Like every other college, Cornell has tests. But, unlike every other college, we don’t call these tests “tests” — we call them “prelims.” Why, you may ask? Well, why is equestrian an Olympic sport? Some things we’ll just never know the answers to.
Anyway, you will likely want to listen to music while you study for these prelims, and since I find music with lyrics distracting while I’m trying to read and memorize notes, movie scores are the way to go.
Keep in mind, this is a list of the best soundtracks to study to, not best soundtracks, so don’t complain that John Williams’s iconic “Star Wars” music, unquestionably the greatest soundtrack of all-time, isn’t on this list. When you listen to the “Star Wars” soundtrack, you think the force exists; when you think the force exists, you think you can use it; when you think you can use it, you think you don’t have to study; when you think you don’t have to study, you don’t study; and when you don’t study, you fail your prelim. Don’t fail your prelim. Don’t listen to the “Star Wars” soundtrack while studying.
Honorable Mention: “Finding Neverland” (Jan A. P. Kaczmarek), “The Theory of Everything” (Johann Johannsson), “Titanic” (James Horner), “Life of Pi” (Mychael Danna), “Pirates of the Caribbean” (Hans Zimmer) and “Unbreakable” (James Newton Howard).
Composer: Hans Zimmer
Best track: “Time”
Good for… convincing yourself that you’re actually in a dream and, in reality, you don’t have a prelim tomorrow
9) Pride and Prejudice
Composer: Dario Marianelli
Best track: “Dawn”
Good for… relaxing just before your test
8) Batman Begins
Composers: Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard
Best track: “Eptesicus”
Good for… getting the chills
With two of the most talented people in their field working together, it was a guaranteed success — like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook on the Thund… oh, wait… this is awkward.
Composer: Howard Shore
Best track: “Deference and Complicity”
Good for… being super productive
I always turn to this when I need to buckle down and get stuff done. This movie is about a group of journalists who buckle down and get stuff done, so I guess it makes sense.
6) The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
Composer: Howard Shore
Best track: The entire three hours
Good for… feeling inspired
Fun fact: In the soundtrack for “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King,” a movie with no fewer than three false endings, the fourth-to-last track is titled “The End of All Things.”
5) The Village
Composer: James Newton Howard
Best track: “What Are You Asking Me?”
Good for… enjoying beautiful violin solos
After working together on “The Sixth Sense,” “Unbreakable,” and “Signs,” this was the point in the collaboration between director M. Night Shyamalan and composer Howard when the former began considerably struggling to keep up with the latter. By the time Shyamalan got to “The Last Airbender,” Howard could have used microphone feedback overlapped with the noise of a crying baby as the soundtrack and the previous statement would still have been true.
Composer: Arcade Fire
Best track: “Loneliness #3 Night Talking”
Good for… relieving stress
This score makes a love story between an awkward guy and his smartphone touching. What more do you want?
3) Mad Max: Fury Road
Composer: Junkie XL
Good for… not falling asleep
Listening to this soundtrack while driving is strongly discouraged, as you may feel the sudden urge to start smashing your car into things, which is not safe. The heavy rhythm, however, is certain to keep you awake in the Olin Library stacks during your 12PM-7PM study marathon before your 7:30PM prelim, no matter how sleep-deprived you may be.
Composer: Hans Zimmer
Best track: “Cornfield Chase”
Perfect for… letting your creative juices flow to background music that is both epic and soothing
If you haven’t listened to the roughly 90-minute deluxe version of this score, you’re missing out. The minimalist organ solos are emotionally evocative, the stripped-down string ensemble sections are eerie and relaxing, and the brass crescendos are nothing short of spectacular. The docking scene music is so inspirational that my high school basketball team almost played it on during layup lines before our games, right between “Rack City” and “All of the Lights.”
1) Yo Yo Ma Plays Ennio Morricone
Composer: Ennio Morricone
Best track: “Gabriel’s Oboe” and “The Falls” from “The Mission” Original Score
Good for… literally anytime
Okay, I cheated — this album comprises tracks from many different movies — but I had to. Think about some of the worst sounds you could possibly hear: nails on a chalkboard, your alarm clock, any person saying the words “President Trump” and that sound when you try to drink from the straw of a milkshake but there’s no more milkshake left. This entire album of the greatest cellist in the world playing works from the incomparable Morricone might just be the best sound you could possibly hear.