Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Music To Design By

(click image to enlarge)

A student recently asked me what music I find is good to play while I'm working on design projects. He asked me after liking some of the music I was playing in my Type As Art class the week before. As anyone who knows me knows, music is a key part in both my personal and professional lives so I was happy to create an overview of my approach to scoring my creative sessions. However, the answer is anything but simple and straightforward. Here goes…

If the project is music-related, I typically listen to the artist themselves or bands similar in tone to them. That puts me in the spirit of what I'm designing, of course.

If I'm just starting out a project and am working through the tedious frustrations that can accompany the initial try-and-try-again steps, I need to listen to something calm and soothing – otherwise, I get agitated with the loud or heavy music and switch to silence. Speaking of the latter…

Silence is always a good option to break things up. Never understand its power.

When I reviewed my iTunes catalog and typed out the names of bands and albums I enjoy creating to, I realized there wasn't a true method to the selection madness. However, there are some common elements to be explored here.

I love the Rudy Van Gelder Remaster Jazz Collection on Blue Note, namely:
• Cannonball Adderley, Somethin' Else
• Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, Moanin'
• Sonny Clark, Cool Struttin'
• John Coltrane, Blue Train
• Miles Davis, Birth of the Cool
• Dexter Gordon, Go
• Hank Mobley, Soul Station
• Lee Morgan, The Sidewinder

Jazz is so discordant, lively, and (by enlarge) wordless that I absolutely love creating to it. You'll notice that the above titles date from the late-40s through the early/mid-60s. There's never been a better era of jazz and Blue Note is king, by far. If you only listen to a few of these, Somethin' Else, Go, and The Sidewinder would be my recommendations.

I also tend to enjoy dark, ambient records like Automaton's Jihad – Point of Order and Brian Eno & Jah Wobble's Spinner. These are both wordless, artistic soundscapes that never fail to do the trick, especially late at night when things quiet down.

Modern indie rock like Chelsea Wolfe's Apokalypsis has found a home alongside other favorites of recent years in Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi's Rome, the The Good, The Bad & The Queen album, Massive Attack's Heligoland, Pelican's Australasia, and *Shels Plains of the Purple Buffalo.

Now, if the process is moving along quite smoothly, I'm fully capable of playing the most brutal metal and kick-ass rock 'n' roll in my arsenal at high volume BUT I must be on a roll in my design while knowing this music will be silenced immediately upon a roadblock of any kind.

And finally, a few great bands that can be played at nearly every moment of my design process – Radiohead, namely Kid A, Amnesiac, In Rainbows, and The King of Limbs, Pink Floyd: Atom Heart Mother, Meddle, Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, and Animals, The National: Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers, Alligator, The Cherry Tree EP, Boxer, and High Violet, and Joy Division: Unknown Pleasures, Closer, and Still (studio)