Arts Desk

The Pragmatist: Three Songs for Soundtracking an Academic Montage

For mortals, there is no fun, exciting way to successfully speed up an intense study session.  It's arduous: reading so many pages, taking notes, memorizing important information, working through difficult new concepts. Of course, in the soft focus of the cinematic lens, we have the ever-helpful montage to help our hero blaze through hours upon hours of tedious tasks in mere minutes (or less!). While an athletic montage might require a testosterone-drenched jock jam, an academic montage works best with more subtle tension. The song can't be too distracting or call too much attention to itself, but it has to provide movement and an element of longing and conflict to imbue with drama moments as simple as thumbing through a textbook. If Johnny is going to finally get into law school/finish college despite his frat-party mishaps/get that scholarship by conquering the SATs, he's going to need a properly soundtracked montage.

Perhaps too obvious a choice, Steve Reich's compositional canon includes minimalist works that offer such focus and tension they almost sound like learning made audible, if learning always culminated in a profound and groundbreaking epiphany. "Pulse," from his classic Music For 18 Musicians, provides just what the title suggests: an indelible pulse that easily pushes a plot forward.

In the less esoteric realm of pop music, there are still ample choices for properly setting the scene. Belle & Sebastian's "Sleep The Clock Around" is a soft but quick-moving track with a near constant dramatic demeanor. Hushed vocals atop a perpetually forward feel compliment an abridged academic journey in marvelous ways.

Banjo-inflected acoustic conflict pours out of Typefighter's "Worth The Weight." The track's regular invocation of the word "home" adds a pining sense of urgency, which ought to round out a collegiate montage just right. Your life may not be a movie, but if you want to feel smarter, check out Typefighter in person at the Black Cat this Saturday.

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