Music to Create By
Music and Creativity
There seems to be a lot of personal preference about music: what music is best for your brain and creativity, what is right to listen too and what is wrong. I know I had some opinions about my children listening to loud screaming music while supposedly doing homework. Some can do it because they can tune it out. Others just want an excuse to be distracted from the unpleasantness of schoolwork in general. The question is what is best?
As an artist, I like to listen to music while I create, but it has to be instrumental only. I feel like having words sung to me distracts me from what I’m doing. Maybe I’m easily distracted or maybe it’s single-mindedness, whichever, I prefer classical music. Whenever I tell people that, they look at me like I just grew a third eye or a tail. Yes. I like Mozart, Vivaldi, and Rachmaninoff. I can’t help it. It’s beautiful music without words and allows me to create on a bed of melodious mood-making music. I’m listening to the piano music of Helen Jane Long right now. I especially love the violin of Joshua Bell. Fabulous.
Creativity and The Brain
I’m sure you have heard that you have two sides to your brain. On the one side, you do creative things like sing, play music, dance, create art, arrange flowers, even cook. On the other side, you take care of mundane things like money, calculate the cost of a dress and mentally figure if you have enough left in the bank for this purchase or that. You read and write with the academic side, while you draw and sing with the other side.
Do a little experiment. Think of a piece of music right now. Maybe something famous like The Sound of Music or something from your past like Elvis’ Jailhouse Rock. Now say the words without singing. Don’t even hum. Just recite the words as if they were a poem. You will find that you can’t do it. You won’t be able to get more than two lines into the poem without having to either join the music with it or you will start singing the words involuntarily. The reason is that you memorized the words WITH the music. It has been saved on the creative side, the music side of the brain and not the academic side.
On the other hand, you have different fingers.
What kind of music do you listen to when creating?
For this reason, I hate playing popular music while I’m creating. Without even noticing, I will begin singing and suddenly I’m no longer creating, I’m remembering the words and music to sing along. I know lots of people who can shut out everything around them while they are creating but if you can do that, why bother putting on music in the first place?
Ted-X on Brain Improvement
I watched a Ted-x YouTube video on The science of improving your brain’s creativity | Nick Skillicorn | TEDxDurhamUniversity
What really hit me from this Ted-x sequence is when he mentioned the things that inhibit creative thinking. He mentions the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex: the part of your brain in the front of the forehead behind your eyes. This part of the brain controls your impulsive thoughts or rash actions. As he says, it is working best when meeting your in-laws for the first time or at a job interview and keeping you from saying or doing something stupid. It is the part of the brain that acts as a filter and keeps you from acting out when you are angry or spouting curse words when upset. But it also will keep you from acting on creative thought as well. This focused part of the brain must be switched off if you are to create freely and create new innovative things.
Light travels faster than sound. That’s why some people appear bright, until you hear them speak.
The Flow of Creativity
Some people can play the radio while working, but I find this even more distracting than just playing popular songs, because every three or four songs a human voice will command my attention and focus to try to sell me something or tell me about the next set of songs, when all I want it to continue with my creative flow.
For me, it is like being in a free-flowing river. Near the middle the water is deep and the flow is moving along at a nice pace with little or no resistance. However, nearer the shore, there are rocks and trees, boulders and underwater snags that can cause eddies and whirlpools. The human voice is like that for me. It can pull me out of the flow into a whirlpool where I am going around and around creatively but getting nowhere until I can find a way back into the flow if I can find my way back.
Asking for Opinions
I asked a group of friends their opinions about what the best form of music to create by was, and here are some of their answers:
Josh: I believe the types of music has a lot to do with your current mood. Same as art.
Kimberly: Ever heard of "Bon Iver"?
Desta: I say smooth jazz...no words... that's what I work to every day.
Kevin: Yann Tiersen. Explosions in the Sky. Hammock. You'll like Yann Tiersen.
Amber: It varies for me but generally I enjoy music that stays upbeat and energetic, keeps me going and moving.
Olivia: a nice instrumental with variations in melodies would be for me..... Christian and Country.....with a classical twist...
Amanda: Movie soundtracks!! Some of my favorite soundtracks are to movies I've never seen, so it doesn't matter at all. Let's see... The Assassination of Jesse James has a kind of sad feeling, Doctor Who season 4 is beautiful, then there's Atonement, Ender's Game, Pan's Labyrinth, and Pushing Daisies (both seasons). I pick a mood and go from there, but I always have a score or classical playing in the background when I'm reading or studying.
Kevin: Never go wrong with Last of the Mohicans
Tim: Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, or Mozart.
Amanda: Oh! And if you enjoy Explosions in the Sky, try the Moonlit Sailor station on Pandora. It's the perfect gateway drug to that style of music. Or! (Why didn't I think of this before?) the Friday Night Lights soundtrack is absolutely incredible. Go listen now!
Lara: Good question: I actually do listen to music, I listen to funk or a station called Zen, on Spotify. I like things without words or that gets distracting.
Creative Flow Without Words
The best ideas and the best creativity, in my opinion, come when you are relaxed and focused on the creative task. Lyrics in music has always taken me away and pulled my focus back to the words, away from the creative flow. What do you think? Can you create with lyrics playing? Do you bother to listen to music at all while creating?