Thursday, August 21, 2008

My office soundtrack

As I was driving in my car last night, contemplating what I could possibly write about today, a song came on the radio. One of my favorites, in fact, and I realized that while I've blogged about many of my favorite obsessions (writing, taekwondo, cats, quilting), I've overlooked the one that permeates almost everything I do: music. Part of that is because it's summer, when I don't have regular rehearsals and I give my flute a rest. But part of that is because "listening to music" is my default mode, so it's a given, almost beneath my notice. It's like air—I don't think about it, I just inhale it.

I have to have music when I write, even if I'm trying to explain something complex, like quantum physics. (That was an actual assignment once, writing about Nobel physicist Richard Feynman and trying to simplify his life's work for a middle-school audience.) I have my CD collection loaded into iTunes, over 2600 songs, and I usually listen to it on shuffle. I have everything from classic rock to pop, from the 1960s (the Beatles, Hendrix) through the 70s (Elton John, Boston), 80s (Billy Joel, Eurythmics), 90s (Sarah McLachlan, Indigo Girls), and into the 21st century (Coldplay, Kelly Clarkson). Being slightly anal-retentive, sometimes I listen to the list alphabetically ("Abacab" through "Ziggy Stardust") or even by order of song length ("Miracle Cure" from Tommy, 12 seconds, through Elton's live "Burn Down the Mission," 18 minutes.) I have a special fondness for progressive rock bands of the 70s (Genesis, Rush) and piano-based rock (and if you don't think piano can rock, I suggest you check out Ben Folds). Also, because I lived in London from 1998-2002, I have a fondness for some British artists who aren't big names over here (Robbie Williams, Stereophonics).

Most of the time, the music is background as I work. But sometimes I have to stop, turn up the music, and just listen. It always puts me in a better mood and I resume writing with more energy. Some songs get an automatic (loud) replay; my current obsession is Keane, one of those lesser-known Brit bands (who also happen to play piano-based rock); their lead singer has an angel's pure tenor. They do kind of remind me of some of those old progressive rock bands; they might be a wee bit pretentious, but the music makes me forgive all:

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