As my favorite week of the year approached (yeah finals!) I figured it would be a good time to talk about some of my favorite music to study to. I use music in the same way that most college students do, to block out the outside word and get down to businesses finishing that paper or problems set. I am not sure if it is just me, but I find that can't really focus on anything other than purely instrumental music (with a few exceptions). Since electronic music has never really bean my jam, the other best source of purely instrumental music are movie soundtracks which make up a good portion of this list. Another lovely thing about soundtracks is that they are meant to flow together, so there are not disturbances in the sound to distract you. For this list, I tried to pick my favorite albums that have stood the test of time and that I keep coming back to.
The Social Network
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
If you listen to one album from this list choose this one. My go-to album if I need to block out the word and get stuff done. Unlike most movie soundtracks you won't find an orchestra here. Instead, this album reflects the movie it was created for and is all digital. Truly a masterpiece of film scoring there is no real high or low point to this album. It is all so good. No other piece of music can give me goosebumps like "Hands Covered in Bruises." If you have never done work with this album on give it a shot, if your brain is wired like mine you won't be disappointed.
P.S. Pretty much everything else Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross have done is also golden. Here is a playlist that I found on Apple Music that does an excellent job displaying their complete collection of work.
Westword: Season 1
The newest album to makes it's way into the study rotation. One of the elements that struck me most when I watched the first episode was the music. Not only did it effectively set the mood of each scene but the music also gave me a sense of place. Scenes set in the park where set to more classic sounds (piano and strings). The scene set in the control center had a more modern feeling, using synthesizers and digitally generated instruments. The real highlights of the album is the stretch from "This Word" to "Reveries." That being said any of the piano covers of the contemporary songs are great (see "Paint it Black" and "Black Hole Sun").
Interstellar is a pretty good movie. I have enjoyed it the few time that I have watched it. In my mind, the best aspect of the film is the music. With all the signature tropes of a Hans Zimmer score (lots of organ and whooshing horns), this album is very intense. The reason that I find makes it perfect for studying, when compared to his other score, is that it is more atmospheric rather than intensity building. This is not to say that it does not have exciting moments, the music can make finishing a paper feel like, say, docking a spaceship.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Ok, so this score probably the biggest outlier on this list. Where the other soundtracks on this list favor are a more contemporary style, this score is more old school. I would not call it a classical movie score (far too much balalaika), but it is a really cool sounding score. Pulling many elements for central European melodic themes, it sounds different from pretty much anything else being composed no and days. Like the movie that it belongs to it is difficult to describe this score but I recommend giving "Mr. Moustafa" a listen. If you like that, then you will enjoy it as a whole. The soundtrack also is from one of my favorite movies, if you have not watched anything by Wes Anderson you should change that.
I said at the top that most of the music that I listen to while studying is instrumental. Well, this album is one of the acceptions. I first heard about this mash-up album when listening to Cortex. On episode 2 Grey and Myke talk about music that they listen to while working. Grey explained how this album is shockingly able to help him focus. It has the same effect on me. I can not explain why but this is one of the best "get focused" bits of music around. It is weird, but you should definitely give it a listen.
A Moon Shaped Pool
This album is on this list for one reason and one reason only. Don't get me wrong, it is an excellent album to listen to while studying but this album more than any other on this list is pure nostalgia for me. It came out right before finals my sophomore year, and I must have listened to it 50 times while studying (a.k.a. cramming) for my differential equations final exam. I am convinced it helped me pass. Anyways if you like Radiohead, it is another great album from them.
These albums are just a few of my favorites, but I have a bunch of other music that I like to listen to while studying. I put togeather a playlist of a collection of my favorites. Well back to working on project and studing. Good luck on exams everyone and happy listening!