Soundtracks to Write to, Vol. 1 – Period Film Scores

Castle Howard – the scenic home to  Brideshead Revisited , mentioned below, photographed by Olivia Gündüz-Willemin in 2016.

Castle Howard – the scenic home to Brideshead Revisited, mentioned below, photographed by Olivia Gündüz-Willemin in 2016.

For all the joy that it otherwise brings with its budding trees and softer temperatures, this time of year also means that everyone I know is sitting indoors, writing away at their dissertations, theses, and essays. I’ve spent my fair share of time doing just that, year-round, and often, the only company I would allow myself would be that of my favorite film soundtracks. I can never, ever write while speaking to others or allowing well-known films or shows to play in the background. I can’t even listen to music with any lyrics to it. I’m not as well-versed in classical music as I’d like to be, and I do love the narrative that comes with a period drama score, so my solution has always been to turn to them. They brings bits and pieces of my favorite stories and writers to me as I write, and having been a literature student for most of my life, that gives me an extra bit of strength and inspiration to keep going with my own writing.

Here are a couple of my favorites…

The Hours, Philip Glass – The ultimate, the wonderful, the most divine of all soundtracks to write to – about Virginia Woolf, for Virginia Woolf, and for all womxn writing everywhere. It is the one I turn to whenever I need reassurance or whenever I am working on something that I am truly, emotionally invested in writing. All of my best essays and chapters have been written to it.

Pride & Prejudice, Jean-Yves Thibaudet – A wonderful runner-up. The Pride & Prejudice soundtrack is the best one to have on in the background – quiet, beautiful, but emotionally-charged. (And, if like me, you’ve seen the 2005 film a thousand times, it evokes everything you love about the film so that you have its calming visuals running through your head – its linen dresses, its dewy meadows, its cups of tea.)

Atonement, Dario Marianelli – A more frantic soundtrack. Faster. More tragic. Full of typewriting noises. It is one to listen to when writing on a deadline, afraid that if you don’t make it in time, all will end. But it will do so beautifully.

Sense and Sensibility, Patrick Doyle – This is just one of the most beautiful soundtracks ever, and I recommend it when writing anything that has to do with classic literature.

Emma, Samuel Sim – What can I say? Jane Austen adaptations just make for perfect, calming but pretty soundtracks. Longer, more upbeat than the above Pride & Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility soundtracks, the Samuel Sim is the one to listen to when actually writing about Jane Austen or any piece of writing that has a happy ending (including your essay).

Phantom Thread, Jonny Greenwood – Quiet, beautiful, but more sinister, the Phantom Thread soundtrack is for when you’re writing about misogyny or consumption or unrequited love in literature or are just stuck indoors writing on a rainy day.

Brideshead Revisited, Terry Davis – Featuring one of the most beautiful piano pieces of all soundtrack time, the Brideshead Revisited score is one of my favorites to just listen to, whether writing or just staring out a train window in the summertime. It’s beautiful, it’s rolling, and it breaks your heart.

Marie Antoinette (xoxo, Sofia Coppola) – The first disc in the Marie Antoinette soundtrack may mostly be made up of New Wave tunes that comprise one of the best soundtracks ever made, but it isn’t exactly made for writing. The second disc however, is a beautiful compilation of mostly classical and all chill music that is wonderful to have on in the background as you write, especially on a Sunday afternoon. (So much love for Aphex Twin.)

Jane Eyre, Dario Marianelli – Not a favorite, but sometimes exactly what you need when writing about Victorian literature. I spent the entirety of July 2013 listening to this Marianelli score as I wrote about Wuthering Heights.

Anna Karenina, Dario Marianelli – Say what you will about this Joe Wright adaptation, but it made for a beautiful soundtrack. My favorite score to write to in the winter, or when I need to feel like it’s winter.

Downton Abbey – I personally can probably never listen to the Downton Abbey soundtrack ever again, but did it ever get me through my early undergrad essays.

What are your favorite film soundtracks to write to?


Olivia Gündüz-Willemin is Editor-in-Chief of The Attic on Eighth. She is dedicated to reading her way through the world and trying to stay as calm as possible.