What music do you listen to as you work?
For me, anything goes for emails or repetitive tasks. But for work which needs sustained thought, I need to avoid music which might intrude – either with lyrics which distract from what I’m reading/writing, or simply because it’s so wonderful I can’t let it fade into the background.
This means I can’t listen to music I really love while I write or read. And if it has lyrics, they need to be very subtle.
Hence: my PhD playlist. The top 5 songs/albums which are getting me through a very work-heavy period.
1) Peter Broderick, Home (2008)
I skip the first song on this album, which grates on me; after that, I can pootle happily through the rest without breaking a sweat.
Max Richter, 24 Postcards in Full Colour (2008)
24 Postcards in Full Colour doesn’t have any words, which makes it ideal for word-heavy cognitive tasks.
John Adams, Harmonium (1980)
What an awful image on the YouTube video! Anyway, this is a setting of John Donne’s ‘Negative Love’ and Dickinson’s ‘Because I Could Not Stop for Death’ and ‘Wild Nights’. I don’t know whether this is actually good work music, or if I just associate it so strongly with literature that it spurs me through. I do have to skip ‘Wild Nights’ when I’m working. It gets distractingly exultant.
Bon Iver, Bon Iver (2011)
I love Bon Iver’s first album (For Emma, Forever Ago), but it’s no good as work music. I get to ‘The Wolves (Act I & II)’, and then I’m sniffling and watching the music video on YouTube where they’re making a big bonfire as dusk settles in, and the sparks fly upwards into the darkening sky, and my work lies forgotten. So I go for the second album, which has the advantage of sounding more homogenous.
Grimes, “Genesis” (2012)
My exception to the ‘no music I love’ rule. But somehow it works. The music video is also brilliant. Unfortunately.
What music do you swear by as a writing accompaniment?