August 28, 2007

You a Nerd? (Clearly.) But Do You Like Music?

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Hello all you impressionable freshman. Welcome to Cornell. I’m here today to mold some minds so allow me to use this opportunity to drop some knowledge on you: you’re going to be doing a lot of studying here. No matter what you’ve been told or how well you’ve convinced yourself it’s not going to happen, I promise you that you’ll be studying sooner than you think possible. And when you do, you’ll need good music to keep you awake, alert and motivated. I don’t study as a rule, but for those of you who do, I’ve been thinking about some songs that might help out.
What makes good study music? It’s got to be calm but still melodic and not too loud. Also, it can’t be something that makes you want to dance, jump around or start drinking. In other words, it has to be chill.There have been scientific studies that show that listening to classical music aids comprehension and retention during studying (or maybe I made that up for this article). As an ILRie, though, I don’t truck with any of that “science” nonsense. Also, I don’t care for classical music (before the deluge of angry letters and e-mails, I’m not saying it’s bad only that it’s not to my taste.)
However, according to resident expert “Dr.” Brian Phillips (disclaimer: Brian Phillips is in no way, shape or form an accredited doctor or graduate of any board-certified medical school and should not be trusted with your medical needs or personal property) the best study music is that which “has no words. My rule of thumb is, the more words there are, the more distracted you get. When I study I enjoy trance music as well as a splash of disco and ambient noise records when the mood strikes.” But he isn’t even a real doctor, so what does he know? I say the more words the merrier as long as they don’t interfere or get you thinking about stuff (other than what you’re studying).
As a welcoming gift I’ve made a list of music to help, because I’m all about helping. Here’s my list of good songs to put on when it’s 3 A.M. and you’ve got a test in five hours. Hope it helps.
“Whistle For The Choir” (The Fratellis)
You may not believe you’ve heard of them but you’ve definitely heard them. Apple used one of their songs, Flathead, for an iPod commercial. But that’s a little too loud and fast for our purposes. The song I’m thinking of is a slower, quieter song that the newest wave of British groups seems to excel at (I’m thinking here of the Arctic Monkeys’ song “Mardy Bum,” among others).
“Should’ve Been In Love” (Wilco)
Though Yankee Hotel Foxtrot may get all the indie-hipster love, this album is damn good in its own right. Most of the songs have a country-rock twang to them that make them great to listen to while drinking but not so much for quiet time. This may be a sad song, but who says you can’t study to a sad song anyway?
“Into Brooklyn, Early Morning” (The Innocence Mission)
I know next to nothing about this group, I found the song while trawling music blogs at work. Nevertheless, I know what I like. And this is a good, quiet song that succeeds by keeping things simple. It seems like a good Sunday morning song, to put on while making breakfast. I don’t actually wake up on Sundays until the mid-afternoon so I can’t say for certain, but that’s a gut feeling.
“Ballade de Melody Nelson” (Serge Gainsbourg)
It’s in French so you probably won’t understand it. Unless you ever took or still take French in school (though I muddled through five years and can’t make heads or tails of it)
“Dry the Rain” (Beta Band)
My feelings about this song, like my feelings about many things, can be best illuminated through a movie reference: In High Fidelity, John Cusack puts on the Three EPs and tells one of his employees (i don’t remember which) that he’s going to sell a bunch of copies within the first five minutes, and then does. It’s a good song that gets you bobbing your head without distracting unnecessarily or being otherwise obtrusive.
“Stir It Up” (Bob Marley)
This is an obvious choice. Frankly, whenever you have any doubt to put on, Bob Marley’s a safe bet (as is Reggae in general. Try Jimmy Cliff, Sun Ra or Lee “Scratch” Perry). Still, it may not be
“That Summer Feeling” (Jonathan Richman)
When you find yourself surrounded by textbooks and wistful for a better, sunnier time, put this song on. It’ll make you feel even worse. That summer feeling really is gonna haunt you the rest of your life.
“Mondo Bongo” (Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros)
I’ve got no idea what the song’s about, and I don’t really want to figure it out. That might ruin it because it really is a great groove. I always enjoy it whenever it comes on and it’s just about the epitome of cool, even if it was in Mr. and Mrs. Smith
“First Night” (Hold Steady)
The quietly chilling piano, and somber tone may be perfect for when you’re trying to figure out what the hell’s going on in that Economics class. At the end the volume gets pumped up. this may be a good song to finish your study session with, it’ll leave you rejuvenated and happy (even though you have wasted all those hours studying).