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I know. Not everyone prefers listening to music while studying or reading or writing or creating art or whatever. But I think most of us can agree that it’s nice to have music around for activities like these. They can help set a pace for your project, break up the monotony, and (in their greater moments) inspire us. Of course, not all music provides the optimal environment or setting for creating or digesting words and ideas. Some music is too distracting or abrasive while other music might just put you in the wrong mood. This is why it’s important to have an extensive arsenal of a variety of musical styles that fit your every aural need in your quest for knowledge or creation. So without further ado, below is some of the best music to accompany your writing, reading, and studying endeavors.
What music is better for working and proving something of yourself than an epic dream-like post-rock band from Iceland that uses a hybrid of Icelandic and English and bowstrings on their guitars? This band has a variety of track lengths, but most of them are well beyond the five minute mark, which lends the music well for writing or any extended focus activity. Most Sigur Rós songs, like “Glósóli” linked above, begin with a very soothing, beautiful opening and just build upon that opening with a rich arrangement of sounds that just get bigger and bigger until you feel like the song is representing the most important moment of your life. In short, Sigur Rós sets the perfect soundtrack for doing activities that are important to your life, and they inspire.
Most of Sigur Rós’ albums are great for any quiet creative or knowledge work, but in particular, Takk…, Agaetis Byrjun, and (). Their most recent album Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust actually has less epic buildups and more contemporary songwriting; both are great albums but not as ideal for writing or studying.
While Do Make Say Think (DMST) falls under the post-rock genre, it sounds quite different than most post-rock bands. DMST employs more of a jazz aesthetic to its sound, using plenty more horns and two drumsets playing simultaneously; the band is mostly instrument although they do use vocals sparingly on rare occasions. DMST does build some epic ten-minute songs, but they are less linear in buildup and tend to have unexpected turns (hence the jazz description). DMST also has a distinctively more rock-band sound, utilizing much more grunge or dirty sounding guitars with less reverb and delay. If you feel like whatever post-rock you’re hearing might be putting you to sleep, try out DMST. The sophisticated musicianship and unexpected songwriting work great in accompanying any creative activity.
DMST has a beefy discography full of great musical moments that are sure to inspire; if you are unsure where to begin, I would advise starting with Winter Hymn Country Hymn Secret Hymn and following that with & Yet & Yet or You, You’re a History in Rust. Their most recent album Other Truths is also riveting but may be a little too heavy or rock-sounding for some people’s attention spans while studying.
Let’s take a quick break from post-rock, and look at something entirely different but just as inspiring. The Field is made up of one electronic musician from Stockholm, Sweden named Axel Willner. As far as genre can be discerned, Wikipedia calls it microhouse and ambient techno. I also hear trance elements as well and wouldn’t be surprised if someone described it as intelligent dance music (IDM). The Field usually creates lengthy tracks mostly over five minutes (and some just a bit longer than ten). Sometimes voices are sampled, but they are used distinctively as instruments and wouldn’t distract someone reading how a lyric-heavy band or singer would.
To best describe The Field’s sound, imagine a simple beat on a loop that gradually morphs textures every few seconds until a living, breathing, and moving song emerges. The beat will drive your mind and focus as you work while the subtle variations will keep your mind from becoming restless and wanting to change the music to something else. Since they have a limited discography of only two full albums, I recommend checking out both the critically acclaimed debut From Here We Go Sublime and the more recent Yesterday and Today.
Some of you may be thinking, “Yo La Tengo has lyrics. I can’t read or write while someone is singing in my ear.” Well I’ve got news for you: Yo La Tengo has a good number of instrumental albums. A lot of the instrumental tracks come in the form of soundtrack work, but I think even the soundtrack material has a distinctive Yo La Tengo sound. For those unfamiliar, Yo La Tengo is an indie rock band with a wide variety of sound that fits mostly in a mellow arena of dream-rock. Sill, despite many songs with a lulling go-to-sleep tone, Yo La Tengo also sports a good amount of (almost jarring) noise, distortion, and extraordinarily creative guitar solos in its music. Also, even on albums that do have plenty of lyrics, Yo La Tengo’s lead singer has a very modest voice that I’m sure many won’t find distracting at all while studying.
