I am always looking for the perfect album.
Yes, that’s right I said album. Even in this day and age of individual song downloads, I am still looking for the perfect 70 minutes to spend with an artist. I buy a lot of music, though a lot of it comes attached to video games. In fact the soundtrack is the justifying factor in buying more than a few games. “I may not have time to play this right now, but I always have time to listen to new music.”
Music permeates my every creative activity throughout the day, as well as more mundane moments like my drive home. Some people use music to help them keep a pace while running, and I feel like I use it in much the same way. Music can help me focus by cutting out other distractions, and can help me to establish a tone or rhythm to my writing. It can even affect the pace of my typing, either forcing me to pause and reflect for a moment, or tap the keys with a mad flourish like a concert pianist (speaking as one with no piano playing ability).
Sometimes I construct playlists but this is not always effective in establishing a consistent rhythm. Too many shifts in style, even subtle ones, can take me out of the work and force me to pull my focus back in. Obviously lyrics when writing can be distracting, even for songs I know very well, though for a while I was using Adele’s Skyfall to tell me it was time to pack up the laptop. Ambient music is okay, but if it’s little more than shifting waves it can put me to sleep, at a time I’m naturally inclined to do so. I kinda need a beat to keep me going.
I think I’ve commented on my theory that techno music is the perfect music to program by, and it serves me in my writing often as well. Many good video game soundtracks fit into this category as well, especially the less “symphonic” scores. I like albums not only because I don’t have to spend time putting a playlist together, but also because a good album retains a thematic consistency while keeping enough variety to keep my brain stimulated. And 70 minutes is my optimal writing session, both because it’s about how much time I have before work to write at Starbucks, but also because it gives me enough time to gear up and get going, and to pause and think without feeling rushed, while not cutting too much into my day or sleep.
During the writing of the fractal book one of my soundtrack staples was Indie Game: The Movie. It clocks in right at the 70 minute mark and since the score is to a movie that follows the creative process, it can throw my brain into that mode within minutes. Another more recent discovery is Bastion. I particularly appreciate how individual themes are sung, and then blended in the final tracks.
What about you? What music do you listen to while you work? Or do you work in silence? What is that like?