Best female video game characters

Videogames used to be the home of the overly muscled, hyper-macho hero. Nowadays, girls have someone to look up to in games as well. Read below for six of our favourite female characters.

Aloy – Horizon Zero Dawn

Although video games have come a long way to achieving true gender equality, Horizon Zero Dawn‘s Aloy is the very definition of fair treatment of a female character. She’s unsexualised, and free to be herself, as part of a tribe that worships a matriarchy. This allows Aloy’s character to develop without the ongoing cliche of her being a female in a man’s world. Aloy’s outfits are practical, she’s straight-talking, intelligent and a more than capable warrior. Even though she lives in a futuristic world with robot dinosaurs, Aloy feels utterly believable. I believe that Aloy’s creation for Horizon Zero Dawn is a landmark moment for gender equality in video games.

Ellie – The Last of US

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Ellie in The Last of Us Part II. (Credit: Naughty Dog)

Ellie in The Last of Us is the quintessential survivor. She’s tough, independent and complex. The Last of Us takes place in a post-apocalyptic America, where the majority of people have succumbed to a zombie-like infection to which Ellie is immune. Ellie was born after the outbreak, which gives her a unique perspective on life. At only 15, she’s perhaps a bit naive to begin. Soon however, she has no other choice than to become a hardened survivor: doing whatever it takes to survive. Ellie was only a playable character for segments of the game, but will be the lead protagonist of The Last of Us: Part II, which is still in development.

Lara Croft – Tomb Raider

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Lara Croft in the Tomb Raider reboot. (Credit: Square Enix)

Lara Croft is perhaps the most famous female video game character of all time. The treasure hunting heroine has  featured in several games spanning from her first appearance in 1996, and has had two movie adaptations, where she has been played by Angelina Jolie and Alicia Vikander. Her appearance is well known, with her sporting a ponytail, tank top and dual pistols. Her original appearance has since faced criticism for being sexualised, but in 2013, Square Enix Studios rebooted the franchise with a more grounded and realistic Lara Croft that has achieved much critical acclaim.

Chloe Frazer – Uncharted

Another treasure hunter, but the similarities to Lara Croft end at their shared profession. Chloe Frazer is a unique character in that she works from her own moral compass and always puts her own interests first, but is still ultimately good. She plays off the personality of the Uncharted series’ protagonist, Nathan Drake, in that she is almost his darker counterpart. The player is never sure of her intentions or loyalties, but in Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, we see her more heroic side come through. She is incredibly enjoyable to watch interact with the series’ characters, as well as in her own spin-off title, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. 

Senua – Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

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Senua in Senua’s Sacrifice. (Credit: Ninja Theory)

Senua, the protagonist of the dark fantasy story, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice suffers from psychosis. The developers made a special point to include the characters mental illness in order to raise awareness of the condition. Hellblade follows the journey of Pict warrior, Senua, on a dangerous journey to claim her dead lover’s soul back from the goddess Hela.  It is strongly implied that the story is taking place inside Senua’s head, and the developers worked with neuroscientists and people suffering from psychosis to achieve an accurate representation of the condition. Senua is strong not just because she battles physical enemies, but also the demons in her own head.

Ciri – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Cirilla Fiona Elen Riannon, or Ciri, is one of the main characters in a series rife with powerful women. Ciri is the adopted daughter of the game’s protagonist, Geralt of Rivia, who has been missing for several years, but has now returned with the evil Wild Hunt in pursuit, who plan on using her for her magic blood. Once Geralt has collected all of the clues to where Ciri has been, the player gets to reenact past events as they happened by playing as Ciri. A trained monster hunter herself, Ciri is an expert with a sword as well as possessing magic abilities. Even though she has had a tragic upbringing, Ciri remains strong and strives for the greater good.