If you’re looking for Yo La Tengo’s instrumental work, check out the albums The Sounds of the Sounds of Science and They Shoot, We Score (scores for four separate films). For those that can’t work while listening to lyrics, there are also a few instrumental tracks on their regular discography that could enhance your drive; these include “Tired Hippo,” “Pass the Hatchet” (excellent guitar solo!), “Daphnia,” “The Story of Yo La Tengo,” and “The Fireside.”
Flying Lotus is the product of an incredibly talented experimental music producer who’s actual name is Steven Ellison. While his music tends to run along a BPM much slower than most electronic music, it is stocked full of innovation, surprises, and rich textures that you won’t even notice the slow tempos. His music style takes on a wide range of jazz, downtempo, dubstep, and just plain experimental (wonky also comes to mind). His beats tend to jitter in perfect precision, thriving on a chaotic feel to keep your mind interested while having just enough order to keep you bobbing your head. There is simply nothing that comes even close to imitating Flying Lotus. Perfect for studying; perfect for dancing at a party.
For those looking for a good entrance to this artist, I would start with Los Angeles or Cosmogramma. Cosmogramma has a bit of a rounder, smoother sound with may render itself better for studying, but Los Angeles is far from disruptive. His debut 1983 is also extremely interesting and innovative, but doesn’t have that flow and finesse of the later two albums.
For anyone unfamiliar with this band, allow me to warn you fully before first listen: This music may induce seizures. However, it may also induce extremely vibrant thought or drive you threw even the most monotonous workflow. Battles is a heavy-hitting math-rock group that loves utilizing loop and distortion pedals. Their music usually builds on a repetitive beat or musical idea but often takes unexpected turns, sometimes resulting in the perfect combination of layer adding and beat turnarounds. While Battles is not for everyone, I strongly recommend giving it a shot. I’m sure it’s not the most ideal study music for everyone, but when it works, it works extremely well.
Battles has a fairly limited discography. I recommend both its full length albums although I personally believe Mirrored is by far the band’s best work. Gloss Drop is still plenty engaging, and be sure to check out the various confusingly titled EPs (IP C, B EP, and EPC if you can find them
Jon Hopkins and Brian Eno
I hate lumping these two extremely talented musicians together, but I only do so that I have enough space for other artists. Also, they’ve become long-term collaborators since teaming up in 2004, and their work together produces amazing tracks like this. For those wanting one word describe the music of these two artists: Ambient. However, both musicians have created material spanning far outside the constraints of that genre (sometimes even dipping into relatives of dubstep). It’s extremely difficult to describe their sound, particularly since Eno’s career extends all the way into the seventies (he has a whole wikipedia page dedicated solely to his lengthy discography. I will say that they both arrange and polish massive soundscapes that can make you feel like you’re the only person around for miles or that there is some lurking figure sneaking around behind you.
Where to start. For Hopkins, I recommend checking out any of his full length albums as his career as a musician is only budding. For Eno, I’d start with Music for Airports, which is great for any quiet, concentration work and then start working your way through his ambient career, just going on intuition. He has so many albums available that just listening through a few seconds on each one will give you a glimpse of which albums you make like more than others.
Nine Inch Nails
Nine Inch Nails has so much material ranging from noisy industrial rock to more eerie acoustic work. It’s only natural that it has some great studying music. Not all of Nine Inch Nails lends itself to great studying music, but there is definitely some great material out there for getting your thoughtful work done. While some of the sound can be a bit grating, even the noisier moments all conform to solid rules of great songwriting. Trent Reznor always seems to deliver.
A great place to start for studying is their double LP work called The Fragile. The album transitioned away from the gritty and distorted industrial sound of The Downward Spiral and headed more towards an ambient direction full of soundscapes, ambient noise, and much more melodies and harmonies. This album does have lyrics, but you can tell there is definitely an instrumental emphasis. Of course another solid choice for studying is Ghosts I-IV which is an entirely instrumental concept album full of soundscapes and soundtrack-like work.
Other music for reading, writing and studying there on academichelp.net: get the inspiration now!
This content was recommended by the writing team at BusinessInsurance.org special thanks!
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