Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Music For Working



I feel like I've touched on this topic before, but I couldn't find where, so what the hell.

I work better if I have music going. But I don't work very well if the music has words I might accidentally get interested in or listen to, so it has to be instrumental music. It also has to be somewhat uptempo--it can't be sad or slow or else I will go to sleep. And it can't be boring or particularly repetitive, for the same reason.

I have tried what uninitiated rubes like me call "classical" music, but I find i am not familiar enough with its traditions or distinctions to weed out the stuff that won't work. I know a few pieces that work for me, but only a few, and so it starts to get repetitive. And in this context, researching the music defeats the purpose.

I find that first-quintet-era Miles Davis is about right. The music is generally not slow or boring, and that group (and its cousins) made a hell of a lot of recordings, so there's a lot of variety.

What do the Smokers do?

--Mr. Zero

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

Django.

Also, bands like Don Caballero, Battles, (maybe) Isis, Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet.

Bluegrass. Leo Kottke.

All this is to say: I'm in the same boat.

Anonymous said...

In the same boat too. I find many of the Ethiopiques albums good for these purposes. Also, Stereolab--they have lyrics, but they're too ethereal to attract much attention.

Anonymous said...

I wrote my dissertation listening to Nine Inch Nails instrumental tracks. Primarily from the multi-disc Ghosts album. That and Arvo Part.

robin said...

Gui Boratto, and pretty much anything on Kompakt...So, minimal techno, no lyrics, around 120 bpm, not too much faster.

Anonymous said...

Lyrics don't bother me much, so most of the time, 80's punk, especially Minutemen and Hüsker Dü.

If the lyrics are problem for whatever reason, lately I've been liking Nick Cave and Warren Ellis' score for the Assassination of Jesse James By the Longest Movie Title in Recorded Human History.

Hard to beat old jazz standards, though. Bill Evans is a personal favorite there.

Anonymous said...

Neu! 2

Anonymous said...

I love the classic jazz as well, especially Coltrane. But not A Love Supreme, which causes me to drop everything and just listen in stunned amazement.

If distracting lyrics are a problem, consider music that's not in English. 'Maya' by Habib Koite is a favorite of mine.

Zētētikos said...

I can understand why someone might not go for <> or later (although I love it), but why limit yourself to the first quintet? The second quintet has some great stuff and Miles' work with Gil Evans is simply magical!

Anonymous said...

Vivaldi, especially the concertos. Period instruments preferred. I know that I'm on the receiving end of that snobby nose, but you asked.

wv: nonfo; as in not a mo-fo

Mr. Zero said...

Anon 4:56,

Bill Evans's Sunday at the Village Vanguard is a favorite (not that this is an original or even novel idea).

Anon 5:32,

Coltrane with Monk At Carnegie Hall '57 is also awesome. I guess I like Monk better than Coltrane, though. Not that Coltrane's not terrific--my love for Coltrane is a matter of public record.

Zētētikos,

I'm not sure what's supposed to be between the brackets. I listen to the second quintet less frequently -- don't love it the way I love the first one. Birth of the Cool and Porgy and Bess are favorites, but I don't love Sketches of Spain. I know that makes me unhip.

anon 6:52,

Thanks. I'll check out the Vivaldi. All suggestions are appreciated.

Zētētikos said...

Sorry, meant to say "Bitches Brew" (stupid HTML).

Anonymous said...

And to be clear Mr. Zero (I'm 6:52), the snobby nose I referred to was on the face of most classical enthusiasts, certainly not yours. Most think Vivaldi the swarmy Beatles of classical music. I just know that it strikes a creative tone in my heart--that's all.

wv: cycb: an extreme bicycle

2nd wv: pollyso: entailment that the parrot got a cracker

Thinking Person said...

Mr. Zero, I have so many Bill Evans albums after these years of philosophy, that I just play them end to end when working. You know why? Sure you do: Everybody Digs Bill Evans!

Sonny Rollins helps a lot too, but The Bridge is distractingly excellent.

wv: biathe (pouring the bike-bottle of water over your head en route)

Anonymous said...

Cannot recommend Tim Hecker highly enough for philosophy-compatible listening.

neur said...

I *LOVE* classical music. But I can't play it while working because it's too distracting. I have to have silence. I never thought about it, but I guess that's a neurotic trait of mine. (If so, it's certainly not my only one.)

Anonymous said...

Foucault used to work with the Goldberg variations on. Glenn Gould's version, of course, though I'm not sure if it is the earlier or later version.

Ben said...

Personally, I don't find lyrics a problem, but another possibility is something with foreign lyrics (in a language you don't understand).

Anonymous said...

“Jazz is not background music. You must concentrate upon it in order to get the most of it. You must absorb most of it. The harmonies within the music can relax, soothe, relax, and uplift the mind when you concentrate upon and absorb it. Jazz music stimulates the minds and uplifts the souls of those who play it was well as of those who listen to immerse themselves in it. As the mind is stimulated and the soul uplifted, this is eventually reflected in the body.” - Horace Silver

Anonymous said...

