Film Music: The Theory of Everything

In 2014, the movie The Theory of Everything won a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score (it was also nominated for an Academy Award in the same category). I don’t normally pay attention to those sorts of things, but I was intrigued by the composer – Icelandic musician Jóhann Jóhannsson – so I looked up the score. And I’m glad I did.

The film depicts the life story of physicist Stephen Hawking, and that’s all of the information I had when I first listened to the score. If you want to know more about the movie, read here.

What I love about this score is that it tells its own story; I didn’t need to know much about the movie in order to enjoy listening. The music is simple and quiet yet complex and emotional. (I also love the prominence of the piano in the score.) Read these interviews with Jóhann here and here (and check out a video interview here) for a more in-depth analysis of how the score works with the movie.

My most favorite work in this whole score is Cavendish Lab. It’s slow and understated and seemingly repetitive, but Jóhann’s use of instrumental color designs a new world of tranquility and calm (created through dialogue between the piano and the strings and the use of some electronic effects). It’s perfect to set on repeat when doing homework. 🙂

Jóhann’s composition style is modern. He creates electronic music with drones and loops, and this is evident in The Theory of Everything. However, he combines his modern ideas with some more traditional orchestral sounds (listen to Cambridge, 1963), which is partly what makes the music so charming.

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