Exam season cometh, and everyone is looking for the perfect music to revise to. A friend of mine a couple of days ago asked me to recommend them some “Classical” music to work to. As a music student, this is a common request. Now this is a problem; I can’t suggest music that appeals to all as music is so subjective. Everyone has different tastes and everyone revises in very different ways. I’m going to tell you how I chose what to listen to as well as give you some of my personal examples. Remember, the music that fits these situations will probably be very different for you as this is my personal taste, but all of these are great albums/pieces, so I highly recommend that you give them a listen.
- Listen to music that is unrelated to the work.
For me, this is the main thing while working. Because I am studying music, I am constantly surrounded by books, score and instruments. I like my music to be completely unrelated to the work that I am doing. For example, last term, I had a module on Renaissance sacred vocal polyphony in England. While doing this work, I listened predominantly to CHVRCHES amazing album Every Open Eye, Sufjan Steven’s Michigan and John Adam’s The Dharma at Big Sur. These are two styles of music that couldn’t be further from my work that term if I tried. (I also highly recommend these three; they are awesome). I like this because it means that the music doesn’t get in the way of my studies and that way I can zone in more on the reading/analysis/essay.
- Listen to music that doesn’t distract.
This somewhat follows from the first point, but it is slightly different. Some of my papers are so open ended that they, in theory, can encompass all music. For this then, I need something repetitive or something that I don’t have to pay huge attention to. For me, this means one of three things: my favourite film scores, pop music or minimalism. Some excellent pieces for this style of listening are Hallelujah Junction by John Adams, Emotion by Carly Rae Jepsen and Michael Giacchino’s score to Inside Out.
- Listen to music I have played before/am playing at the moment.
I know this one is very niche, but for any musicians out there, I think it really works. If I have played a piece before or am playing it at the moment, I know what is coming and don’t have to worry about what is coming next. Also, if I am playing a piece at that moment, it means that I subconsciously absorb the layout of a piece before going to rehearsals that day. For me, Shostakovich’s 5th and 7th Symphonies are immediate go-to’s, but so are Paris Sketches by Martin Ellerby and In the First Spinning Place by Hilary Tann.
So good luck will all the studying that is about to begin. I hope my music-based tips are at least slightly helpful!