Can you concentrate when you're listening to music?
I used to love being surrounded by music. When I was a girl, there was rarely a moment when I didn't have something playing in the background. I remember doing all my A level revision to the haunting sounds of the Cocteau Twins. When I was at university, there was invariable the sound of a mix tape floating out from under my bedroom door. These were usually compiled by my friends and sent to me as a gift. They were packed full of songs that I either had an emotional connection with . . or soon would have.
And then I had my children.
Suddenly any extraneous sound was unwelcome. There were enough shouts and cries in the house as it was. Either the walls shook with their musical choices - all at once, clashing violently with one another - or someone was practising a musical instrument. I defy anyone under the age of ten to make a pleasing sound on a plastic recorder!
I definitely didn't need to add to the cacophony. So when they all went out to school, instead of turning to my favourite music to sooth my fraying nerves, I resorted to silence. Eventually, this progressed to the spoken word, but my love of listening to music just never seemed to return.
Then at Christmas last year I read one of those 'How to improve yourself' pieces - I know! Stupid. Anyway, the article talked about how good listening to music was for your brain, how it aided concentration and inspired creativity. I felt I owed it to myself to at least try.
As I listen to audiobooks when I'm out walking, the most obvious places to rediscover my lost love of music was in my writing room. I bought myself a voice activated speaker with my Christmas money and began.
But what to listen to?
This turned out to be a huge problem. I couldn't play anything I already knew because either I ended up singing along to it or it brought back memories of the times when I'd listened to it in the past. . . and my concentration was broken.
So I tried new music that I hadn't heard before. But then I found myself listening to it, getting absorbed in the lyrics or the melody . . . and my concentration was broken.
Lyrics seemed to be troublesome. Maybe classical pieces were the way forward? And this worked for a while, but sooner or later a playlist would slide into a tune that had been used for an advert and, unable to bring it to mind I'd end up googling it . . . and my concentration was broken.
Assuming that this was a problem that had been faced by plenty of other people, I searched for 'music to concentrate to' and tried some of the options that popped up. That worked for a bit but that type of music is so soulless. Without meaning to cause offence to the musicians involved, so much of it is s0 bland that I couldn't believe it was inspiring anything at all, let alone my creativity. I concluded that I would actually be better off in silence than listen to the kind of mush that was floating out of my speaker.
This week I've tried classical guitar music which seemed to work a little, the theme track of one of my favourite films, Gosford Park, which just had me running the scenes in my head and currently there is a world music playlist pulsing out which has pieces from Jamaica to Botswana and seemed to be hitting the right note, until someone began singing an African version of Sting's An Englishman in New York which catapulted me right back to 1985!
There is no hope, it seems!
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