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Dan Rubin's SuperfluousBanter

Design, random musings, and the Web. Since 1977


Music and Creativity

To me music is an essential part of the creative flow. In short: no music,
no creativity. But I wonder — do some genres of music lead to more creativity
than others? I guess it all boils down to personal preference. A number of people
might go all creative listening to classical music or jazz, others might prefer
some more alternative styles or even heavy metal. I tend to have frequent atmosphere
or mood swings as to what music I listen to, with each having it’s own
particular style.

Personally, while working, I enjoy ambient music and trip hop, mixed with jazz
and occasionally some electro or house. My favorite streaming channels come
from the folks at Soma
and Netmusique.
Soma FM’s Secret Agent stream is lovely and I enjoy the short sound clips
inbetween songs from movies such as James Bond and Ocean Eleven. Close to bedtime
I switch to Soma FM’s Beat Blender to relax and enjoy the mix. Most of
the time I have either one of these streaming channels playing. So what music
do you listen to while working? Any streams I should add to my favorites?

This item was posted by dhilhorst on Friday, March 5th, 2004.


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12 comments on “Music and Creativity”

  1. Posted by Steven on Friday, March 5th, 2004.

    im a hiphop/r&b fanatic, but i dont listen to it whilst designing. I tend do listen to anything that has a nice smooth melody and beat, it helps me concentrate as my general musical choice just distracts me.


  2. Posted by Andrew Dunning on Friday, March 5th, 2004.

    I must say that I like having chamber music to work to, because (as the last poster said) it’s usually pretty smooth, and nobody complains about it. Some of the really old stuff (like Biber) is particularly great, as well as most Baroque and some Classical. A lot of the newer classical (esp. Romantic) music has too many dynamics to work to without being scared, though (I speak from experience).

    For streams, I like MostlyClassical. If you use iTunes, it’s already in the Radio under Classical.

  3. Posted by Nils T. Devine on Friday, March 5th, 2004.

    Let me second the vote for classical. No distracting lyrics, but intellectually and emotionally stimulating. There’s a local (LA) radio station here that plays classical 24/7. In fact, there’s a Yo-Yo Ma concert on right now streaming at kusc.org

  4. Posted by Chris Vincent on Friday, March 5th, 2004.

    I listen to many varieties of music, but right now I’m a metalhead; From Autumn To Ashes, Thrice, System of a Down, Killswitch Engage, and Soilwork frequent my playlists. However, it often distracts me whilst doing work. So, when I’m working, I usually switch to some nice, abstract electronica by the likes of Autechre or Aphex Twin. Cake with its grooviness and Dashboard Confessional with its angst are also good choices when I just need to think.

  5. Posted by soxiam on Saturday, March 6th, 2004.

    I for one is still stuck in the 90’s. For concept or prototype design, I observe absolute silence. For normal work flow, my iTunes is usually cranking out Fugazi, Lungfish, The Nation of Ulysses, Aminiature, Portishead, Massive Attack, Drop Nineteens, Grandaddy… although mindless trance music is nice when you’re crunching out the codes.

  6. Posted by Johan Sahlén on Saturday, March 6th, 2004.

    I’m a huge Tool fan myself, though I don’t listen to them while working creatively, as it is somehow too involving and distracts me from the work at hand. I prefer something more mellow when working (be it designing or coding), like Maynard’s other band, A Perfect Circle, or some Smashing Pumpkins.

  7. Posted by Eby on Saturday, March 6th, 2004.

    I also tend to go with the SomaFM streams though I listen mostly to the Indie Pop Rocks stream. I can see the arguements some have with lyrics being distracting, but I find that only happens with songs I know, which is rare on SomaFM. Even the rock songs turn into ambient music for me. If the lyrics became a problem I probably would turn to another SomaFM channel such as Drone Zone or Beat Blender. I’ve listened to many internet streams over the years and I keep coming back to Soma.

  8. Posted by Paul on Saturday, March 6th, 2004.

    Groove Salad. It’s basically my whole CD collection on random repeat.

  9. Posted by Virginia on Saturday, March 6th, 2004.

    When I was a teenager, I used to work all the time to music – any kind of music, but mostly jazz, since that’s what I was into. I did all my highschool study with headphones on. My mum used to say that she couldn’t believe I could listen to music and concentrate all the time, and that as she’d got older, she’d found it almost impossible to do. I scoffed. Now, as I get older, I find it harder and harder to work with distractions. When I’m just doing design work – mocking up sites, or working in Photoshop or Illustrator or InDesign – music’s okay. But as soon as I get into the code, or writing or editing, the music goes off. My mum, as usual, was right. On the other hand, music is a real source of inspiration, and when I’m not actively working, I’m listening to it all the time, all sorts of stuff.

  10. Posted by Andrew on Sunday, March 7th, 2004.

    I have to agree with you. If I’m on my computer and don’t have

    music running, I accomplish nothing. Kind of like right now, the TV is on in the background and I’m suppose to be writing a report on monkeys, but no music is on so I’ll just site here blogging instead of doing my 7 page paper.

    I enjoy many types of music. My favorite would have to be Alternative-Rock and my least favorite is Country (no exceptions, Cash isn’t country!). I generally tend to stray away from most pop (especially pop-punk) and Rap, but I occasionally find a Christian pop artist that I enjoy and I do enjoy Eminem. I’ll listen to punk every now and again but after about 20 minutes it all sounds the same (except for Green Day and Offspring). Jazz is beginning to tickle my fancy; I’ll have to grow into it more. I can take techno from time to time, not in large doses, but I can take it.

    The old music scene has started to catch my eye is well, and I’ve picked up more old music then recently then new music.Bands mimicking old music are always good (such as Polyphonic Sprees and The Music of Our Lives). It reassures me that our music hasn’t lost class completely. I personally don’t not like classical music, but I never listen to it. It makes me feel like nothing is happening and makes me sleeping during the day and restless at night.

  11. Posted by Veerle Pieters on Sunday, March 7th, 2004.

    Music is a great motivator, especially if it is a gray day outside I tend to listen to chill-house and imagine myself being on the beach. A great online radio station is Music One (http://www.m1live.com). For the rest I mostly listen to Naked Music from San Francisco, their Nude Dimensions series are top class. Also Nude Tempo One mixed by Miguel Migs is a great cd to start the inspiration juices. You can listen to a compilation of that cd on my blog btw. Café del Mar, the famous beach bar on Ibiza, their DJ Bruno has mixed one of finest chill house tunes out there. The compilation is called Chillhouse mix One, Two and Three.

  12. Posted by Paul G on Monday, March 8th, 2004.

    Depends on the mood, the day, the work, the weather…

    Mind-numbing repetitive work generally requires something rowdy to keep the attention level up. Lately, Flogging Molly and The Pillows have been good pick-me-ups.

    Heavy coding and debugging requires Rage Against the Machine, or something equally angry. It tends to match my mood when my program crashes inexplicably for the thousandth time. In fact, I hardly listen to this sort of music at all unless I’m elbow deep in a complicated project.

    Design and light programming generally goes well with melancholy or chill music. Coldplay, older Jimmy Eat World, and The Black Keys have all gotten a lot of time in my playlist, although Queens of the Stone Age sometimes works well here.

    If it’s a nice day (and we’ve had a string of them lately), most of the other rules don’t apply. I’ll open the windows and play something very mellow and laid-back that makes me think of the beach. Jack Johnson is usually my first choice, but Guster, Weezer, and Mofro often make the list as well.

    Work right before bed is often accompanied by some good ol’ Van Morrison. ‘Astral Weeks’ is a particular favorite