Tunes for brainstorming college newbies: Let me give you some study tips — hard-earned — on sonic background

By DYLAN BROWN For Inland 360

Who knows whether Mom just threatened to play Beethoven while I was in vitro or even if the “Mozart effect” is real. But Frances Rauscher, the researcher responsible for inspiring ertswhile Georgia Gov. Zell Miller to give pregnant mothers classical CDs in 1998, told Scientific American, “It’s really a myth.”

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.

Classical: Bach Grade: D+ 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.

World: Enya Grade: F+ 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.
Cannonball Adderley
Cannonball Adderley

Jazz: Cannonball Adderley Grade: B- 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.

Sigur Rós
Sigur Rós

Ambient: Sigur Rós Grade: C- 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.

click to enlarge Explosions in the Sky
Explosions in the Sky

Post-rock: Explosions in the Sky Grade: A 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, (208) 848-2278. Follow him on Twitter @DylanBrown26.

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