October 8, 2015

ALUR | A Cornellian’s Guide to Study Music

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Pg 12 Arts Studying

With the start of prelim season, I figured it was about time I presented my favorite musical artists for studying. Everyone operates differently when it comes to study music; while some enjoy the sound of silence whilst engaging with their work, others cannot operate without background noise. I’m somewhere in the middle: I like listening to music while I work, but I have different sonic needs depending on my work. Every type of work places distinctive demands on the mind. So, I’ve decided to put together “genre” and “work” pairings to keep you sane and productive through the rest of the semester.

Problem Sets – Classical

As an English major, I’m not the most experienced with completing difficult problem sets. That said, I queried amongst my Engineering friends and came to the conclusion that classical music works especially effectively in keeping you engaged with your mathematical equations. There have been psychological studies that have essentially proven that classical music somehow improves brain functioning. While I’m not entirely sure about the details of these, I have definitely noticed an increase in my efficiency with classical artists playing in the background. The music is intricate enough to keep me engaged, but not distracting enough to pull me away from my thoughts. If you’re looking for some dramatic and instrumentally diverse classical composers, perhaps listen to Stravinsky or Mozart. If you’re like me and prefer the gentler, piano-based composers, try out Chopin or Debussy. Regardless of your preferences, classical music definitely works well with assignments that require mathematical contemplation.

Reading – Chill Electronic

During an intensive reading, I often seek music that has a driving rhythm to keep me going. Music in this category must not be too upbeat or intensive, but I look for an audible beat to keep me awake and ethereal instrumentation to prevent distraction. I’ve recently enjoyed listening to Bonobo’s album The North Borders, and this particular LP is ideal for when you need to keep yourself attentive and absorbed in your reading. Bonobo integrates a plethora of synthesized sounds to produce a diverse sonic landscape that manages to be both down-tempo and rhythmic. Much of Bonobo’s music is either lyric-less or uses minimal lyricism, and for me, this is ideal, since complex lyrics tend to distract me from the words on the page.

Essays – Movie Scores

I’m cheating a bit with this one, since some may argue that movie soundtracks often feature classical music, but I do see a contrast between the two genres and one that feels significant in light of the work differences. I prefer movie scores to classical while trying to write an essay. There’s something cinematic about sitting in a library and contemplating poetic geniuses and complex novels. As a somewhat guilty pleasure, I intensely adore the Harry Potter scores, as they make me feel both nostalgic and inspired to keep working. Next time you have a paper to write, try channeling your inner Hermione and take a listen to any of the scores from the franchise. For an added bonus, try listening to these while working in A.D. White. You may actually feel yourself becoming a wizard, but no guarantees!

Reviewing Notes – Soft Indie

Some beautiful, simple, indie-rock is just what I need to keep me sane before an exam. In the past two weeks, I’ve been hooked on the new Paper Kites album. This LP, entitled twelvefour, came out in late August, and it has the perfect autumn feel. It is very soft and soothing, and the vocals, while apparent, are not obtrusive in any way. If you feel like you need a little pre-exam boost, perhaps try Boy’s new album We Were Here. This album is a bit more upbeat, but still retains the cozy indie feel that will keep you calm and collected. The trick about studying with indie music is finding tracks that are mellow but not melancholic. I have made this mistake before and instead of preparing for a prelim, I have ended up pondering the prospect of failure to the tune of Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Follow You Into the Dark.” While reviewing, look for music that manages to soothe your pre-prelim anxieties but also allows you to concentrate while you cram. Studying is all about finding the right atmosphere to optimize on your personal productivity. Music can mediate this, so give these suggestions a shot and see what happens!

Anita Alur is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]. Millennial Musings runs alternate Thursdays this semester.