My Top 5 PhD Playlist (or, Five Minutes of Procrastination)

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?


4 thoughts on “My Top 5 PhD Playlist (or, Five Minutes of Procrastination)

  1. standrewslynx January 27, 2015 / 11:29 pm

    Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” and “The Wall”, primarily. David Gray also seems to help me get writing done.


  2. Bene January 3, 2017 / 3:19 pm

    Great Lake Swimmers, Fleet Foxes and Jose Gonzales. But English is not my mother tongue, so it’s easy to mentally mute the lyrics!

    Liked by 1 person

    • masudnoreen January 6, 2017 / 10:13 am

      Fleet Foxes and Jose Gonzales are great! I will have to check out Great Lake Swimmers…


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