Music Revision Guide
Hey, remember me? No? That’s because I’ve been buried under a mountain of coursework and revision for the past few weeks. Like many people, music is the only thing that makes this process bearable. Therefore, I shall try to:
a) Introduce you to some of the music I revise to
b) Try to stop writing in essay style
Sometimes you can just pull out an old CD for your revision, sometimes that’s not such a good move. My brain struggles to make sense of recommended reading (all written in the foreign language of ‘Academic’) when I’m also singing along to Creature Feature’s catchy lyrics, or feeling sorry for Ozzy when no one believes that Pixies wear boots. It’s especially difficult when all the words you’re reading are made up, or this particular author has decided to re-name everything.
So, instead of a list of the most brilliant, comic or meaningful songs, here’s a list of the best instrumental tracks to revise to. I’ll note here that it’s mostly a mixture of mutant classical music (not opera, or any ancient symphonic stuff) and soundtracks. I’ll admit that these frequently overlap. So, let’s begin.
Question one: the question you know the format of and hopefully the content of too because it’s the same in every practice paper you can find. You’ve already written practice answers on every scrap of paper you can find, but you’re going to give it another go... mostly because it’s inevitable that this year they do it differently. You need something that will make you feel like you feel like you’re going the right way.
Lord of the Rings Soundtrack
If you listen to this while revising ‘You Shall Pass’.
So, while trudging through the folder full of notes, you’ve got the happy music of ‘Concerning Hobbits’ or ‘The Black Rider’ to lift your heart and make you smile. This may be more affective if you’ve seen the movie, and can see a smiling Frodo in your head. Then the edge of darkness in these tracks will make you want to move on, quickly, because there are bad guys on the way.
Then on to planning.
Who better to inspire you planning than ‘The Treason of Isengard’? The evil army is growing outside your window, so that plan needs to be completed fast, before they get bored and come for you. This track is probable my favourite bit of music from the movies; it’s like listening to an orchestra doing industrial music.
For the actual writing you’ve got a choice. Do you go for the sound of the evil armies building and marching, or do you go for the battle music, which is full of quick beats and scared violins?
Either way is good, because you can’t stop writing while either is playing. Keep battling those blank lines, because who could give up with such encouraging music behind them?
Finally done? Reward yourself with something mellow like ‘Evenstar’, even though it’s slightly sad, it’s a good relaxing track for detaching your fingers from your pen.
Or you could skip to the end and have the happily ever after music, like ‘The Return of The King’, where you’ve got nothing left to fight… just keep on ignoring the rest of the paper for now.
If you’ve seen the movies, this is a trip down memory lane, so you can be in two places at once. If not, it’s an epic orchestral album which will keep you on the edge of your seat.
You’ll feel like the star of your own movie. No wonder the movies did so well. If the three and a half hours aren’t enough for you, there’s always the soundtrack from The Hobbit that one will keep you going for more than an hour.
Question Two: be prepared for anything. You need music to keep you on your toes because this question could be on anything. Last year it was simultaneous equations… and this was a (insert most feared subject here) exam! Here we need something fast paced and strange.
If, like me a couple of years ago, you’d never really listened to anything with a violin in it, then the phrase ‘Electric Violin’ will make your eyebrows do interesting things. Sometimes I hear stuff on electric violin that just sounds like normal violins, but not here.
Emilie Autumn’s Laced/Unlaced EP
This is a collection of instrumentals that are predominately violin with a little keyboard backing. Her electric violin (which takes up the Unlaced half) sounds as different from the classical one as an electric guitar does from an acoustic. It sounds angry, and features on all her angriest songs.
When you’re trying to get working, this will conjure up some motivational mental images. On ‘leech jar’, it sounds like a UFO is floating around behind you, waiting for you to stop work to get you.
If you’re stuck for ideas, then the messy ‘Manic Depression’, which takes some getting used to, will force your brain to get back in gear and make sense of the noise… and hopefully the work too. Forgetting the UFOs, when you’re feeling down, the upbeat sound of ‘leech jar’ will pick you back up. It’s one of those collections that are so diverse it could make up the soundtrack to Your Life: The Movie.
If you get sick of the odd sound of the electric violin, you could always venture into the other half of the album. This is classical stuff, not too out of place in a Jane Austin adaptation. Things like ‘willow’ make you imagine medieval courts full of fat people eating legs of chicken (mental image may be influenced by recently watching the video for a Holy Diver cover). If you’re struggling to get to sleep because your brain is too full of stress, the Laced tracks will be good for anyone who likes to listen to music when they go to sleep (don’t listen to these if sleepy and trying to finish coursework).
Question Three: you’ve been at this for hours. You can’t remember how to spell your own name let alone the difference between X and Y. You need something that will make you feel amazing.
