Music to Watch the Words Go By

Have a seat, put this on. Because music to work to is often pretty good to read to, too.

Music, so often, is a compound of things. It’s a melting pot of a situation and a mood, an environment and a thought. And that works the other way around, too; what you listen to is influenced by your surroundings. What you want to do mixed with what you’re doing, and every other little thing that’s pressing against you in all sorts of ways. I’m going to explain a little about the kind of music that works for work. The stuff that loosens you up a little, and lets the stream from mind to fingers flow a little easier. I’m going to stop using the melodramatic metaphors in a little bit, I promise.

First things first, lose any vocals. Unless they’ve been produced in such a way that I can’t make out the words, I don’t want to hear them. Not only do they distract, but they interfere, the phrases seeping down into my subconscious and fucking up whatever I’m writing. It’s probably of use, then, that the kind of music that is being addressed here rarely ever actually contains any spoken voice.

You’re going to be dealing mainly with ambient, electronic, post rock kind of stuff. Anything with slow progressions, the odd climax. Something to fill up the silence, but not overwhelm you. There’s a fine line here, between a comforting, soft sound and something that’s too slow that it becomes infuriating. Stars of the Lid might sound like a great idea, but I don’t want to be falling asleep at my keyboard here. It works the other way, too. If the beat is too frenetic, the refrains too relentlessly repetitive, it’s going to be grinding a millstone against your brain, and you’re going to start doing that furious blinking thing where you’re trying to dislodge that feeling of frustration and you’re going to have to shut it off. Think Cornelius or Octopus Project.

So there, you’ve got your parameters. Now you’ve got to find stuff in that happy medium. A beat, so that you’re not lulled by melodic overtones and glacial chord changes. But not too fast, not too slow. You’d think this would be hard, but it’s actually not, not really. Just look for something a bit like this. You getting what I’m getting at? It’s like music you’d run to, but when you’re sitting down. So it’s a step back, detached from that relentless pace, but still very much about progression. If you can imagine a montage using this soundtrack, you’re just about getting there.

But like I said earlier, music is a mix of things. This is sort of turning into a ‘how-to’ but that’s not really the intent. More of an explanation, a written diagram, an instruction manual on my own monotone workings. Some days I want Isan, others Gas. Some days I’ll even go for some Jason Forrest, if I’m going to do that sort of furious, pages-flying-off-the-type-writer kind of writing. Doesn’t happen every day, but hell, when it does, you’re going to want the right kind of theme music.

And, by all means, share your own work music below. Maybe we can get a big swap meet type thing going.

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About Phill Cameron

I've graduated, had a look at the world, and spat. Now I'm devoting my time to moving from 3/4 of a games journalist to 9/10ths. I figure I can get away with 9/10ths.
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