I love to be able to lose myself in a piece of music. I like tracks that have a headlong motion – that make you feel that you are falling towards something. Music that feels indefatigable and full of unnamed purpose. These pieces of music help me to forget where I am when I am writing. They are almost hypnotic in the way they encourage you to sink into your imagination. On a loop, you could stay there all day – submerged in an isolation tank of rhythmic insistence.
All five of these choices benefit from a mesmerizing beat and a slow build, that feels divorced from the context of its original composition. They are all filled with a potent sense of purpose.
1.) ‘The Landing’ by Justin Hurwitz is a sublime piece of music. It stood out for me in a soundtrack I found easier to forget, for a film I thought was good but not great – First Man (2018, directed by Damien Chazelle and starring Ryan Gosling).
2.) ‘The Orgy’ by Basil Poledouris is a strangely melodic piece taken from the wider bombast of Conan the Barbarian’s soundtrack (the original 1982 version - directed by John Milius, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and based on Robert E. Howard’s wonderful pulp fantasy stories). I have a special appreciation for the rest of the soundtrack but I find this track especially inducing.
3.) ‘Promontory’ by Trevor Jones, taken from 1992’s The Last of the Mohicans is a more aggressive piece, but still soothingly so. It drives you on before it with emotion and insistence. The historical movie is a classic and a treat (based on James Fenimore Cooper’s novel of the same name) starring Daniel Day Lewis and directed by Michael Mann.
4.) ‘Leave No Man Behind’ by the incredible Hans Zimmer manages to be both irresistibly forlorn and yet hopeful. It charts a journey, both physical and emotional in the 2001 war film Black Hawk Down by Ridley Scott (based on Mark Bowden’s book charting the Battle of Mogadishu) but the piece of music feels timeless.
5.) This list wouldn’t be complete without ‘Boléro’ by the composer Maurice Ravel (1928). I first heard this piece of music in a primary school drama lesson when I was a child. It took me to a completely different place and its power to harness the imagination has not diminished for me since.
All of these tracks are accessible through various media – for example, Spotify – and I encourage you to sample their wonderful sense of purpose.