I listen to a lot of instrumental trumpet music (Miles included, of course) while working but I also find the 'post-rock' genre to be pretty good. Some of the songs can be slow or sad but you might be able to find something worthwhile. I'd recommend the newest Do Make Say Think album 'The Other Truths', although most stuff by This Will Destroy You or Godspeed You! Black Emperor is good if you can find the songs you like.
Otherwise I might second the Isis recommendation if you can pick out the instrumentals. Otherwise I'll suggest Ratatat and Holy Fuck as two more upbeat instrumental bands.
Or you could just listen to Yngwie Malmsteen...

Mr. Zero said...

The Beastie Boys instrumental music, much of which is collected on The In Sound from Way Out! or appears on the instrumental album The Mix Up is pretty good, too.

Anonymous said...

lyrics don't bother me if i know them really well. the nirvana back-catalogue was the soundtrack to my hegel chapter, esp. bleach. but for non-lyrics-stuff, i'm with anon 3:28. django, don cab, explosions in the sky, mathy stuff. though complex rhythms distract me.

Muhammad said...

I totally agree with the Miles and early Coltrane. Really late Pharoah Saunders is very peaceful and so is Wayne Shorter's stuff like the album "Speak no Evil." If you're not a Jazz snob, Paul Desmond can be very good to do work to.

I also like electronica that leans heavily toward Jazz, like Bonobo and St. Germain, even sometimes Mr. Scruff.

If You'd like to try something a little different, Philip Glass' stuff with Ravi Shankar are great and so is Talvin Singh's first album "OK"

Once when I was desperate, I played DJ Krush's Song 1 and Song 2 back to back for 3 hours.

I love the suggestions by others, keep them coming!

Anonymous said...

This is my online classical music stream of choice: http://www.wqxr.org/series/q2/

ABC said...

Check out Chris Gestrin's "After the City has Gone Quiet." It is quiet, largely improvised jazz, alternately restless and melodic, as if the noises of a city late at night were translated into musical phrases. It is gorgeous, can be unobtrusive, but when you have the attention to listen to it, it is rewarding.
http://www.amazon.com/After-City-Has-Gone-Quiet/dp/B000VX1QK4

Anonymous said...

I like Music for Airports and Beethoven's Klaviersonaten. As soon as I put them on, my mind goes straight to work.

Anonymous said...

I think exotica is great working music: Esquivel, Martin Denny, Les Baxter.

For classical: Satie, Ravel, Vivaldi.

For jazz: Lester Young, Monk, Mulligan.

Anonymous said...

Second the Music for Airports recommendation. Nothing else helps me focus the way it does. (And definitely agree that lyrics are a no-go.)

zombie said...

Mozart and Bach work for me.

Anonymous said...

Mogwai is an old standby for paper writing, but lately I've been listening to an old Low album as well.One thing I have listened to for about ten years while working is the soundtrack to Waking Life, which is primarily made up of tracks by Glover Gill and the Tosca Tango Orchestra, as well as other stuff by them. And Bill Evans, especially "You Must Believe in Spring." So Good!

Bryan said...

Might try Nicola Conte. He's upbeat, instrumental and unobtrusive. Perhaps start with the Jet Sounds -- here's the title track.

Anonymous said...

Trance!
pref non-vocal but vocal will do
Above and Beyond podcasts work the best for paper writing; but I'll take Tiesto in a pinch

Anonymous said...

For foreign language music, head to Africa, esp. Mali (Ali Farka Toure, Boubacar Traore, etc) and Senegal (Orchestra Baobab, etc.). I try to listen to this music only when I'm working, so my brain is wired to associate "Niafunke," etc., with thinking about philosophy.

Anonymous said...

A little late to the discussion here, but shoegaze is really good for working. Although there are lyrics, oftentimes the lyrics are incidental--the vocals are more like another instrument. My Bloody Valentine's Loveless is especially great, although maybe you would find it a little too sleep-inducing for work purposes.

I second Explosions in the Sky though. Especially their album The World is not a Cold Dead Place.

Anonymous said...

Oops, the album is The Earth is not a Cold, Dead Place. I think I wrote The World is not a Cold, Dead Place. ugh

Anonymous said...

Christian Death-Only Theater of Pain, or the Void side of the Faith/ Void split.

No, not really.

Seriously: Coltrane- esp Blue Train, Modern Jazz Quartet- Concord, Yusef Lateef, Milt Jackson.

Anonymous said...

I'm with zombie. Mozart and Bach -- instrumental only in both cases. My standard working soundtrack consists of Glenn Gould's recordings of the Well-Tempered Clavier and the Goldberg Variations (both versions, though I like the later one better).

I hadn't heard that Foucault worked to the Goldberg Variations, but it was probably the earlier one, since the later one was recorded in 1981.

Anon 6:52, Vivaldi? Really? I look down my snobby nose at you! Just kidding. I like Vivaldi, too.

wv: 'reeks'. Not kidding. Make of that what you will.