Freya – God of War

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Freya in God of War. (Credit: SIE Santa Monica Studio)

Freya in God of War is an especially interesting character. She is the God of War universe’s version of the Norse Goddess Freya, the wife of Odin. In God of War, she is now divorced from Odin and is living in the woods of Midgard, looking after the living beings of her woods. She comes to the aid of the protagonist, Kratos, several times over the course of the story. Freya’s son, Baldur (brother of Thor), acts as an antagonist to Kratos, and wants to kill Freya in revenge for her making him invulnerable – as it came at the cost of him being unable to feel anything. (Spoilers) Kratos kills Baldur to save Freya, but Freya hates Kratos for killing her son, giving an unforgettable warning:

“I will rain down every agony, every violation imaginable, upon you… I will parade your cold body from every realm, and feed your soul to the vilest filth in Hel, that is my promise!”

It appears Freya will be an antagonist in the next God of War game, and if she lives up to a portion of what she promised, she will make an excellent villain.

Top 8 female directors

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Kathryn Bigelow was the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director in 2009. (Credit: 20th Century Fox)

Yet again there was an absence of female directors in this year’s major awards ceremonies nominations. Apart from Kathryn Bigelow’s 2009 Academy Award Best Director win for her film, The Hurt Locker, female directors have largely been neglected from the best director category at the Oscars as well as the BAFTAs.

Despite this, there is an abundance of talented creative women who should be known and appreciated for their contributions to the world of film. So, just in time for International Women’s Day, here’s a list of 10 fantastic female directors.

1) Lynne Ramsey

'You Were Never Really Here' premiere, BFI London Film Festival, UK - 14 Oct 2017

Lynne Ramsey’s latest film You Were Never Really Here starred Joaquin Phoenix in the leading role. (Credit: Pete Summers)

Scottish-born director, cinematographer, writer and producer, Lynne Ramsey, won the Cannes Jury Prize for her first short film Small Deaths and since then has gone on to direct, write and produce a number of successful films. We Need to Talk About Kevin, released in 2011, starring Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly and Ezra Miller was met with positive reviews and was nominated for a number of awards including a BAFTA and a Golden Globe. Most recently Ramsey wrote, directed and produced psychological thriller starring Joaquin Phoenix, You Were Never Really Here. The film won best screenplay at the Cannes Film Festival in 2017.

 

2) Ava DuVernay

Before diving into the world of film, Ava DuVernay was involved in journalism and PR, working for 20th Century Fox, but ended up creating her own PR agency, The DuVernay Agency. But since 2005, after she made her first film Saturday Night Life, DuVernay has been involved in the production of films, television, music videos and advertising. In 2014, she directed Selma, a film based on the Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965 led by Martin Luther King Jr. The film was nominated for best picture at the Oscars but DuVernay missed out on a best director nomination. Most recently, DuVernay is set to direct a New Gods adaptation for the DC Extended Universe.

 

3) Jennifer Kent

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Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook terrified audiences in 2014. (Credit: Indiewire)

Starting her career as an actress, Jennifer Kent starred in a number of Australian-based television series before becoming an acting teacher at the Australian Film Television and Radio School. But it was in 2014 that she wrote and made her directorial debut making one of the most memorable horror films of the 21st century, The Babadook. Following the story of a mother and son in turmoil as they are haunted by a disturbing presence in their home, The Babadook received rave reviews from critics and won a number of awards including best horror at the 20th Empire Awards.

 

4) Karyn Kusama

After working on documentary films following her graduation from New York University, Karyn Kusama directed her first feature film, Girlfight, starring Michelle Rodriguez (Avatar, Widows) and released it in 2000. The film received a series of awards including the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. Since then, Kusama directed the cult classic comedy horror film Jenifer’s Body in 2009 and in 2015 directed the well-received psychological thriller, The Invitation. Now available on Netflix, The Invitation follows a number of couples at a dinner party gone wrong.

 

5) Valerie Faris

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The dysfunctional Hoover family captured the hearts of audiences in Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton’s Little Miss Sunshine. (Credit: Eric Lee/Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Teamed up with her husband, Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris has won six MTV Music Video Awards while directing music videos for The Smashing Pumpkins, R.E.M. and Oasis just to name a few. However, the pair made their feature film directorial debut in 2006 with the highly successful, Little Miss Sunshine, which one two BAFTAs and two Oscars. The film starred big names including Toni Collette, Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell and Alan Arkin and followed the Hoover family as they took a road-trip to watch Olive (Abigail Breslin), compete in the ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ beauty pageant. Faris is currently working on Living With Yourself, a comedy series starring Paul Rudd set to be released on Netflix in the next year.

