Lux Æterna – A Modest Proposal

August 8, 2010

I’ve taken it upon myself to declare that the time is long overdue for a moratorium on the use of the musical score Lux Æterna in advertising and marketing. You all know Lux Æterna, even if you do not immediately recognize the name. Written by the brilliant Clint Mansell, the tune was initially composed for the score to Darren Aronofksy’s 2000 film Requiem for a Dream and was performed by The Kronos Quartet. Later, a re-working of the track with a full orchestra was used in the trailer for The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and was dubbed “Requiem for a Tower”. This latter version was inferior to Mansell’s original in its pomposity and the discomfiting way it was used to sell a big siege battle in an epic fantasy film when originally it explored the harrowing desperation of ordinary people lost to their delusions in Aronofsky’s film. Of course, this is a small complaint when considered alongside the tedious and unimaginative way both versions of the song have been used as a dramatic, catchy way to sell all kinds of shite over the past ten years.

They use this tune for every goddamn thing; from video game and film trailers to ads for smart phones; from the theme song for the judges on a British talent show to an entrance song for professional wrestlers. In addition, there is the relentless tide of fan-made YouTube videos where the song is deployed as the default choice to convey something dramatic and in your face. The most jarring aspect in all this is the implied sense that the choice of the tune is somehow a brilliant and unique move whenever it is tacked on to whatever ad, montage or trailer it appears on yet again. It’s time for this to stop.

If anyone reading this is still unfamiliar with the tune that I’m discussing on its name alone then I refer you to the embedded video below. Even if you haven’t seen Requiem for a Dream you will know Lux Æterna by its ubiquity.

(“Lux Æterna” means “eternal light” in Latin. It is the name given to the communion chant in a Requiem Mass and is also the name of several classical pieces.)



  1. It’s crazy how often that song has been used, as you say, “to sell all kinds of shit” and also how the majority of the people who hear it have no idea from whence it came. Interesting how the music from a film pretty much nobody saw in its theatrical release–myself included–has become ubiquitous in trailers for films, video games, TV shows and more.

    With that in mind, allow me to add another such song to the pot. It’s “Bruce and Linda’s Theme” from DRAGON: THE BRUCE LEE STORY, and like Mansell’s theme in REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, it’s for a film that wasn’t a major hit or ubiquitous in the public consciousness, yet it appears in all sorts of adverts. In many ways its sort of the opposite of Lux Aeterna in that where Lux is used as shorthand for epic, “Bruce and Linda” is used for touching, overcoming adversity and, as I gag to type one of my least favorite words in English, poignancy. You might not recognize the theme at first, but you’ve heard it from 3:44 to the end countless times:

  2. Ha, ridiculous. I’m thinking “nah, I don’t know this one” then at 3.44, as promised, it all kicks in.
    At the very least, I hope Randy Edelman gets paid every time that shit is used.

  3. And, damn, if I didn’t just realise that I rushed the above post out before I left for China only to examine it more closely today and discover numerous errors in the text.
    Two weeks it was sitting there like that.

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