Music while you work

7 October 2011

I’ve just had to turn off Radio 3, a program about William Schuman was stopping me from working. I like Schuman but I apparently can’t have his later music on and work at the same time. It set me to thinking about what are my favourite things to listen to whilst working.
I’m hopeless at working in silence so there has to be something – a general rule for me seems to be that pencilling can only be accompanied by music, whereas inking, colouring and computery stuff can tolerate anything, including drama and comedy.
I remember that Slaine went particularly well with Nico’s Marble Index and Kelly’s Heroes – during one particular all nighter, drawing the episode where the volcano explodes, I had Kelly’s Heroes on continuous play, three times it was on I think. I knew that dialogue off by heart!


12 Responses to “Music while you work”

  1. Adrian Johnson Says:

    Kelly’s Heroes… see, I can’t have that as background noise. I have to actually watch Kelly’s Heroes if it’s on anytime. But that’s interesting that it went so well while working on Slaine, Mick.

    • mick mcmahon Says:

      I’d already watched it so many times that it was like an audio book. Watched it again last week, I was heading for the channel showing Scottish football but came across KH at the point where Crapgame’s explaining why Kelly ‘don’t like officers’. That was it for the football. Same thing with The Sands of Iwo Jima, just can’t help myself. And Von Ryan’s Express. And Where Eagles Dare…

      • Adrian Johnson Says:

        Aw man, who are you telling, Mick? I’m a young guy (31), but I grew up watching all those WWII movies and devouring books of same at the library. Sands, Where Eagles Dare, Back To Bataan, Bataan, I could keep going…

        And if an episode of ‘Band of Brothers’ is on TV, I will stop and watch, even though I know it by heart.

        I’m endlessly fascinated by WWII.

  2. I don’t think we’d make good studio partners as silence is golden to me getting work done! I’ve never really understood the need for musical distraction , though I suppose it suggest a mood for a piece of work? I remember working in an office at Pinewood designing stuff – it was a nightmare to concentrate…

  3. jcmean Says:

    i have seen this wonderful page a number of time in various reprints and always have got the impression it is half of a spread page, this could not be the case could it?


  4. nulsh Says:

    I need music when I’m drawing. But I like ‘music’ mostly – i.e. not songs.
    Nothing against songs – I like songs – I just sometimes get distracted when I start payin’ attention to what’s being said.
    I’ll listen to all sorts – dub reggae, electronic, guitar noise drones etc. etc.
    I remember about fifteen years ago drawing to nothing but John Fahey for about a whole year.

  5. Ben Dickson Says:

    I listen to a lot of film scores when I write, as anything with singing in will distract me too much. I found Hans Zimmer’s scores for the Christopher Nolan Batman films are very good as they don’t have that much of a signature to them, and the Bourne Ultimatum music is really good if I’m writing an action scene. But a lot of film scores are good as they’re mostly designed to play in the background!

  6. Several years ago I went through a period where I wrote the song titles on the back of my canvasses. It felt right, like a clue to the work or acknowledgement of influence or something. It definitely has an influence and can get me through some tedious situations, it also blocks out the incessant barking of a local dog…in my studio silence isn’t an option, there is none.

    • mick mcmahon Says:

      A barking dog – you have my sympathy. Used to live near a guy with a barking dog and a band saw – arghhh!!
      Been listening to the football this afternoon, that works as well for me. Not to mention Test Match Special in the summer.

  7. Maybe we work in the same street because, I kid you not, we too have a band saw (although infrequent). As for the dog, it’s not his fault, his owner takes off and leaves him in the garden all day. His rythmic yelp is to me like the steady drip of water torture. Test match special, I must try that.

    I once took my kids to an especially loud indoor play-park filled with miniature maniacs. Two kids would have been a distraction, but 500 kids cancel themselves out, I found, and I managed to write a draw for ages!

  8. musky Says:

    Youtube has loads of videos with audio recordings of thunderstorms, heavy rain, forest sounds etc that are great for ‘background’ sound while working. I also love listening to ‘conspiracy’ lectures by people like Michael Tsarion and Jordan Maxwell while drawing or painting.

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