The first track: Dragonborn. This one is so amazing you might just want to play it on a loop for the whole hour. From the start, which apart from being amazing, is also reminiscent of the Morrowind Soundtrack (if you’re a fan of the series). You’ve got several guys chanting indecipherable sounds at you while you copy the question onto the top line. It’ll get your heart pumping and ready to write; who says you need coffee?
Have you played the game? If yes, it’s a trip through your memories. Remember that time you walked into town and a dragon sat in the middle of the town square. Remember when you spent a whole hour fast travelling between cities just to sell all the junk you picked up? Remember the time when… okay I’ll stop now. Even if you haven’t played the game, it’s a collection of amazing sounds worthy of a movie soundtrack.
There are two types of sound here. While you’re reading texts and trying to relax with a cup of coffee/ tea, then there’s the walking through town stuff, like ‘From Past to Present’ and ‘The City Gates’ that remind you of walking along windy road, picking every flower on the map. It’s so chilled out you won’t want to be stressed any more.
The other kind of music is a bit different. It’ll have you looking to the sky for dragons. This stuff will get you moving, and wake you up. This includes ‘Into Darkness’ which’ll make you alert enough to realise you just highlighted every word on the last three pages. Or maybe you’d prefer ‘One They Fear’ with a quick beat and the guys with deep voices telling you to keep on your toes (it’s like having your own group of epic cheerleaders). This soundtrack will leave you feeling like you’re a hero that just slain the evil textbook. Or maybe you’ve just been playing a game rather than trying to make sense of some terrible slides. With tracks that alternate from energetic to chilled out; you’ll never be completely calm, or on edge.
Question Twenty: Aaaaaahhhhh, where did the time go. The coursework it due tomorrow and you haven’t even started yet! What you need is something that will keep you awake and positive as you attempt to stay awake through the hours you never knew existed for working in before (What? It's 4am. Really?)
What you need is the incredibly happy music of Lindsey Stirling. Her youtube channel (Lindsey Stomp) is full of covers of everything. I stumbled across a Skyrim cover. It was done so well you could barely tell the difference. She’s done several other soundtracks, including Lord of the Rings, Mission Impossible, Assassins Creed and Game of Thrones (though I’m sure that last one was just an excuse to put on a blond wig and run around the desert).
Her original music is completely different. She calls it ‘dubstep violin’. At first, it’s a bit odd to get used to the mix of violin (sadly, not the electric one) and dubstep beats.
The effect is an album of endlessly energetic music. It may not be for all, but I’ll guarantee you can’t possibly feel sad while listening to it. ‘Shadows’ is a fun, bouncy track (with a great video… I’m trying to work out if it’s done with two people or a projector).
You find yourself floating through the last quarter. Before long you’ll be typing in time with the beat, which is fast enough to result in writing several pages before daybreak.
Or you could listen to ‘Moon Trance’ which is meant for some cheesy horror movie. Her tracks are a little samey, but once you get to know her style, you find it easier to pick out the differences. You can chill with the ambient sounds of ‘Crystallise’ or be energised by ‘Electric Daisy Violin’.
If that doesn’t get you through a panicked last minute essay, I don’t know what will.
Question Twenty Five: Okay, you’re on the eve of the deadline. The exam is just over the horizon and there’s nothing more you can do. Well, you could try and chill out a bit. I mean, you could probably do with some sleep.
The Piano Guys
I ran into these guys because they did the Mission Impossible cover with Lindsey Stirling (it’s on their second album). Their stuff is the most chilled out and will definitely make up for the stress. If you’re having trouble getting to sleep, they’ve got a cover of ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ that’ll sort that out.
Yes, even I could play that on piano, but the way they do it requires two hands and a cello! If, like me you’re a terrible nerd, then ‘Cello Wars’ is a brilliant cover and proof that you can create a beat using a cello. Even when they do a Mozart song they manage to make it cool. If you want to see just how much you can do with a cello, listen to some of these tracks; they have such strong beats and emotional range you won’t even notice you just realised to a cover of a pop song.
Fans of Evanescence will probably like these guys, since they already know how good a piano can sound. The instrument combo here is really impressive, allowing them to create something as grungy and fast-paced as a Bourne Identity cover, or something as happy as ‘Me and My Cello: Happy Together’ (Go watch the video for this one, it’s guaranteed to make you laugh).
The Day After
You made it through! Okay, so maybe you’re long past the days of coursework and exams, but I’m sure you’ve still got deadlines, a huge workload, or a pile of stress sitting on your shoulders at times. I have recently learned that you can buy the soundtrack for pretty much anything these days. I really wanted to include the Doom soundtrack from the first game or two, but that’s the one thing you can’t buy. You just have to listen to it on youtube.
Good luck, and hopefully Big Ed the editor will be so glad that he doesn’t have to get Paul Jack write another review this week that he doesn’t mind finding all the links for this one (and correcting the billion typos I’m sure I left behind).
(You wish Tali. I'm giving you an A* for the article itself and a C- for spelling! See if you can spot which of your typo's I left in for giggles - Ed.)