 

6) Catherine Hardwicke

It wouldn’t be a proper list of great female directors without the woman responsible for the first movie in the Twilight Saga. Love it or hate it, based on the novel by Stephanie Meyer, Twilight made $35.7 million in the US on its opening day and at the time, the film’s opening weekend gross was the most ever made by a film directed by a women. Twilight aside, Catherine Hardwicke also directed The Nativity Story (2006), Red Riding Hood (2011) and most recently Miss Bala (2019).

 

7) Mary Harron

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Christian Bale starred as Patrick Bateman in Marry Harron’s American Psycho. (Credit: Culturised)

Starting out as a music journalist writing for Punk magazine, Mary Harron also wrote for The Guardian and The Observer before directing a number of documentaries for the BBC. Following her directorial debut I Shot Andy Warhol, Harron went on to direct American Psycho in the year 2000, based on the book by Brett Easton Ellis. The black-comedy starred Christian Bale in the leading role as the infamous Patrick Bateman, alongside Willem Defoe, Jared Leto, Justin Theroux and Reese Witherspoon. Harron has also directed numerous TV series including the 2017 Netflix miniseries, Alias Grace. 

 

8) Kathryn Bigelow

Becoming the first woman ever to win the Academy Award for Best Director in 2009 for her 2008 film, The Hurt Locker. Bigelow’s first feature directorial debut was The Loveless (1981), a biker drama starring Willem Defoe in the leading role. Since then, Kathryn Bigelow has directed and written a number of successful movies including the 2017 film Detroit, which stars John Boyega, Will Poulter and Algee Smith, just to name a few.

 

You can check out our favourite female film characters podcast here.

 

Making a console: Nintendo’s and Nintendon’ts

 

The Nintendo Switch is ready to reach the 2000 game threshold, but where does it go from there? 

It’s such a little piece of hardware, slightly bigger than a phone, smaller than most tablets but it packs a punch. It runs reasonably impressive games such as Zelda, Dark Souls and Fortnite without really any problems and the games library recently hit 1800 games… but there lies the problem.

While it might be impressive that such a compact, portable console can run intensive games, it’s no secret that Nintendo have never been one for keeping up with Joneses of the video game world. Sure, it’s impressive that the Switch can run a game originally released for the PS3 – but the PS3 was last generation, and graphics have moved on. The Switch, performance-wise at least, comes dead last in this console generation race.

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(Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Developers make games for PC and with some minor alterations get them working on consoles. The PS4 and the Xbox One are about as powerful as mid market PCs. Modern games are built from the ground up to be extremely beautiful and technically impressive. Red Dead Redemption II for example takes up over 60GB of storage on the Xbox One. The Switch though? It only has 32GB of internal storage, meaning there isn’t even enough space on the hard-drive to store most modern games, never mind run them.

The Wii and the Wii U had the same problem. Developers just don’t want to make games for an awkward, under-powered console. Nintendo’s plan has always been to ignore this and instead make high quality games for their own console focusing on their own IPs that they hope will bring in both loyal fans and newcomers. This didn’t work.

For a while Nintendo was in a little bit of trouble. The Wii U just didn’t have enough high quality games to attract consumers to it, but the switch has found a rather clever solution.

Nintendo have opened the Switch to indie developers meaning anyone with some programming skills could make a game for the console. This has given The Nintendo library a much needed breath of fresh air. This turns the Switch’s weakness on their head. Under-powered becomes accessible and means anyone can develop for the console.

However: now the Switch market seems almost too accessible. Scrolling through new releases is like browsing the App Store, and the games there would be more at home on a mobile phone. This is a shame, as we know that the switch can do so much more.

The Switch is doing a lot right and has undoubtedly revolutionised gaming, and it’s great that it has a more expansive library than it predecessors. All Nintendo needs to make sure of is that it doesn’t over-correct. If it does, the Switch will have a bright future.

