"Beauty is truth, truth beauty," the Keats line from "Ode on a Grecian Urn" begins. The new film A Brilliant Young Mind plays on this line with a bit of a twist ending — "If beauty is truth, and truth beauty," a math teacher declares, "Then surely mathematics is the most beautiful thing of all." These lofty words form the foundation for Asa Butterfield's character in the film, in which he stars as a young math prodigy selected for the national Mathematics Olympiad team. Early on, he's diagnosed on the autism spectrum and is shown to have a predilection for prime numbers, and he matures into a charmingly frustrating young man, hard-pressed to fit in among his peers yet undeniably brilliant. A Brilliant Young Mind elevates math to art — thus the Keatsian riff — but the film also features a whole different genre of art. Accompanying the story is a stunning soundtrack composed of contemporary folk and Icelandic compositions. The first thing on viewers' minds leaving the theater must surely be, where can I get the soundtrack for A Brilliant Young Mind ?
Unfortunately, there's no official soundtrack, but that doesn't mean the music isn't pretty readily available. In fact, much of it was pre-recorded by British singer-songwriter Keaton Henson. Henson got his start as a visual artist and illustrator, but it's his minimal voice-and-guitar compositions that will capture audiences in A Brilliant Young Mind. His emergence as a singer has been slow, but he's been well-received from critics at The Guardian, NPR, and the BBC since his 2012 debut came out. The Brilliant Young Mind soundtrack features Henson prominently, much like Alexi Murdoch in Away We Go, The Shins in Garden State, or Simon & Garfunkel in The Graduate. Henson's music is part of a modest ensemble of potential new favorites — the film's aural landscape is both somber and listenable and might inspire more of a cult following than the film itself. Here's an unofficial rundown to stream below.
1. "Sweetheart, What Have You Done To Us" — Keaton Henson
A track off Henson's second album Birthdays, "Sweetheart, What Have You Done To Us" was also one of the album's lead singles.
2. "The Sad Song" — Fredo Viola
Londoner Viola first came to prominence as a YouTube celebrity with "The Sad Song," though he had a prior song licensed for use in The Manchurian Candidate.
3. "Lying To You" — Keaton Henson
Another track off Birthdays, "Lying To You" was also one of its three main singles, along with the next track, "You."
4. "You" — Keaton Henson
Like "Lying To You" and "Sweetheart, What Have You Done To Us," "You" features Henson's husky voice and a simple electric guitar line.
5. "Beekeeper" — Keaton Henson
"Beekeeper" has a bit more arrangement than Henson's other work on the Brilliant Young Mind soundtrack, including a reverberating chorus and even a bit of percussion.
6. "Biolagid" — Amiina
Experimental Icelandic quartet Amiina is probably best known for its collaborations with Sigur Rós, but their solo work also appears on A Brilliant Young Mind (and they're definitely not unknown in their hometown of Reykjavik).
7. "Elevator Song" — Keaton Henson
A track off his most recent album Romantic Works, "Elevator Song" features the cellist Ren Ford and was inspired by a sudden onset of anxiety Henson once experienced in an elevator, according to the Independent.
8. "10am Gare Du Nord" — Keaton Henson
A Brilliant Young Mind takes full advantage of trans-national influences, here with a song that draws its title from one of the main train stations of Paris.
9. "On The News" — Keaton Henson
Henson's falsetto resembles that of Brett Dennen, albeit with a more contemporary guitar line.
10. "Taking Your Hand" — Sam Hooper
The twinkling piano line of "Taking Your Hand" sets it more in line with traditional score compositions than the modern folk of Keaton Henson. It's definitely theme material, lacking lyrics yet aurally uplifting.
11. "Falling Wood" — Dancing Years
"Falling Wood," by Dancing Years (formerly Joseph & David) features in the closing credits of A Brilliant Young Mind.
12. "Thoka" — Amiina
The Sigur Rós influence is evident in the slow-moving, melancholy violins of "Thoka."
13. "Small Hands" — Keaton Henson
One of Henson's most popular tracks, if Spotify count is any indicator, "Small Hands" off Dear is just as minimal, if not more, than his later work. It strips away all electric influence, leaving just Henson's voice, a gently plucked banjo, and the occasional strum of a guitar.
14. "Umbrellas" — Mearl Music
Mearl, the project of musician Martin Phipps, is a member of Radiohead guitarist Ed O'Brien's Laundry collective, and he composed music for the film to keep with the existing music that was to be repurposed for the film — among it, Henson's songs.
15. "The Big One" — Mearl Music
Mearl also recruited a cellist who occupied a nearby studio for the tracks he composed for the soundtrack — he said he was inspired by her bowing a saw from a nearby hardware store (an instrument Chinese buskers have used in New York subways for time immemorial).
16. "Rare Beauty" — Mearl Music
In keeping with the stark compositions of Keaton Henson and Amiina, Mearl also brought Norwegian singer Anna Lena Bruland on board.
17. "Luke" — Mearl Music
Mearl Music was also responsible for the soundtrack for Peaky Blinders (much of it Nick Cave covers) and The Keeping Room, the upcoming Hailee Steinfeld feminist western. The rest of his material for many more screen purposes can be found on the Mearl2014 Soundcloud.
There are a few tracks that feature on A Brilliant Young Mind that aren't available online, so there's hope a follow-up soundtrack is in the works. If the established musicians the filmmakers used to background their film is any indicator, it would be pretty genius.
Image: Koch Media