I’ve previously mentioned that between 60-70% of my music collection is music for studying or writing to.
In truth, it’s probably closer to 80-85%.
The reasons for this are obvious to me. I began collecting music in earnest when I first started having money of my own for some luxury items. This corresponded with my first entering university, which saw me spending the majority of my time outside of class studying and completing assignments.
Likewise, with my university days long behind me, at least for the moment, I spend the majority of my time that I’m not at my day job writing novels in pursuit of publication.
For me, studying and writing is all about quieting my mind and my surroundings so that the insights my subconscious has often already come up with can rise to the surface of my awareness.
To facilitate this, I distract my subconscious with soothing music, often that which lacks lyrics, such as New Age, Classical, and orchestral movie scores.
While it might seem that no music at all would work best in this endeavour, true silence has the converse effect of amplifying the ping-ponging of my thoughts that routinely occurs in my mind.
2017, in addition to providing new music by my long-time favourites, has also been a good year for new music for me to write, read, and study to:
1) Mother Earth – Future World Music
I discovered Future World Music unsuspectingly on Twitter a couple years ago when an author that I follow tweeted about them releasing a new album, and about how she likes to listen to their epic music while writing.
Since I’m always curious about the types of music other writers write to (it varies widely), and since I too like epic movie scores and movie trailer music, I looked them up.
What I discovered was a self-described “custom boutique music library that provides high impact cinematic music for motion picture advertising”.
Their music has appeared in a number of hit Hollywood movies and national ad campaigns. They’ve also produce studio releases that are available to the public, Mother Earth being their sixth such.
What I love about Future World Music is that within their broader sci fi-fantasy/adventure/epic orchestral sound, there’s quite a bit of diversity across the various tracks of each album. Some tracks are upbeat and triumphant, others are insistent and intense, others still are wistful, heartfelt, or full of unresolved longing.
The music used to all be scored by a single composer, Armen Hambar. However, for the last three studio albums, the most recent included, Hambar has brought in two other composers, Aram Mandossian and Vlado Hudec, all of whom compose their own songs for each release.
All three composers write songs that fit cohesively on the album, yet each has his own unmistakeable style. After listening to their individual work for three albums now, I can correctly guess the composer without needing to look at the track info for almost every song.
Favourite track: The title track, “Mother Earth”. This song, written by Vlado Hudec, starts off tentative and wistful before building to a rhythmic full-orchestra climax that repeats a triumphant three-note phrase.
2) Transformers: The Last Knight – Steve Jablonsky
I’ve been a fan of Transformers for a long time, but for two entirely different reasons as a child vs. as an adult.
As a child of age seven or eight, courtesy of my babysitter’s three sons, I was introduced to Transformers action figures and the cartoon on TV.
Thanks to this, I went on to love the sentient giant robots from the planet Cybertron so much, I asked for—and received—my own action figures for Christmas (completely disregarding my babysitter’s friend, who tried to gender-police me out of this, stating that Transformers were only for boys).
(The character Optimus Prime also became one of my favourite fictional characters ever, as I’ve previously discussed.)
Meanwhile, as an adult now experiencing the explosion-heavy, mind-numbingly asinine live-action Transformers movies, my love for the franchise is comprised solely of the movie scores as composed by Steve Jablonsky.
However ludicrous the plot of each live-action movie, Jablonsky has scored each one as if for a subject of great import. His sweeping, orchestral scores are at turns heroic, haunting, adventurous, wistful, dangerous, and triumphant, very much in the vein of legendary movie composer Hans Zimmer, who previously mentored Jablonsky and currently employs him at his studio.
Each score contains a number of different musical themes that are introduced, reprised and modified, at times combined, and eventually resolved by the end of the movie.
Simply put, his scores convey all the emotional depth and wonder that the movies themselves lack.
The score for this most recent movie is a particular treat, as it contains every suite Jablonsky composed for the film in its original, uncut length as opposed to the edited versions that accompanied their respective scenes on screen.
This results in many tracks that exceed the five-minute mark in duration, as well as an album that is over two hours of stunning writing inspiration
Favourite track: A seriously tough decision since there are so many wonderful suites. I’ll go with the opening track, “Sacrifice”. This piece contains a modified string theme from the score of a previous Transformers movie. This theme has been slowed way down and punctuated with drums to convey the very sacrifice and regret that often runs alongside bravery.
3) Medicine Woman 6: Synchronicity – Medwyn Goodall
Medwyn Goodall is probably my #1 favourite artist to write and work to that I’ve strangely never talked about.
He is a New Age artist from Cornwall, England who plays at least 10 instruments, including the mandolin, pan pipes, flute, piano, guitar, harp, and glockenspiel.
In his 30-year career, he’s released more than 75 albums (of which I currently own 26 and counting) featuring various New Age styles, including South American, Native American, Celtic, meditative, high fantasy, and New Age electronica.
Goodall also owns and operates a record label that releases the works of other artists within the New Age, relaxation, meditation, and world music genres.
The original Medicine Woman album was released back in 1992 and remains one of Goodall’s best-loved and bestselling recordings. It actually one of my favourite albums of all time, and the CD version of it was also the very first thing I ever bought online (the second thing I bought was the sequel, Medicine Woman 2.)
Continuing in the convention of the entire Medicine Woman series, Medicine Woman 6 is a soothing, empowering musical journey featuring traditional South American instruments and rhythms that explore Mayan folklore and beliefs, the rainforest, and the power of the Feminine.
Favourite track: “Making Magic”—an uplifting ballad featuring pan pipes, piano, guitar, birdcalls, and nature sounds.
Do you have special music that you listen to while performing special tasks? Let me know in the comments.
(Image: J.G. Noelle)