Aural Composition: A Writing Playlist Feat. Soundtracks

Writing anxiety is a very uncomfortable reality for some of us.

Personally speaking, the thought of sitting in silence and staring at a white document immobilizes me with dread. Hunched over my laptop, I will nervously twitch like a young swimmer inching onto the high dive for the first time, gazing apprehensively at the frigid water below, wondering how to start the painstaking process before me.

This confession never fails to surprise my peers. As a freelance journalist, I’ve contributed dozens of articles to local businesses and publications; as a fledgling scholar, I’ve tackled hundreds of lengthy assignments in the academic fray that is graduate school; and, as a stereotypical millennial, I imagine that I’m at risk for carpal tunnel syndrome given the countless number of text messages that I’ve typed. My point being, on a very fundamental level, the act of writing isn’t foreign to my person. But, at the same time, the truth is clear – quiet rooms and empty pages profoundly disturb me.

Throughout the process of overcoming this debilitating phobia, I realized that I thrive on white noise. In my experience, putting a project in the context of sound transforms the barren blank page into the promise of potentiality.

With music as my muse of choice, a little inspiration is all it takes to get my proverbial gears in motion. But, I require the sort of music that puts me at ease without devolving into a source of distraction. I want soothing instrumentals with a pristine ambiance. I want calming melodies that are simple, but not monotonous. I want the intelligent sensibility of Amy Winehouse and Adele – but, cut the angst and theatricality, please.

It seems like a tall order, but I’ve tracked down a handful of songs and scores that fit the bill. This playlist incorporates the soundtracks that best accompany my writing process, and features a diverse array of artists, ranging from an Icelandic rock band to Beethoven himself. I hope it will spark your creative energies, too.

With that said, rock out as you write on.



Avril 14th :: Aphex Twin :: Marie Antoinette (2006)

Aphex Twin is the working moniker Richard David James, an electronic musician and composer hailing from the very literary town of Limerick, Ireland.  His contribution to Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette is a departure from the jarring electronic content of his recent releases, in which he turns away from doctored audio for subtler instrumental programming.

Clair de Lune :: Alexis Weissenberg :: The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

Alex Weissenberg’s recording of the “Clair de Lune” (literally, “light of the moon” in French) apparently struck a chord with director Wes Anderson.

Casey’s Song :: Justin Hurwitz :: Whiplash (2014)

Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash was the darling of the 87th Academy Awards, taking home Best Sound Mixing among a smattering of other accolades. This song unfolds as a quieter segment of the film’s score, capturing the silence of loss in the midst of colliding strings and cymbals.

Opening (Merry-Go-Round) :: Joe Hisaishi :: Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

Accompanied by Joe Hisaishi’s buoyant melodies, Howl’s Moving Castle enchanted audiences with the tale of a wayward wizard and his cursed cast of friends.

Song on the Beach :: Arcade Fire :: Her (2013)

Fronted by indie rockers Will Butler and Owen Pallett, Arcade Fire lent a helping hand to Spike Jonze’s Her, the genre-bending romance of a nerdy Joaquin Pheonix and his iPhone.

Comptine D’un Autre été L’après-midi :: Yann Tiersen :: Amelie (2001)

While the entire soundtrack of Amelie is a work of perfection, Yann Tiersen’s intricately composed track stands out in the film’s meandering walk through Parisian life.

Latika’s Theme :: Suzanne D’Mello :: Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

“Latika’s Theme” shattered hearts through its soft evocation of unconditional love. In the chaotic universe of Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire, Jamal and Latika are forever.

Dawn :: Jean-Yves Thibaudet :: Pride & Prejudice (2005)

The frolicking instrumentals energizing the opening scene of Joe Wright’s Pride & Prejudice capture the thematic levity of Jane Austen’s famed romantic comedy.

The Last Man :: Clint Mansell :: The Fountain (2006)

The Fountain is an underrated work by Darren Aronofsky, starring Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz in roles originally intended for Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett prior to a slash in the film’s production budget. In a poignant analysis of love and mortality, Aronofsky interweaves three separate tales – a scientist mourning his deceased wife, a conquistador searching for the Tree of Life, and a space traveler enclosed in a biosphere – into a single tour-de-force immaculately scored by Clint Mansell.

Symphony No. 7 in A Major :: Ludwig van Beethoven :: The Fall (2006)

The virtuosity of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 is the soul of Tarsem Singh’s The Fall, an epic homage to the history of cinema, starring Lee Pace.

Svefn-g-englar :: Sigur Rós :: Vanilla Sky (2001)

Cameron Crowe’s Vanilla Sky is the remarkably mediocre adaptation of Abre los Ojos, a Spanish psychological thriller directed by Alejandro Amenábar. While the remake falls short of Amenábar’s original voyage into the blurred realm of fantasy and reality, the American film’s soundtrack is salvaged by its haunting theme by Icelandic rock band, Sigur Rós.

Lisztomania :: Roger Neill :: Mozart in the Jungle (2014)

This lively, orchestral cover of Phoenix’s indie-rock hit “Lisztomania” shimmers in the Golden Globe Award-winning comedy, Mozart in the Jungle.

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