Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

The Weekly List: Study Sesh

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Being a full-time student at a university, I have to study. A lot. It sort of comes with the title, most would say. While it’s typically suggested for one to do this in order to find moderate success in years to come, it’s something that’s probably as enjoyable as attending lecture halls themselves. On nights where I’d rather do anything besides read from the messy notes I have sitting in my lap, I find that putting on some good ol’ orchestral movie scores helps get me in the right mindset. I mean, tired brains can only get you so far- and this playlist gives you that extra push to get there, and get a passing grade.

  1.     “Cambridge, 1963” composed by Johan Johannsson (The Theory of Everything, 2014)

Topping the list is a piece that begins with the timid pitter of a piano, soon after accompanied by strings that lead to a strong crescendo. Not only is this piece my personal favorite, but I find that it helps me focus like no other. Maybe because it’s tied to a film based on Stephen Hawking, or maybe it’s because this is the piece that turned me onto film scores in the first place- but listening to it just makes you feel smarter.

  1.     “Rowing” composed by Johan Johannsson (The Theory of Everything, 2014)

Also hailing from The Theory of Everything, “Rowing” helps you block out any distractions that could ever possibly bother you. The angry and powerful tone in the second half of the song, thanks to a switch in swoonful harp-playing to high-pitched violins, makes you that perfect amount of angry to motivate you in your studying.

  1.     “Alan” composed by Alexandre Desplat (The Imitation Game, 2014)

Maybe it’s the perceived urgency of the piano, or maybe it’s the fact that Benedict Cumberbatch stars in the movie, but this score makes endless hours of math problems seem like the easiest and most wonderful thing in the world. This lively composition is one of the only things that keeps my half-mast eyes still open on late nights that turn to early mornings. While playing this, focus comes as naturally as Alan Turing’s ability to code and crunch numbers themselves.

  1.     “Hand Covers Bruise” composed Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (The Social Network, 2010)

Simplistic is an understatement to describe this piece. This mellow score, highlighted in the beginning of the film that depicts Mark Zuckerberg’s collegiate journey to launch Facebook, features shaky violins and undecorated piano playing. It’s dark and brooding, and the perfect backdrop to any late-night study cram where you need motivation to eventually start your own social network platform.

  1.     “Time” composed by Hans Zimmer (Inception, 2010)

Hans Zimmer, one of my favorite modern composers, creates a gloomy setting that likely aligns with your current feelings on studying. The piece, along with the others composed for the movie, was nominated for the “Best Original Score” category at the 83rd Academy Awards. Essentially, it’s one that’s critically-acclaimed and pleasant on the ears, so you can’t go wrong here.

  1.     “Gumption” composed by Hans Zimmer (The Holiday, 2006)

This charming piece, with a Christmastime feel, makes you feel all warm and cozy even when you’re surrounded by a fort of cold, hard books. With a heavy violin influence and a subtle jingle-like melody towards the end, it turns cram sessions into ones that aren’t entirely eye-roll worthy. Not incredibly academic sounding, but it puts you in a good mood when studying such tedious topics.

  1.     “This Is Not a Dream” composed by Daniel Hart (Comet, 2014)

An abrupt ending that sounds like a comet flying across the sky itself matches the way your head hits the desk at 2 am after reading hours upon hours of anthropology notes. Repetitive piano playing overlaps with a string orchestra to make a piece that aids in teaching yourself two weeks worth of material, especially when you’re wishing upon a shooting star to simply go to bed.

  1.     “Buchanan Mansion and Daisy Suite” composed by Craig Armstrong (The Great Gatsby, 2013)

While the movie itself wracked in some mixed reviews, the score itself could only have the most positive. Whimsical twinkling throughout, accompanied by by the dull hum of a piano and vibrant violins, keeps you in the study zone like nothing else. After all, those long nights of hard work could, in the long run, make you as rich as Tom Buchanan himself.

  1.     “Where Is My Mind” performed by Maxence Cyrin (It’s Kind of a Funny Story, 2010)

This entirely piano-based piece is basic enough to block out any outer noise while still making hours of page-turning bearable. Originally released by The Pixies in 1988, this revamped version turns an angsty, loud song into a non complex arrangement that’s easy on the ears and brain.

  1.  “To a Future With an End” composed by Rob Simonsen (The Age of Adaline, 2015)

Being relatively succinct piece, this is the one I go to when I need to do a last-minute cram right before the actual exam starts. The booming drums in the background of such a string-based piece gives you that extra boost of confidence that’s sometimes lacking right before a big test, and makes all those minutes of reading worthwhile.


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