The Music I Listen To While Writing

If you’re a blogger, there’s a chance that when you write, you listen to music to get you going. I know I do. It helps me concentrate and get what I want to write out, especially with reviews. So I thought I’d make up a short playlist of some of the music I listen to while writing. Funnily enough, most of it is from movie scores or soundtracks.

Fur Alina, Arvo Part

This very minimalist, sparse track was originally just two minutes long. But my preferred version runs a full length of ten minutes, and features notably in its entirety in a fantastic, flooring sequence in Gus van Sant’s Gerry, including the famed shot which tracks incredibly slowly around Casey Affleck’s head in a 360 degree turn that seems to last an eternity.

Death is the Road to Awe, Clint Mansell

Originally written for the soundtrack of the somewhat disappointing Darren Aronofsky film The Fountain, this track is probably the best piece of music Aronofsky has ever made, even better than the famed Lux Aeterna from Requiem for a Dream. A full eight minutes of stunning epicness.

Standing in Silence, Rhian Sheehan

The New Zealand musician Rhian Sheehan recently released Standing in Silence, a constant 45-minute rhythm of beautiful music split into 14 tracks. I’ll include a few of my favourites here, but the album is really worth hearing in its entirety.

So Now Then, Jon Brion

The score to Magnolia features nine tracks, and is an almost impeccable work of musical art. It keeps the three hour film flowing incredibly nicely, but perhaps the best track plays near the end of the film, after the infamous frog rain. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll probably remember this cheerful, upbeat and brilliant tune.

The Double Life of Veronique, Zbigniew Preisner

Zbigniew Preisner is probably the best living music composer on the planet. His film scores are heavenly, and he is most famous for his work with Krzysztof Kieslowski. Probably his best score is that of The Double Life of Veronique. Here are a couple of gentle, haunting tracks from that breathtaking film.


Symphony no. 7 in A Major, Ludwig van Beethoven

This piece by Beethoven is actually pretty well-known and has been used in a few films. Most people recognize it and think of the famous final speech in The King’s Speech, but I will always think of it’s most amazing appearance, at the end of Gaspar Noe’s Irreversible. It is such a haunting track; it sends shivers down my spine each time I hear it, even just the first three minutes of it.

There. I hope my rambling about artful music didn’t leave you too alienated, thinking I’m one of those pretentious assholes who listens to crap. I just love those tracks. And now it’s time for you to share some of your favourites. Let me know in the comments.


Posted on November 16, 2011, in Music and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.

  1. I usually listen to a piece by Henry Mancini called “Lujon”. Heard it in Two Lovers.

  2. I usually don’t listen to music when I write. I zone out most sound when I write actually, which is nice.

    • I guess a lot of people prefer silence. I can’t stand the sound of keyboard tapping; music (especially Fur Alina by Arvo Part, which is incredibly soothing).

  3. I’ve actually found that music helps me study a lot, because I can’t stand silence. Usually when I go and write a blog post, I put my iPod on shuffle and type away. I love The Social Network’s soundtrack…that always makes me type faster. I also have the Inception, Black Swan and Hanna soundtracks on there, which are all excellent. Otherwise, there are just a whole lot of other random songs on there…most of them have been from films, the rest music I’ve been given by my friends (no Justin Bieber).

  4. Count me in among the silence-preferring lot. I love music, but it’s very distracting for me when I’m trying to write a blog post. I’ll just hum along and drum on my desk and stuff, getting no writing done.

  5. Interesting.

    I have spoken to a lot of critics and writers whilst at press events and this subject often comes up.

    I am in the SILENCE camp. I tend to get carried away by the music too much.

    Then again my school reports always read…. Scott is too easily distracted….I am like a Magpie…always looking for the shiny thing!

    • Another vote for Silence. Fair enough. I suppose I could go either way; I don’t ALWAYS listen to music while I write posts, and when I do, it helps. Certain tracks are inspirational, while others can be annoying. It’s about finding the right track to suit the mood of your post.

  6. What I find useful is listening a film’s soundtrack when I’m writing a review of it. Else, I don’t usually listen music while writing a post.

  7. I listen to movie scores when I write, but I require silence when I proof and edit.

    Some favorites:
    The Thin Red Line – Hans Zimmer
    Rescue Dawn – Klaus Badelt
    There Will Be Blood – Jonny Greenwood
    Syriana – Alexandre Desplat
    Social Network – Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross
    And anything chill by Radiohead

    But by long and far the music I listen to most often when I write is James Horner’s score for The New World.

  8. Christian Hallbeck

    I’ve watched “Gerry” now. And although it’s a unique film in many ways, I don’t see how you can use it to fall asleep to it, Tyler! I certainly can’t fall asleep to a film which gives me an uneasy feeling. The film used for this purpose must be calming! That is to say: when I close my eys to it, I must know in advance that there will be a light and hopeful ending. And even though Pärts music in “Gerry” is calming in itself, the story as it evolves isn’t, as I see it.

    In the film “Für Alina” is played with relatively long pauses between the frases, which gives it a cosmic and “existentialistic” atmosphere, that suits the film perfectly! I wish that you get the opportunity to listen to Werner Bärtschi’s interpretation of the piece: It’s very different in approach! It’s shorter pauses and thereby more connected flow, makes it that intimate message only for Alina to hear and understand, that must have been it’s intention. In my view it’s a very personal piece of music: It’s für Alina, from the composer. It’s meaning is clear only to them.

    Finally, I find Mozart’s music to be far the most easy to write to! Bach doesn’t let you concentrate on anything but him!

    • It must sound strange that I find the film calming, but I do. Many of Gus van Sant’s films have that effect.

      The piece itself is long, languorous and beautiful. I love it. If I can find a recording of the version you’re referring to, I shall definitely listen to it.

  9. Interesting selections. I tend to go for ambient/low-key electronic music such as Tycho, Boards of Canada, Aphex Twin, etc. That style is perfect background music for writing and/or doing computer work.

    • Those aren’t bad. I certainly agree with Aphex Twin. My Dad actually has some old cassettes of Tangerine Dream that I listened to the other day. Have you heard of them? Very light but still essentially 80s techno music.

  10. Try this album:
    Angel Vivaldi – Universal Language

    Here’s a track off it:

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