When I write in the morning, I only listen to the sounds of the backyard; birds calling to each other, squirrels clacking over the roof of the sunroom, the distant sound of a train horn. When I want to concentrate, later, I need music.
When I read, the “Classical Studying” channel on Amazon Music works. Familiar songs, well-known classical arrangements with occasional treatments of pop songs. Keeps the background thread in my head mildly entertained.
While writing, I need to engage my monkey mind. The music needs to be a familiar and a little spacey. I’ve heard interviews with authors who listen to the same music every time they write, sometimes creating a playlist per book.
I have two favorites:
The Bends, Radiohead. One of my favorite albums of all time, by a band that re-invented itself many times. I have great mixes of their music, but playing The Bends straight through just works. A dreamy, keyboard-heavy sound carries through the songs, reaching a peak in “Black Star”. I used to listen to this while programming for hours each day. I’ve listened to it hundreds of times.
Come With Us, Chemical Brothers. This one is harder to explain. Same backstory; I used to listen to while programming years ago. There are parts of the album where sound will flow from one headphone to another, and stimulates something. Entire songs just fade into the background, consumed unconsciously. And that is the magic of this album.