THE MAGIC OF A SOUNDTRACK

As I enjoyed my long, long winter break, I spent some time meeting with friends, catching up and going out. However, not only I had the time to catch up with my friends, but also with my reading and movie list. And this week I found the time to enjoy a good home cinema. As I was watching, nothing serious just casual rom-coms, I realised how much the soundtrack of the movie matters. I have always had this habit, that the minute I liked a particular note in a movie, I would open my browser and look for the composer. I would scroll through all the songs and melodies, then open YouTube, look for it there and after watching the movie I would usually add the soundtrack  to my music library. Maybe I didn’t always see all the scenes from the movie, but I definitely knew everything about the cast, director and the music.

Musical composers are often overlooked in the “recognizable” people list, if you ask an average person with some film knowledge, they might know some actor’s names and maybe the director, but the soundtrack might cause some troubles. Everyone has heard about Hans Zimmer or John Williams, however, what you might not know, is that there are plenty of amazing soundtrack composers to discover. Moreover, I believe that a soundtrack is one of the most amazing creations in movies. Movies tell a story, a story which can be relatable for every average viewer. Imagine that this story is your life, your everyday actions and choices with background music. Who wouldn’t want that?  Not many people realise, but I bet that each and every one of us is a kind of a soundtrack composer. At least half of today’s society spends time with their headphones on, listening to music while working, commuting, studying or working out. It’s a natural thing to do, so imagine that one day somebody makes a soundtrack for all the situations happening in your life, for all the dramatic or joyful moments you experienced. Imagine that each moment in your life has a certain melody. I know that some people use music to deal with problems and difficult moments or have a strong memory of something in the past associated with a certain melody or song. Now you see, that is why the soundtrack is so incredibly important. 

The cover of Emma (2020) soundtrack album, all credits in the image

Recently, Netflix added the new version of Jane Austen’s novel Emma (2020, dir. Autumn de Wilde) on their streaming platform. The minute I saw the cover of the movie, I remembered the marvellous soundtrack and all the good memories I had with it. The musical score composer is a sibling of the famous actress and screenwriter Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag, Killing Eve). Isobel Waller-Bridge created a joyful background music that amplifies the witty situations Emma Woodhouse encounters, while creating the dynamic and colourful atmosphere. What’s more, the music playing in the background matches with the exceptional costume designs and the movie setting – 1800s England. It’s incredible how someone can come up with a melody which helps identify all that is happening around.
If you are wondering why this soundtrack is particularly important to me, let me tell you a short story. Right before the pandemic, with lots of school duties and cold weather, me and one of my best friends decided to spontaneously go to the movies. And since we both loved the previous version of Emma and Pride and Prejudice (also an amazing soundtrack), even though we were both busy, one with studying for the finals and the other with just general high-school stuff, we decided to go.  For the movie’s duration, we relaxed, forgot about all the things on our to-do lists and just enjoyed the evening. And what’s amazing about this whole situation is the fact that the background music from the movie reflected on how I felt during and after the movie. Even now when I come back to it, I always choose it as a softener and my playlist for some easy tasks or time-consuming duties.

Scene image from The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018), Zac Nicholson, all credits in the image

Another one which definitely creates a calm and peaceful atmosphere for me is the soundtrack of the motion picture, a Netflix production – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018, dir. Mike Newell). It’s a simple movie, with a great cast and amazing tunes. Anytime I find myself somewhere in the fields or by the seashore, I have this music stuck in my head and the image of the coastline ahead of me. For a long time, I used this soundtrack as my “go to sleep” playlist, as I have a habit of falling asleep while listening to music. Particularly, Juliet and Kit and Written For You are the two pieces that will transport you to an idyllic landscape with a sea view. I certainly would not mind if somebody would just create a soundtrack like that for all my strolls around the city or in the countryside. 

However, as we all know, not all soundtracks are joyful and whimsical. But I highly recommend finding one that will create a calm and peaceful atmosphere anywhere you go and no matter how you feel. However, going back to the more dramatic sounds, the brothers Gregson-Williams are famous for creating more suspenseful music, which amplifies the seriousness and is full of emotional scenes. The soundtrack I am most fond of, which I listen to when I need to focus or get something done immediately, is the one composed by Rupert Gregson-William from the motion picture Wonder Woman (2017, dir. Patty Jenkins). The music makes you motivated and something in this melody makes you feel like the main character, who has a mission to accomplish something – even if it’s just an essay with a deadline, it is still a mission. 

Scene image from Soul (2020), all credits in the image 

But drama is not what we need on a peaceful night with a good book, neither on our way to work or university. For situations like that I must say that the music created by Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and Jon Batiste for the Pixar motion picture Soul (2020) is irreplaceable. A little bit of slow tunes, soul and New York City sounds make the surroundings feel very different. 

Now, we’re getting to my favourite composer. It would honestly be a dream come true for me to have a life-soundtrack created by the one and only Theodore Shapiro. I must admit that probably Shapiro would have been my most listened to artist on my Spotify Wrapped, but since I do not have Spotify (please no shaming) I guess I’ll never know. But why do I love his music so much?

It’s not exactly about the movies or the memories I have with them, but somehow his work creates a very soothing atmosphere and at the same time motivational and inspiring feeling. He created the soundtrack for movies such as The Intern (2015, dir. Nancy Meyers), Collateral Beauty (2016, dir. David Frankel), Bombshell (2019, dir. Jay Roach). My personal favourite musical piece, from Theodore Shapiro, is the first melody we hear in the movie with Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway – The Intern. The name of that tune is “Love and Work” and that is the piece I decided to attach to this article, to create this atmosphere for you. Try listening to that composition the minute you leave your house to start a busy day, try feeling like the main character full of duties and problems, then take a deep breath, get yourself a cup of your favourite coffee or tea and I know your day will be different from normal. 

Scene image from The Intern (2015), all credits in the image

Naturally, calm music with a touch of classical tones is not for everyone, but anyone who is interested in getting a ‘ready to go’ or ‘calm and focus’ playlist, can ask for advice from me. I should also include plenty of other soundtracks that are absolute masterpieces, but I believe my time is up, so I’ll leave the rest for the next time. The “magic” of the soundtrack is tricky. Sometimes, the music is better than the movie, sometimes it’s the other way round, sometimes it’s just a particular moment we associate it with, but in general the music in movies is an exceptional creation that we all should embrace. We all have our own soundtracks with songs and tunes, so the question is, would you like to receive a musical composition for life? 

Written by Julia Kaczmarek

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