Setting The Tone In The Studio

I’ve long been in the habit of listening to music while working.

This habit was founded and fostered in the printmaking studio of the bealart annex, where open studio time was accompanied by early Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Kinks, The Who, and for a spell, the smooth crooning of old blue eyes himself, Frank Sinatra.  To this day, when I’m feeling nostalgic, I still revisit the British Invasion – ahh, those formative teen years!

But my musical taste reaches far and beyond the artists and genres I was exposed to in the annex.  I have fairly eclectic preferences ranging from pop, hip-hop, alt, classical, and electronica…from Abba to Buckwheat Zydeco and everything in between (a lot of it, I’m sure, wouldn’t pass muster in the printmaking studio of my youth).

When I’m feeling scattered and distracted, music helps me narrow my focus and get down to business.  Generally, I like a mix of tempos and moods – but I definitely have my go-to music for certain tasks:

  • If I’m feeling sluggish about getting into the studio, or if I have an unpleasant task ahead of me (such as cleaning the studio) I’ll put on the pounding beats of Prodigy or the driving rhythm of Jay Hannan‘s deep house.
  • If I have a task that requires clear brain functioning, such as writing an artist statement or blog post, I’ll listen to something instrumental and lyrical, like Erik Satie’s Gymnopédies, or Icelandic band Amiina.
  • When I’m working on a repetitive, automatic task that requires little or no thinking power I might switch it up and listen to an audio book (I recommend the Harry Potter series as read by Stephen Fry, and Codename Verity).
  • If I’m in need of a severe attitude adjustment my go-to album is the deluxe soundtrack recording for Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.  Nothing brings me joy as much as clever, brilliant satire that is beautifully performed and John C. Reilly et al certainly deliver.  A very close second would be any of the cheeky albums by King Missile, though Failure would probably be at the top of the pile.

I’m not a music snob and will listen to anything as long as it makes me feel.  On the fringe of my musical spectrum are artists that might be considered cheese-y, or at the very best, ironic: Barry Manilow, The Original Soundtrack Recording of Hair, and William Shatner’s Has Been (yeah, I DID just admit I listen to Barry Manilow AND William Shatner).

Current album selections on my iPhone feature Abba, Antony & the Johnsons, Andrew Bird, Fleetwood Mac, Feist, Harry Nilsson, Prodigy, Amanda Palmer, Belle & Sebastian, and Lou Reed.

Who’s on your current playlist?

Do you listen to music while you work?  Please share your favourites in the comments below.

4 Responses to “Setting The Tone In The Studio”

  1. Joy says:

    I *love* this! I work online and I listen to all kinds of things while I work – I vary the music depending upon the task. When I am facilitating my photo class, I listen to whatever my favorite music of the day is. When I am creating something new – like a new ecourse or writing an article for another site – I listen to punk rock (which surprises people, because my writing is inspirational but I need something that encourages me to push my edges). When I am writing for my own site, I often listen to teleclass recordings about people who create unconventional businesses/lives or “success stories” of some kind. I agree, I will listen to anything as long as it makes me feel (my daughter rides horses and is into country music, so I even listen to and enjoy country and my son is training for Cirque so we always have some sort of eclectic theater music on in the background of our home!). My “favorites” this week include White Stripes, Jeff Buckley, Gavin DeGraw (I keep “Everything Will Change” on replay) and Katy Perry.

    • Thanks for sharing, Joy. The White Stripes are in my regular rotation and I enjoy listening to country, too (go Dixie Chicks!). Imagining you listening to punk rock when you are creating makes me smile – I never would have guessed!

  2. Ilze says:

    Finding the right studio music is tough. It has got to set the right mood for my mind to be able to open and to focus. I have my favorite artists, at the moment Beth Orton is # 1 and Sarah Hammer a close 2nd. But Van Morrisson is my all time favorite. A few bars of Brown Eyed Girl and my spirits lift. These wonderful singer songwriters are great to listen to when I need a mood change, but just to open it up and keep working I like the more abstract work: Satie, Phillip Glass and Steve Reich and Keith Jarret. For Christmas I got a Sonos transmitter and now I can access all kinds of internet radio through a great sound system in the studio. I am still looking for the perfect radio station. CBC is a favorite but OMG CBC Radio 2 now has commercials. Not a lot, but it is very strange to hear them on our public broadcaster.
    This month my default listening has been Songza’s Classical/conversation pieces.
    Some interesting music. Hoping they’ll add to it.

    • Ilze, thanks for sharing! I hate that CBC 2 now has commercials – I listen to CBC less now because of it. I’m not familiar with Beth Orton or Sarah Hammer’s work, but I’m looking forward to giving them a listen.

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