By DYLAN BROWN
For Inland 360
Either way, music drowned out my dormitory neighbors at 1 a.m. on test day in college. Finding the right sound to study to — for me — was a four-year voyage through the lyric-less genres.
Dear formerly kid down the hall,
No way you get anything done with 50 Cent shaking the desk out from under your textbook. Sorry.
It’s the original brain juice, but listening to classical puts you at risk of being the pretentious music major who complains about the liberties the New York Philharmonic’s took with Brahms. An entire orchestra of sound can also overwhelm you to the point of distraction, but J.S. Bach, I found, helped me formulate my attempts at sophisticated economic analysis.
Sleeping is not conducive to studying — neither is crying. I still get teary every time “May It Be” plays during the credits of “The Fellowship of the Ring,” but it’s usually hard to write on soaked paper.
Jazz: Cannonball Adderley
Where classical is stuffy, jazz is classy cool, especially when a guy named Cannonball plays some wicked saxophone. The trick with study music is avoiding the “Enya effect,” and while jazz is soothing, you wouldn’t hear it during the spa treatment your girlfriend “tricked” you into getting with her. Adderley’s be-bop keeps you awake and swinging through your reading and writing.
Ambient: Sigur Rós
The inescapable adjective to describe Sigur Rós is ethereal. There are plenty of words in Sigur Rós songs, but even if you’ve mastered Icelandic, you won’t understand half of it. The group from Reykjavik — one of the most popular ambient acts ever — use their own dialect of an already nearly unlearnable language, and it fades right into the comforting warmth of their soundscapes, which feel like a sunrise flaring onto the Arctic. The only problem is just like complaining with classmates, you can’t study and throw yourself a pity party at the same time.
Post-rock: Explosions in the Sky
The band behind the “Friday Night Lights” soundtrack are my go-to in times of academic crisis. Renowned for captivating, intimate live shows, they have the “there, there, I understand” emotion of Sigur Rós, but their guitars smash crescendos exalting you to pull your head back up off the desk at 3 a.m.
Brown may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, (208) 848-2278. Follow him on Twitter @DylanBrown26.