There are times in the month when the magazine team really needs to get its collective heads down to get pages to the printer – for that slightly manic week or so, I tend to reach for Tudor choral music.
Byrd’s Ave Verum, Tallis’s O Nata Lux, a spot of Gibbons, perhaps some Tomkins. It never fails to bring the blood pressure down and focus the mind.
Listening to music is part of the job for me, but if I’m in need of background music to keep the brain ticking over I will always go to solo piano music.
So if I had to choose one piece to play on a loop, it would be Clair de lune by Debussy. It has an instantly calming effect on me and inspires utter stillness. Of course, there is the risk of becoming so relaxed I might slump at the desk and have a sleep. Perhaps it should be alternated with something a bit more lively to achieve maximum productivity…
For me, finding suitable classical music to work to can be a tricky business. Anything with peaks and troughs of volume have to be avoided, as does gloomy introspection or pieces that demand my concentration so much that I simply have to stop and listen – for the last of these reasons, a recent attempt to work to Schubert’s two Piano Trios ended in failure.
However, I am going to stick with the Austrian composer, in the form of his youthful Third Symphony. Don’t be put off by the ominous-sounding opening D, played in unison – this soon turns into a symphony of matchless effervescence, with one high-spirited movement leading onto the next. Carried along by Franz’s good humour, my sub-editing and writing tasks simply fly by.
For me, a cursory album selection on Spotify or Apple Music can become an hourlong trip down a musical rabbit hole. Therefore, in the hope of getting any work done, I steer clear of streaming platforms and pop on one of John Luther Adams’s almighty 40-minute soundscapes: Become Ocean and Become Desert.
For the duration of each piece, I am utterly transported. If you’re someone that’s easily distracted by melody, these orchestral works are the perfect solution. Evoking sounds of the sea and of vast desert plains, these spacious, powerful pieces of music are the answer if you’ve ever reached for the whale music or ‘sounds of rain’ and found yourself immensely disappointed.