Mary Queen of Scots documents uncovered after almost 100 years

It’s International Women’s Day and one unlikely woman is in the lime light this year.

A group of documents believed to have been signed by Mary Queen of Scots have been uncovered after sitting in storage since 1920.

The handwritten documents give insight into the busy commercial life of Edinburgh in the 16th Century. During the inventory and conservation process, it was discovered that two of the documents have watermarks that can only be seen when held up to the light. One of these water marks features a goat while the other is a hand holding a flower.

 

Vicky Garrington, History Curator at Museum of Edinburgh said:

“The documents provide us with an amazing bridge to the past. It’s incredible to think of Mary Queen of Scots reading through these documents before carefully applying her signature. We all know the story of Scotland’s Queen, her eventful life and eventual execution, but in these documents, we see a different side to Mary. Here, she can be seen carefully managing the everyday affairs of Edinburgh and Scotland. These documents help us to better understand her reign”.

The documents are very fragile and can’t currently be displayed to the public, so have been made available online to view. Councillor Donald Wilson, Culture and Communities Convener at City of Edinburgh Council said:

“Museum & Galleries Edinburgh hold thousands of historic treasures on behalf of the City and its visitors, many of which are on display in our venues. However, some items, such as these documents, are too fragile to be on long-term display, so putting them online is a great way to showcase them and tell their stories.”

The documents were donated to the Museum in 1920s but were lost in storage, Frank Little, Service Manager for Cultural Venues, Museums & Galleries in Edinburgh is optimistic that more treasures will be found in the archives:

“Our hope is that ongoing inventory work within Museums & Galleries Edinburgh will turn up new treasures. We are constantly reviewing, caring for and researching our collections, and look forward to sharing more of the City’s rich heritage with residents and visitors through our programme of exhibitions and online activities.”

The full collection of documents can be found here.

 

Keith Flint: A retrospective

The music world was left reeling this week as the unexpected and tragic news of Keith Flint’s passing made waves around the world.

The Prodigy singer, just 49 years old, died at an unspecific time over the weekend of March 2nd. Reportedly taking his own life, the singer – perhaps best known for 1996 number one Firestarter – had ran a 5km race earlier in the day. Flint was last seen out celebrating with his personal trainer: enjoying a quiet drink in a local pub, in a corner by the fire.

The latest in a string of male suicides in the press over the last few years, Flint will be remembered as the charismatic, anarchist frontman for one of the biggest dance bands of all time, The Prodigy. Here, we take a look back at the singers storied time in the limelight, and remember another musical icon, gone too soon.

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(Credit: ParaDoxus)

When you think of The Prodigy, you think of Keith Flint. His green spiky hair and his punk rock attitude became something the band were perhaps most known for. What often goes overlooked, however,  is that Flint himself didn’t actually become a contributing member of the group until their third album, 1997’s Fat of the Land.

Originally brought in as a dancer for the group, Flint soon found himself singing on the bands biggest hit, FirestarterHis iconic devil horn styled hair and manic movements thrust Keith into the limelight, becoming The Prodigy’s poster boy.

Flint went on to feature in some of the bands biggest hits, including Breathe and Fuel My Fire.

The Prodigy became a staple of electronic music, their influence still felt to this day in the genre. Flint and the band faced many controversies during their time at the top of the electronic mountain. Smack My Bitch Up was banned across many radio stations and music channels in 1997, due to its apparent misogynistic lyrical content. Flint was met with controversy in 2002, referencing drug Rohypnol in Baby’s got a Temper, however this and throngs of other controversies merely propelled the band’s popularity in the eyes of fans.

Despite his demonic onstage demeanour, Flint was said to be a soft spoken gentleman when away from the bright lights of showbiz. Buying a country pub – The Leather Bottle – in 2014, Keith would often reportedly chat to fans, sign autographs and even pick up bar tabs on occasion. For a man so outspoken and vibrant onstage, it seemed he enjoyed the quiet life whenever he could.

