The internet is full of places for graphic designers to find inspiration, but where are sound designers to go to be inspired? Right here, of course. The following songs combine lush instrumentation, complex arrangements and, in some cases, avant-garde editing to create evocative pieces that tell a story, sometimes without words. Close your eyes and take a listen:
1. “Frontier Psychiatrist,” by The Avalanches
Frontier Psychiatrist is nearly five minutes of nonsensical audio clips taken from a movie, strung together and layered on top of a driving beat. The magic is that in all of its insanity, everything still works together.
2. “ROAR! (Cloverfield Overture),” by Michael Giacchino
Moviegoers were divided over Cloverfield upon its release, but any audiophile will appreciate the thunderous piece that helped drive the film and gave the monster its bite.
3. Symphony No. 9; 4th Movement (Ode to Joy), Beethoven
The original music maestro’s orchestration is at times delicate and sweet and at others grandiose and triumphant. The greatest achievement of the song is conveying a sense of might and power without a single word (that is, until the chorus kicks in).
4. “The Diva Dance,” by Inva Mula-Tchako/Eric Serra
Tchako’s acrobatic soprano is sure to spark a debate: Is she actually singing those seemingly impossible notes or was the performance digitally altered? While a close listen supports the latter opinion, the filmmakers insist that it was not.
5. “Dora the Explorer” (Baltimore remix)
A harmless children’s television theme is chopped up and given a thumping bass line, transforming the innocent song into something completely different (listen to the original here).
6. “Overture,” by DeVotchKa
The indie fave band gives Danny Elfman’s original composition for The Nightmare Before Christmas an injection of Eastern European flavor on the recently released “Nightmare Revisited” album. Listen with headphones and you will hear each weird and wacky instrument clearly, though there are many to listen for.
7. “Hot Lunch Jam,” Fame: Original Soundtrack
The kinetic energy of the 1980 film is epitomized in this disco-funk jam that starts with a simple drum beat and crescendos into layer upon layer of electrifying sound.
8. “Tonight, Tonight” by The Smashing Pumpkins
The operatic tone of “Tonight, Tonight” is cinematic and moving, even without the haunting vocals of frontman Billy Corgan.
9. “United State of Pop,” mixed by DJ Earworm
The top 25 songs of 2007 are mixed into one seamless track. It’s hard to tell whether this should be attributed to DJ Earworm’s masterful mixing skills or the homogenization of modern pop music.
10. “Rhapsody in Blue,” George Gershwin
Gershwin’s 1924 jazz/classical instrumental composition was given a narrative courtesy of Disney’s Fantasia, but as a solo piece, its highs and lows create a musical landscape that gives the listener’s imagination a platform to run wild.