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Soundtrack review: The art of listening (Christopher Willits – 2017)

Documentary perfect scores

Soundtrack review: The art of listening (Christopher Willits – 2017)



“The Art of Listening” is a documentary film about the journey music takes to reach a listener’s ear, from the intent of an instrument maker and composer, to the producers and engineers who capture and preserve an artist’s voice. This film is an invitation for music fans to rediscover the intricacies and details available in their favourite recordings. The Art of Listening is the beginning of a conversation of how the quality of our listening experiences define the medium. Christopher Willits wrote the score.

Well this is inception level stuff as I am listening to a score about how a score comes to my ears. How do you as a composer write about this? Christopher Willits goes the ambient way and for me this is the best way he could go since I am such a fan of ambient music. The opening cue “Ama” is picture perfect atmospheric music, light and reflective, slow burning and immersive. The thing with ambient music is that you can’t describe it, or at least I can’t because it’s not meant to be described or talked about like most other genres; ambient music, according to one of it’s pioneers and legends Brian Eno, “must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting”. For me ambient music is an endless sanctuary of reflection; I am organically built to enjoy these sounds, this mood and to be hypnotised and enchanted by it. Nothing moves fast, nothing is loud and aggressive and there’s a feeling of constant floating that just soothes me and calms down all my worries and angst. I was not familiar with Christopher Willits but I am now as this score is simply perfect. Ironically my favourite cue from it is called “Words” as it seems to go even deeper; there is a slight and subtle tonal variation in this one that makes me perceive it as the core of the score.

Even within the atmospheric genre there are different types of sounds, some quieter and very minimalistic, others textural, others more complex; “The art of listening” hits the sweet spot for me as it has a chrome like shine to it: it’s not the lightest and most melodic and there are moments when it’s more dense than average. This is what makes it work so well for me as I like to drift off in a soundscape that is not empty; “Eme” for example is anything but simple and light and I am just as hypnotised by it. This is the kind of album I wish was longer but it’s alright, I can play it on a loop; even with the minimalistic trend in film music for the past couple of years there’s rarely been a composition that made me think of Brian Eno or other greats. “The art of listening” will become as ageless as the best atmospheric soundscapes crafted over the years and with the modern techniques at hand there is hope that this genre will continue to be developed and made popular. And as an ending note for me there will never be a wrong time to hear rain sound effects in a cue.

Cue rating: 100 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 36 / 36

Album excellence: 100%


Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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