Monday, April 29, 2013

Here's your official reason to listen to music at work

Who doesn't like listening to music? Specifically: Who doesn't like listening to music at work?

I usually have songs from one of my many iTunes playlists going on in the background when I am sitting at my workstation at Commits and checking my e-mail, writing a blog post, speaking with my students, and, of course, playing Scrabble on Facebook. (Right now I'm listening to the acoustic version of "You Learn" by Alanis Morissette, pictured.)

I play music at work (and in my car) because... I enjoy it.

But are there certain songs that can get you motivated at work or get you feeling productive on days when that's not so easy? Songs that, perhaps, simply inspire you at the office?

Yes, asserts Dave Kerpen, an American CEO who is also a New York Times best-selling author and keynote speaker.

Kerpen recently published on his blog a list of 21 songs "to inspire you at work". On the recommended listening list you will find Eminem, John Lennon (can you imagine which song by Lennon has made it?), Beyonce, Michael Jackson, Queen, even Katy Perry.

Check out Kerpen's post here and see if you agree with the choices: "21 Songs to Inspire You at Work".

PS: Take a look at my "jam history" on This Is My Jam to find out what kind of music moves me.
  • VARUN CHHABRIA (Class of 2012), associate editor of Books & More magazine, commented via Facebook: 
Kerpen should stick to CEO-ing... fortunate that his job doesn't require him to list too many things. :-)

For starters, instrumental music is scientifically proven to stimulate the growth and development of the brain, specifically the left hemisphere that deals with creative thinking and problem solving. Music with overtly aggressive lyrical content (such as Eminem's "I'm doin' this for me, so fu^k the world") doesn't come across as intellectually stimulating.

If I had to suggest listening to be inspired at work, I would go with Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, improv jazz like Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, or contemporary instrumental music (Russian Circles, Six Organs of Admittance, Snarky Puppy, The Mount Fuji Doomjazz Corporation, Noveller, etc.) to name a few.

Here's another band and song to add to the list: Mogwai — "Take Me Somewhere Nice".

P.S.: Here's one of the websites that I've followed over the years about music's effect on the brain: Effects of Instrumental Music Training on Brain and Cognitive Development in Young Children: A Longitudinal Study.

  • ANKITA BHATTACHERJEE (Class of 2014), who is currently an intern with the Statesman in Kolkata, commented via e-mail:
Although I'd love to listen to music at work I can't. The people at the Statesman would surely consider me a nuisance and chuck me out. And being me I know I'd love to sing along with the song, which I'm pretty sure would earn me a nasty look at least. So for me listening to songs at work is not an option. Moreover you know the kind of songs I like: party songs. I'm pretty sure my colleagues wouldn't approve of that either. 

By the way, somehow, even before reading the list I knew Katy Perry's "Firework" would be on the list. It's one hell of an inspiring song! Another one that I'd like to add to the list is "Perfect" by Pink. These two kept me going through my dark days.

  • NIRANJANA MURALEEDHARAN (Class of 2014), who is currently an intern with R Square Consulting in Bangalore, commented via e-mail:
Doesn't that lead to continous partial attention? :-) I really can't concentrate when I listen to music and, moreover, I feel uncomfortable when people see me with the headphones.

  • AJAY U. PAI, my 18-year-old nephew who is a budding economist, commented via e-mail:
No wonder you call it your workstation. It's where all your work comes to a stop! But seriously, you know how much I love music; even so I maintain that music isn’t meant to be heard at work. You can multi-task all you like but music isn’t one of those tasks. It's a taste, a hobby, or interest. It can never mix with work.

  • SAUMYA IYER (Class of 2014), who is currently an intern with Bangalore Mirror, commented via e-mail:
I love listening to music anywhere, anytime! The one song that motivates me whenever I’m about to begin my first day anywhere it could be an internship or attending a new college is “Brand New Day” by Sting. My favourite pick-me-up song, when I think that nothing is going my way, is “Hold Your Head Up” by Uriah Heep. Of course, given my eclectic taste in music, the songs I listen to on my iPod at work range from death metal, psychedelic rock, and punk to anime music and jazz; all of which help me through the day. It helps instill a "Fighting Spirit" which is also coincidentally an OST from my favourite anime, Naruto.

  • ANANYA CHATTERJEE (Class of 2014), who is currently an intern with Fremantle Media in Mumbai, commented via e-mail:
Music can be everywhere. It need not have a specific time and place! I listen to it because I get a weird, incomplete feeling if my earphones are not plugged in. However, recently one of my friends at work misplaced my earphones and I've been given a headphone by the office. Sitting in this quiet environment I cannot really play music on my phone :( As my work involves calling up "talent" (as we refer to the participants of reality shows here), this headphone becomes really irritating after a point because it doesn't allow me to call and listen to music at the same time (as my earphones did).

As for the music I love, the song in question need not have the most inspiring lyrics. It just needs to hit you in the right spot! It somehow makes you want to work more :) Listening to music and connecting the songs with every situation you're involved in is beautiful! Somehow, there are certain songs which will remind you of a particular place and a particular time, every time you listen to it. :) Oh dear! What would we have done without music! :D

Talking about songs to inspire you, I suggest you all should listen to "I hope you dance" by Ronan Keating and "I've gotta have you" by The Weepies.

  • LINSIYA PATRAO (Class of 2014), who is currently an intern with CNN-IBN in New Delhi commented via e-mail:
Well said, Sir. Who doesn't like music? I make it a point to listen to it at work or before I go to sleep at night. This is the one thing that keeps me going through the day. Sometimes it does become a little difficult at work with all the hustle and bustle, but as soon as I see things settling down, I slowly slip into my radio mode. Listening to "Don't leave home" by Dido in the mornings is such a beautiful experience.

I always enjoy music playing in the background on my laptop, radio, or TV. As long as it is in the background and not blaring into my ears! I can never imagine working without music. It feels weird to work in a quiet environment.

My choice of music depends on my mood. Personally, I prefer listening to melodious Bollywood music, and Meethi Mirchi on does exactly that for me. If I want retro, I switch to Purani Jeans; I can also choose from the playlists on the site.

Kishore Kumar, Sonu Niigaam, and Shaan are my all-time favourites. Romantic numbers, peppy songs, and contemporary hit tracks from Bollywood
always work for me. Then there's the instrumental series called "The Elements" and "Sound Scapes" composed by five musicians, including Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma and Hari Prasad Chaurasia, which is apt when you are feeling serene. And when it comes to ghazals, nothing can beat Jagjit Singh’s soulful voice.

One thing has proved true for me. With radio playing all the time (even when I'd actually be happy to have a few quiet moments), the brain has learnt to be aware and consciously tune out the song enabling me to focus on the work at hand. You see, music essentially is not a distraction at all!

ADDITIONAL READING (AND LISTENING): Love music? Love the blues? You will love Shillong's Soulmate

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