Movie soundtracks (or more specifically film scores) are an often overlooked aspect of the cinematic experience and have been used to great effect to create every kind of atmosphere. From iconic scores such as the triumphant main theme to Jurassic Park (composed by John Williams) to more subtle scores that create a background atmosphere such as the music used in Inception (composed by Hans Zimmer).
Interestingly, in the Museum of Moving Image in New York, there is a feature that allows you to replace the soundtrack to a 1 minute excerpt of a famous film with something entirely different. Often users will describe a completely different emotional reaction to the same piece of visual cinema when the soundtrack is changed, such is its importance.
Because a movie soundtrack is composed to fit in with a story and create a background atmosphere, they can be extremely relaxing pieces of music. Their natural ebb and flow linked with the story of the film creates its own journey, which can be enjoyed independent of any visuals.
Of course, depending on the type of film and the influence of the composer on it, some soundtracks can be more atmospheric and relaxing than others. So to help, below is a selection of the top 5 most relaxing movie soundtrack pieces to see an evening out (strictly with a glass of wine).
Composer: James Horner
Song Title: Casper’s Lullaby
The format of this soundtrack starts off true to the film – with a magical festive feel. Just after the 1 minute mark, in complete contrast, there is a switch to a much more delicate repeating piano phrase which again reflects the films more introspective moments.
Film: The Holiday
Composer: Hans Zimmer
Song Title: Maestro
This track dominates an early scene setting part of the film taking us through the views on love of one of the main characters. It is in itself a mini story – with soaring highs falling away to restrained lows to mimic the character’s opinions. It opens with soft piano bars which build to give way to a powerful strings performance that amplifies the strength of the emotion felt in the character’s account of love.
Film: American Beauty
Composer: Thomas Newman
Song Title: Main Theme
The iconic minimalist piano phrase was essential in creating an air of beauty in this film. The minimalism of the track reflects Kevin Spacey’s character perfectly, stripped back to the core in search of meaning to his life. Less is certainly more here, giving time for the viewer to soak in the on screen imagery and contemplate what real beauty is.
Film: The Last Samurai
Composer: Hans Zimmer
Song Title: A Way of Life
The Last Samurai has an almost trance like background soundtrack – present for most of the film to create an almost sacred beauty which perfectly complements the on screen Japanese wilderness that pervades. The beginning is the definition of a gentle minimalist background track that builds to an achingly sad violin main theme that aptly echoes the samurai’s struggle to find a place in society.
Film: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Composer: Alexandre Desplat
Song Title: Sunrise on Lake Pontchartrain
This soundtrack creates an air of peace and beauty with delicate strings interspersed with occasional piano overlays. Again, as is common with all these soundtracks it perfectly connects with the film amplifies the moment that a father and son connect for one last time to make peace with their past.