It’s difficult for me to read anything dense if there is music or other auditory distraction. Sometimes I’ll play nature sounds to drown out other sounds. Ocean and Storm are my favorites.
For writing, however, music is essential. Somehow having music playing entertains some over-analytical and busy part of my brain that gets in the way of pushing words out.
What works best for busying that part of my brain is instrumental (or mostly so–if the vocals mostly blend in, it’s ok) music without a strong beat or any abrupt changes. Complexity in the music is good, but it can’t be obvious about the complexity. This category ranges from insanely loud guitar rock to quiet ambient stuff. Here are some favorites:
Mogwai — This would represent the insanely loud guitar rock end of the spectrum. The Scottish guitar army. It was while writing and listening to their Happy Songs for Happy People that I realized how well this type of music works for me while writing. After completing a particularly long review, I couldn’t listen to Mogwai for months without feeling slightly ill. Now that I’ve collected more writing music, I love Mogwai again. [hear/buy]
Rhys Chatham –
A Crimson Veil — A composition for 400 electric guitars, recorded live at Sacré Coeur in Paris. It was comissioned by the city of Paris for the Nuit Blanche Festival and performed in 2005. It is drony, shimmering, vast, and soaring. I wish I could have heard it live. [sample/buy elsewhere (i’m mad at emusic)]
Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven — another in kind of the same vein. [listen/buy]
Loop Guru – Third Chamber and Loop Bites Dog — Electronic, trancy, world-music inspired. I love Loop Guru’s more energetic and bouncy albums like Amrita…All These & the Japanese Soup Warriors and Loopus Interruptus, but Third Chamber and Loop Bites Dog are very mellow and work great for writing. [listen/buy]
Yume Bitsu — More orchestral guitars. Here’s one description: “space-drone quartet Yume Bitsu play ambient rock music that could be the soundtrack to a psychedelic art film — or a psychotropically stimulated excursion into the deep space of consciousness.” That’s nice, but they have a 18 minute, 29 second song entitled “The Frigid, Frigid, Frigid Body of Dr. T. J. Eckleberg.” That is enough for me. [samples @ amazon]
7oi — A very recent find. 7oi is an electronic music composer from Iceland who makes up some of the best song titles ever. Much of this music is good for writing, but not all, so I pick and choose what goes on the playlist. [hear/buy]
A mix: My friend Jens recently put together a mix called Shiver 2, which I’ve enjoyed for writing.
And there is more, but that’s all I’ll write about now because, er, I need to go actually do some writing.