When you’re working long hours on a creative project music often becomes an integral part of the process. The kind of music you like to listen to is going to be different for everyone. Years ago I interviewed Chuck Palahnuik, when I asked him what he listened to while he wrote he said NIN! Without a moment’s hesitation.
I tend to prefer listening to music without words for first drafts stuff. But if it is a record that I have listened to over and over again, than the words cease to matter and become part of the music. Here, in no particular order, are the twelve records that have helped me to focus, to think, to write, and to get in the groove. Try em out!
1. Radiohead. Amnesiac
A lot of times when you are working on something, especially writing, music can be used as a sort of placeholder for finding an emotion. All Radiohead has that Radiohead vibe. While I was working about schizophrenia, paranoia, trapdoors and subterranean unrealities I listened to Amnesiac obsessively.
2. John Coltrane. A Love Supreme.
First of all it is simply one of the most beautiful and inspiring pieces of music ever recorded. Also it is instrumental, so if your writing there are no words, which can be a distraction.
3. Alice Coltrane. Translinear Light
Her music is so lush, rich, and imaginative. Perfect for daydreaming. Since this is a list of albums I picked this one, but you could work with any of her records on in the background and be inspired.
4. Beethoven’s 9th
When you really need a shot of the sublime, this is it. Listening to this, really loud with high quality headphones has brought me to tears, and I’m sure I’m not the first person to have that experience.
5. Tim Hecker, Ravedeath 1972
I don’t so much listen to Tim Hecker, as just let it wash over my ears. Sometimes you need that white noise in the background to really focus, and this is really noisey and really white.
6. Darkside, Psychic
This record is the perfect soundtrack to keep on trucking late into the night on whatever you’re working on. There are lyrics but they are vague, washed out. Great night time creativity music.
7. Binaural Beats
Not a record, but a certain frequency of tones. Some of them can be trance inducing, very trippy and interesting stuff. I’m only just starting to experiment with these . . . but it is worth mentioning. Google it.
8. DJ Koze, Amygdala
I think the reason this works so well as creative background music is that the lyrics are in German, so it doesn’t distract, but it tickles the mind.
9. The Caretaker, an empty bliss beyond this world
Named after the Jack Nicholson’s character in the Shining, this music is haunting, soft, nostalgic, and feels weighted with memory.
This guy has a bandcamp page. Check him out.
10. Lil Wayne, Tha Carter III
Sometimes while you’re working you need ambient music that won’t get in the way. And sometimes you need a kick in the pants to wake up and keep going and get energized. You need beats, energy, and attitude. These tracks deliver.
11. Destroyer, Kaputt
Mellow yacht-rock, sung by a guy who lay on the couch during recordings too sound more relaxed. I don’t know why the hell this works. But it sure does. One of the best records to come along in the past couple of years. & sometimes you want to keep working but you wanna be chill about it . . . right?
12. Astral Weeks – by Van Morrison.
No other record so perfectly captures the hazy, dreamy, early morning quality of that place that we go to in order to create. There was a period in my life when I was writing a longer project where I listened to this record as a ritual every morning while I wrote.