Credit: Jared Earle/MotoRaceReports

(Credit: Jared Earle/MotoRaceReports)

Whenever a high-profile musician passes away, it seems they become everyone’s favourite band. Timelines and hashtags bursting with songs, pictures and stories. Evidently this time around is no different, with Firestarter gaining national airplay once again this week, 23 years after its initial release. But the passing of Keith Flint has shown the world a very different man to the one they thought they knew. Stories of his kindness, his secluded country lifestyle, and his soft spoken manner paint a very different picture from the twisted Firestarter that appeared on the airwaves and screens of the world. His fire may be out, but his legacy is burnt into British musical history forevermore.

 

 

 

Podcast: Our favourite female characters

In this podcast, Liam Mackay, Bryce Arthur, Jade du Preez and Olivia Hill discuss their favourite favourite female characters in film.

You can also check out our movie and TV news round-up here!

Review: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

Chiwetel Ejiofor‘s directorial debut brings us the inspiring story of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.

Written, directed by and starring Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) and based on the memoir of the same name, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind tells the true story of a young boy and his fight to save his village from a devastating famine.

Set in the early 2000s in Malawi, we meet William Kamkwamba (Maxwell Simba), a young boy living with his family near the rural village of Wimbe. The Kamkwambas are a family of farmers and it’s clear from the start that times are hard. William’s father, Trywell (Chiwetel Ejiofor) works tirelessly in the fields each day and the family are struggling to pay William’s school fees. However, things take a turn for the worse when the village crops fail due to a horrendous drought. Many are forced to leave to avoid starvation, and the Kamkwambas are left desperate after they are robbed of their remaining grain stores.

Although William gets banned from school because his parents have been unable to pay the sufficient fees, he persuades his science teacher (who is interested in William’s sister) to allow him access to the school library. Towards the beginning of the film, we learn that William runs a small business fixing radios for people in his village and has a keen interest in electronics, but it’s at the library he learns about energy and wind power. After reading in the library and rummaging in the local scrap yard, he soon becomes convinced that he can save his village from hunger by building a windmill to help power a water pump to support the crops.

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Maxwell Simba plays William Kamkwamba in new Netflix release, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. (Credit: Netflix)

The film is a fantastic directorial debut from Chiwetel Ejiofor. It is visually stunning and succeeds in immersing the audience into the lives of the struggling Wimbe villagers. Ejiofor’s performance as William’s father is just as impressive. Although he has nasty traits, his facial expressions and the emotion in his eyes helps the audience connect with the character. You grow to care about Trywell and understand he is under a tremendous amount of strain to try to provide for his family.

Chiwetel Ejiofor is fantastic, but the standout performance comes from Maxwell Simba’s portrayal of William. Simba shows just as much raw emotion as veteran actor Ejiofor’s character, and this is Simba’s film debut. Apart from a few short scenes, the movie is essentially told from William’s perspective, giving Simba a tremendous task of guiding the audience through the narrative, but he executes this perfectly. In each and every scene, you can sense William’s drive and passion, even when those around him don’t necessarily believe in his ambition. It’s truly inspiring: you want to see him succeed and prove everyone wrong.

Despite the convincing performances from the cast, the film does have a pacing issue. There are several scenes and plot points that could have been shortened or left out entirely. For example, William’s sister and her ongoing relationship with William’s teacher features quite heavily but there isn’t much of a pay-off. It may have been more interesting to see this plot line replaced with additional scenes with the village chief, Chief Wimbe, played by Joseph Marcell (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air). However, since the film is based on a true story, it’s difficult to comment on what should and shouldn’t have been included.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is by no means a perfect film and it’s not one I will be rushing back to watch immediately. But the emotional performances from the cast make it memorable and Chiwetel Ejiofor has triumphed with his directorial debut.

You can check out the trailer for The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind below.

Read more of Olivia’s film reviews here:

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Entertainment review: March 8th

Liam Mackay and Olivia Hill round up this week’s entertainment news. Topics include the new Game of Thrones season 8 trailer and the latest releases.

Review: Weezer (Black Album)

California kings Weezer return this week with their thirteenth and eagerly awaited new release Weezer (Black Album).

