Inspiration Through Music: A Beautiful Mind Soundtrack

I talked a couple weeks ago about g0-to music for writers. Each writer should have a library of music that they use to get “into the mood” when working on a specific scene or with a certain character. I have a few choice ones that I go directly to when I work on The Monstrum Chronicles; ie: Massive Attack, Normund Corbiel’s soundtrack for Heavy Rain, The Crystal Method, Maynard James Keenan, and Imogen Heap among others. But when I came across a flashback scene that needed to be written for Aequitas, I found that the only thing that would do was James Horner’s haunting score from A Beautiful Mind.

A Beautiful Mind was my first score soundtrack that I’d ever bought for myself. I remember being so excited to get it. It must have been for my 13th birthday. I remember rushing home with my friends and putting it on and saying, “Just you wait, guys. You’re going to love this.” I played the first track, “A Kaleidoscope of Mathematics,” containing Charlotte Church’s beautiful vocals. I looked at my friends and they all stared at me like I had nine heads. My friends still remember that moment. It must have been the point when they realized how crazy I was.

That soundtrack changed my life. I’m making it sound more epic than you might think but it’s true. I don’t think I’d ever had an appreciation for original score music until I saw that film and listened to the music in it. (It’s a wonder I even properly understood the film at my age.) Soon after this came the K-PAX soundtrack which is my second favorite in all of the ones that I own. I have several pieces from over 80 score soundtracks in my ever-growing library. You can never have too much of a good thing, especially if it’s music.

There are five distinct tracks on the album that I go to when in need of a perfect mood filler. I’ve listened to the music while working on many stories over the last ten years.

Playing A Game of “Go!”: I love music that has a mysteriousness to it. The trickling piano keys at the beginning of this song lend an almost fairy-like feeling to it. It’s as though someone is seeing a new and different world for the first time, a world where anything can be possible. No matter where I’ve used it as a tool, it is always used at the beginning of a new experience for a character. Along with the piano is the deep and somber cello about two minutes and ten seconds in. The character can sense that there is a weight to the decision they have to make. Do they choose to venture into the new world? Or remain behind with all that’s familiar?

Cracking the Russian Codes: This is one of the darker songs on the soundtrack. It announces that the character has reached a point in his story where he mustn’t turn back and from here on out, things will always be different. There’s a lighter point in the song that almost sounds triumphant and excited for the things to come. Has the character finally found their calling? Have they discovered a usefulness in their lives? Around 2:20, you get the impression that they are having second thoughts. Maybe they’ve made a mistake in doing what they’re doing. The music ends ambiguously. We’re not sure if they’ve kept going or turned around.

The Car Chase: This is a beautiful and intense piece, probably one of James Horner’s best. In the beginning, you can almost hear the quiet desperation of the character. They realize now that they’ve made a mistake. They are at a loss for what to do. After several more moments, they know what needs to be done. It’s all or nothing, win or lose. It’s too late to go back to the way that things were. There are people who depend on them and despite this, they feel very alone in their present circumstances.

Alicia Discovers Nash’s Dark World: (You have to go to this tab and press the play button in order to listen to it) This is my favorite song on the soundtrack, hands down. This is the one that I listened to while writing the flashback scene for “Aequitas.” You get an immediate sense of distrust in this post. Everyone involved is working their own angle and genuineness doesn’t play into it in any way. I also get betrayal out of this. The character discovers something about themselves. They aren’t as innocent as they once believed. Sinister events have brought them to where they are now. There is a military march kind of feel with the drums around 2:10 which gives some authority to the piece. In my perspective, the character doesn’t have much choice. Marching is about conformity and order. The character is being made to do something they don’t want. At 4:37, the character gives in and allows them to push him into their plans. The best part of this piece starts at 5:18 though. Perplexity abounds here. A curious wonder at how things went wrong. That familiar tune from “The Car Chase” returns and you know that there’s nothing to be done. This is dark, intense, and varied and works well for several different writing atmospheres, especially suspense, thrillers or horror projects.

Teaching Mathematics Again: It’s my only pick from the soundtrack that expresses any hope, romance, or general goodness. The reason I picked this over others is that it’s a bit more subdued and therefore, it sounds much prettier to me. The beginning of the song is also a brilliant touch with the piano. Around 1:38, the song becomes even more personal for the character. If this doesn’t make you get inside your own character’s head, then I don’t know what will. By the end of the song, you have the feeling that everything has righted itself and things are heading in a good direction.

There are several other tracks on this album worthy of mention and definitely worth a listen, but those 5 to me will always be my favorites and the ones with the most personal meaning. James Horner’s soundtrack was nominated for an Academy Award in 2001. The film won best picture among other things. If you haven’t seen it, give it a watch.

Next week on Inspiration Through Music, I’ll focus on the music of Philip Glass. Glass has been one of my favorite composers ever since I heard his score for “The Illusionist.” I’ll be focusing on many different pieces from his career that have helped my writing.

In other news today, I have reached the 2/3 mark of my editing in “Aequitas.” I hope to power through the rest of it within the next week or so. Fingers crossed.

~KSilva

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