Archives for posts with tag: Music

I suppose everyone has a shortlist of favourite songs that have stayed with them over the years, to become not just their top 5 songs in a specific category, but of all time. Songs that can be relied upon to lift them, tug at the heart strings, and get them in the right frame of mind, when they feel they can accomplish just about anything.

I decided to write this post so that I could finally commit to memory its composer, since I’ve never heard the original in full, only its most famous part. Adagio for Strings was written by Samual Barber in 1936, and has featured in many other reproductions since. For instance, who could forget the scene involving Willem Dafoe’s character left on the ground by departing helicopters in the 1986 film Platoon. Some of its bars are among the most famous in classical music, achingly beautiful and haunting at the same time.

Where I’m most familiar with the piece is as a sample of a dance song of the same name by the Dutch DJ Tiësto. The video is in a club holding what looks like about 50,000 rapt attendees – oh, to have been there. I’m listening to it as I write this post. It starts with super fast beats that make you feel you’re invincible and then the adagio sample cuts in to make you stop, remember and yearn for those that are no longer with you. The song then lifts off again, reworking the handful of notes from the sample to a mesmerising close.

It’s magic stuff, giving off a huge, non-chemically induced high. I shall never tire of it I think. Probably my number 2 song of all time.



When I was a school and college student, I never had music to accompany me when I was working. I preferred complete silence so that I could concentrate. As I’ve got older, I occasionally let music intrude, but it’s still pretty rare and it depends on the kind of work I’m doing.

If I have to concentrate really hard on something, maybe a tricky spreadsheet or comparing red-lined documents, no music for me, silence is better. I realise of course that there are many people who couldn’t imagine working – even the concentration-heavy stuff – without music. The contrary works pretty well for them.

There’s the good and bad of music. On the good side, it lifts the spirits and provides diversion from manual or repetitive jobs – or when you’re plain ticked off. Have you ever noticed how hard it is to pick up an accent when someone sings? It’s always fascinated me how that works, something to do with the vocal chords resonating in a different, unifying way when we sing, perhaps.

Time flies when you listen to music, and sometimes that’s a good thing.

On the negative side, music can provide too much of a distraction, damage productivity and sometimes – when you hear a song that calls to mind a certain period or event – can make you plain cross or upset. It’s unbelievably evocative, and that’s its charm and its menace.

Music while you work – good or bad? It depends, of course.

A while back I wrote a post on how a sound can instantly bring you back to a time gone by. It can evoke a feeling in much the same way as a distinctive smell can.

The other day, I was watching the Champions League footie on the television and they were having some sound issues. The noise cancelling function of the commentators mike wasn’t working, so it was picking up crowd white noise as well.

The weird thing was this: it sounded just like the football commentaries of world cup games in the 60’s and 70’s. I was spirited back to a time of David Coleman or Kenneth Wolstenholme and those legendary voices that sounded slightly dislocated, strangled almost.

I guess that’s why music is so good at evoking a feeling or a certain period in our lives. It makes ‘guess the year’ on the radio so much more penetrable.

We’re used to hearing music on marketing videos. Perhaps it is the next great ploy to be exploited via the browser and web sites…

It’s odd how music makes you run better.  I’m a regular user of treadmills, but 19 times out of 20 I make do with the stuff they pump out of the speakers.  Most folk seem to swear by their mp3 players and never work out without them.

Just once in a while (that 1 out of 20 times, you’ll have noticed) I like to plug in too, and I swear I run better, faster, stronger.  For a while it was the Killers’ Hot Fuss.  Then it was Muse’s Black Holes and Revelations.   These days it’s David Guetta’s Nothing But The Beat.  I feel like I can run forever when it’s blasting into the exact centre of my head.  Well, at least until one of my calves or hamstrings breaks down, which is usually about 30 minutes.

I’ve only recently got into working to music though.  For years it broke my concentration, so I always studied or worked in silence.   I’m one of these people who can work from home with zero noise, no radio in the background, or no music playing.  These days, though, sometimes it’s a nice complement to creativity and problem-solving work, when you really need to ‘zone in’.