridge. Perfect for any study occasion as it is incredibly easy to concentrate as many of the tracks all have similar instruments and tempos but especially so if it’s raining.
The Imitation Game / Little Women
Despite being incredibly different films they are composed by the same person, Alexandre Desplat and although they have very different aesthetic and time periods you can tell that they are created by the same person. The Imitation game has a slightly more fast paced, high stakes feel to it. So potentially perfect or disastrous for a last minute essay depending on how well you thrive under pressure.
Little Women on the other hand has a more whimsical feel to it fitting with the relationship between the sisters. I would say this soundtrack is the prettiest on the list if that’s what you are going for. Considering the nature of the film, its best suited for a long flowing essay.
How to train your Dragon
Hear me out here. Yes it’s a children’s film about dragons but John Powell’s composition makes for a high energy lighthearted score perfect for a Friday study session at the end of the week. It gets you in a good flow and a good mood. Similar to the Scandinavian tones in We bought a zoo there are Nordic ones throughout with Jónsi featuring here also with one of the best tracks ‘Sticks and stones’. There are often changes in tempo and softness almost simulating flight. You’re not quite going to feel as if your riding a dragon but it should help the work go by a bit easier.
I actually went through quite a few of the different Star Wars scores to find the perfect one for studying. A few of them with the stunning music from John Williams like A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back I personally felt were a bit too iconic and distracting for revising. Rogue One score composed by Michael Giacchino encapsulates the classic feeling of a Star Wars film, a mix of intense pieces and softer more emotional ones like ‘Your father would be proud’. Nothing will get you to get your work done quicker than listening to ‘the imperial suite’ imagining Darth Vader himself is coming towards you ominously.
Featured image – Charlotte Sutcliffe