This is the sixth self titled/coloured album released by Rivers and the gang. Blue, Green, Red, White and most recently Teal have all come before. Teal in particular had the music world talking: dropped from out of nowhere with zero hype back in January, an album of retro covers to keep fans content whilst they wait for new music, and a friendly reminder that Weezer have always been good to their fans.

 It can’t be helped but to compare all of these colours, and in doing so the listener can really hear the evolution of a band 23 years into their career. 2019’s Black is worlds apart from 1995’s Blue, as even the idea of drum samples and trumpets would make a mid 90s Weezer fan shudder. This latest album features all of the above, a comfortable next step on the Weezer journey, but also another step toward the mainstream that the band were once so shunned from.

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(Credit: Atlantic Records)

 Songs like Can’t Knock the Hustle and Byzantine wouldn’t sound out of place on a mainstream radio show, but certainly wouldn’t belong on a classic Weezer playlist. However, it has to be said that the Rivers Cuomo of old shines through in tunes like High as a Kite, and particularly The Prince who Wanted Everything. It’s songs like these that remind fans why they’ve remained with the band through the good times (Pinkerton) and bad times (Raditude)

 It seems that more and more with each release, Weezer divide their fans: the purists who claim they lost it years ago, and the die-hards who stick with them through every track (Saturday Night Live even referenced this in a sketch featuring Matt Damon). But Weezer (Black Album) is a comfortable reminder that the LA band have still got it, and there is enough material here to keep both sides of the argument happy.

 

 

Soundtracks in, symphonies out?

Wizards, witches and even muggles are invited to watch as the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) bring the music from Harry Potter to life.

The Music of Harry Potter, which will include the scores from all eight movies, will be bringing magic to Edinburgh’s Usher Hall on March 15th.

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The Music of Harry Potter will take place in the Usher Hall on March 15th (Credit: Kevin Rae)

Richard Kaufman, a Grammy award winning Hollywood conductor, will lead the orchestra in exploring John William’s music from the iconic franchise, including Hedwig’s Theme, Hogwarts Forever, and Nimbus 2000.

The audience will be left to imagine Hogwarts, though, as no movie footage will be screened. To encourage a more magical feel to the concert, people attending are encouraged to dress in their House robes or as their favourite character with prizes for the best dressed.

For more information on this event and to purchase tickets, click here.

However, this type of event – an orchestra playing scores of successful movies – is not new, and it’s a trend that doesn’t seem to be disappearing any time soon.

The Usher Hall will also be the setting for the RSNO’s The Music of John Williams and Back to the Future in Concert.

Recently, it was announced that the BBC’s Blue Planet 2 would be brought to the stage, following the success of the BAFTA award winning television series.

The 13 date tour will be accompanied by film sequences from the TV series, which began raising the public’s awareness of the fragility of the planet when the programme was first broadcast in 2001.

On the tour’s page, it states:

“The live concert adaptation is an extension of that striking visual and environmental narrative.”

But why has the orchestra, which was typically entertainment for the upper classes, started to play the soundtracks of much-loved movies?

In a sense, the ensemble might be adapting – or maybe evolving is a better word – to how music is created, listened to, and loved by the public today.

Over the past few years, movie soundtracks have become more of an indicator for how worthwhile the film will be. This might have been similar in the past, but iTunes and Spotify have made listening to scores simple. A quick download, and the soundtrack for Guardian of the Galaxy is on your mobile. A press of a button and Shazam has found your favourite song from The Breakfast ClubThe Greatest Showman soundtrack was so popular that it was released again, with chart-topping artists performing the songs. 

There is no denying it – soundtracks are strong right now, and that seems to have created an opening for the orchestra. But lifestyle-related issues could have also effected this change.

Songs most people listen to now are short – four or five minutes at the most. In comparisons to classical music, this is a minuscule length of time, especially as Beethoven’s Symphony No.9 goes on for over an hour. People do not have the time or patience now to listen to something that length, even if it is one of the most celebrated pieces in music history.

The cost of making the music, as well as how people relate to the music, might even factor into why soundtracks are in and symphonies are out – it appears to be yet another change society has gone through.

To see upcoming events at the Usher Hall, click here.

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