Does reading or writing require total silence, or is it helped by music? There are albums you’re meant to play to unborn children or when you’re studying that are supposed to help you relax or increase concentration, but there’s no scientific basis for that. It’s mainly a question of preference. I always play music while I’m writing, although my brain can’t handle lyrics because I cannot screen out voices. It was always said that the perfect audience for Radio One was someone working in a biscuit factory. A mindless job could provide a perfect canvas for pop music.
I’ve tried most kinds of music while I write, and always come back to soundtrack composers or modern instrumentalists. There are composers who seem to enhance writing and reading. I remember playing the soundtrack to the underrated ‘Mary Reilly’ when I was reading ‘From Hell’, and it powerfully enhanced the visuals.
So let me recommend some listening for readers and writers:
Wim Mertens is a composer whose strange, circular instrumentals fit words well. There are an awful lot of albums by him, and many duplicate the same tracks, so it’s tricky collecting him. Both he and Michael Nyman have been used by Peter Greenaway for his film scores. Similarly Nyman can be both strident and calm. I have an exclusive album by him called ‘Sublime’ which is just that, and perfect for working to
Roque Banos is a Spanish soundtrack composer whose music can break your heart, ranging from ‘Las 13 Rosas’ to the remake of ‘Oldboy’, and his albums are tonally of a piece, so they don’t need editing. Much of Alexandre Desplat’s music is wonderful – his Hollywood work is more formulaic – Hollywood favouring a densely layered sound – but his European scores are often wonderful. Listen to his score for Philomena’ and you’ll hear a two-note clue to the film’s subject matter – very clever.
Ennio Morricone is still scoring, and his soundtrack to ‘The Best Offer’, I film I enjoyed despite its polyglot scripting, reflects the subject – painting – and echoes his score about another painting, Dario Argento’s ‘The Stendhal Syndrome’. Philippe Rombi’s soundtracks are not unlike Desplat’s. He’s unafraid to work with small orchestras and simple orchestrations. Particularly ‘Dans La Maison’ and ‘Joyeux Noel’ are superb.
I had high hopes for David Arnold after his pastiche John Barry scores for Bond, until I realised that pastiching is really all he does, but Thomas Newman brought something fresh to ‘Skyfall’, and has an excellent back catalogue of soundtracks.
I keep all of these soundtracks on CDs because I’ve lost so much music in the Cloud lately, but the news that the iPod is to be discontinued is disastrous for collectors. The problem is that the iPod doesn’t have Airplay and needs hardwiring into sound systems. But my phone won’t hold a fraction of the music my iPod holds. If you’re serious about music and play it a lot, what are you supposed to keep it on?
It’s one thing for technology to force us to Cloud storage but another if there’s no portable way of moving it around. I’m not about to start carrying my laptop with me just to play music. All suggestions/ solutions welcome!