14 songs to help you concentrate
When motherf*ckers drop the pressure…
It's called the Mozart Effect, and refers to a group of professional people who claim that music helps a person concentrate and can actually increase performance. Professor William R. Klemm, a senior professor of neuroscience (#legit) wrote a paper for Psychology Today which is quite confusing but the gist seems to be:music that gives you positive feelings is helpful because it indirectly enhances your ability to form memories. He also talks about the power of 'neutral music', i.e. music that doesn't actively distract you. The various professors who talk about this stuff seem to agree that music with lyrics can be distracting when you're reading or writing, which sounds sensible, although two of my top three concentration songs contain lyrics. What might sound calming to one person would be stressful for another, and there's no neurological accounting for difference in taste. Some people need silence to concentrate, others need white noise; our music editor listens to grime while another member of the music team listens to drum and bass. Out of a selfish desire to increase my repertoire, I collected the concentration songs from some of the staff at i-D. These are the songs, albums and mixes supporting the creative output of i-D. Do you think it makes our performance better or worse?!
Four Tet, Morning Side. Taken from their new LP Morning/Evening, this track is fucking perfect. Gently manipulated Bollywood samples sit over a steady beat that'll put you in the most productive mood that you've ever been. I can confirm, from experience, that it is also really great to wake up to, to run to, and remind yourself that everything is going to be okay to. Fun fact: YouTuber Chris Wallis really wants to "f**k Selena Gomez to this". Evening Side is great too, btw, so maybe just invest in the whole album. It'll change your life.
It always changes but it has to be something incredibly disruptive. So currently anything by Stormzy, sometimes a bit of classic Skepta. The noisier, louder, more mental the better - it totally resets my cerebral equilibrium.
Anything by Daniel Avery. It gets me in the zone and focuses my mind.
My concentration song is Destiny by Zero 7. It's my concentration song because I believe it's the song someone with the ability to concentrate would have as their concentration song.
My mind loses itself in silence so to keep my thoughts from wandering down the wrong path, I have to overload my senses with sights and sounds. If I have a deadline, Netflix flickers my latest obsession (currently Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) and Soundcloud plays out my favourite mix in my speakers (alternating between 60 minutes with Oneman because I like it grimey and Father's Papicodone EP because I like to type and bounce). If the deadline has long since passed and I'm embarrassing myself, I float in Max Richter's Recomposed Vivaldi The Four Seasons, get my shit together and the words flow."
Mick Jenkins - The Water[s]. It's a whole mixtape devoted to the importance of water. It's oddly reassuring, and the combination of Mick's slick rapping over the sound of running water is very calming. "Drink more water... or you might die."
I can't listen to any music with words when I'm writing, so if I'm working on deadline into the early hours I like this Slumber Session, although you have to make it past that sleepy midnight/1am time into the more delirious 2am/3am hours, which is almost definitely my most productive time of day.
My concentration songs often come in the form of mixes, usually drum & bass mixes. The most recent one on the iPod is this masterclass from the legendary Exit Records king dBridge with SP:MC, rolling out five hours from Fabric's room three. What more can I say, zone the fuck in!
Una Pena by Stimming. I find lyrics distracting when I'm trying to really concentrate so listened to this on repeat when revising at university. The way it builds makes my stomach feel weird in a good way and puts me in the right mood to highlight frantically.
Anything off Kind of Blue. I've listened to it so much, it just kind of washes over me now. It has its own special time flow.
Beethoven's 7th Symphony (when I'm super inspired) and anything Nicolas Jarr (namely El Bandido).
Has to be wordless. Right now it's a TED talk recording of an 11-year-old piano prodigy
The Winner Is by DeVotchka, I can't remember why or how. I don't even really like it, it's just helpful for zoning out, or in - probably in. It's also at least one other person's concentration song because xjayfeather314x has made a 10 hour loop on youtube. Thank goodness for those people.
I used to listened to A Tribe Called Quest's Midnight Marauders endlessly at uni. I think it was because I knew the album so well it wasn't distracting. I think the test of a good album is how many times you can listen to it and not get bored, and even throughout three years of uni, it still bangs.
Photography Petr Dosek