Music while you work – or work out.
It has been a controversy ever since Thomas Edison invented the phonograph and some creative person hauled a Victrola into their office, wound it up and played that great opera singer Enrico Caruso to the delight of some and the horror of others.
Before I retired, I brought my Sirius XM Roadie into my office and spent my creative hours listening to the Love Channel. You just can’t beat the Love Channel to get those creative juices flowing — Kenny G, Barry Manilow, Kelly Clarkson, Bette Midler, Lionel Richie and Pink.
Now that I am home and retired, but still writing, I tune my Roadie to Symphony Hall — Chopin, Mozart and Handel. All my faves. I write better. I am more creative with my music in the background.
Wouldn’t you know that science proves I am correct? Background music soothes us, makes us more creative and increases our productivity.
And the “scientists” figured it out during World War II.
World War II was raging. The Germans had captured a sizable chunk of Europe. The British government asked the British Broadcasting Company — the BBC — to help motivate and inspire the British factory works making munitions.
The BBC broadcast live, upbeat music in factories throughout England, twice a day, for an hour.
Guess what? It was a raging success. The BBC got thousands of thank you letters from factory workers and output in the factories increased by 15 percent for an hour or so after the music.
The reason those factory workers were able to increase their output is, well, elementary. When a task is clearly defined and repetitive, music helps us finish the task, says Dr. Teresa Lesiuk in the journal “Applied Ergonomics.”
She says assembly line workers are happier and more efficient when music is playing. It isn’t the music that is playing that makes you happier and more efficient. Our favorite music improves our mood and makes us more efficient.
The key, of course, is finding the right music. What is music to MY ears may be painful to yours.
The Journal of Consumer Research says moderate noise level gets the creative juices flowing. Think natural sounds such as waves at a beach. Loud noises make it difficult to concentrate, such as bellowing basses and screeching synths. I guess hip-hop is out as background music.
There is something researchers call the “Mozart effect,” which simply is the idea that listening to a piano sonata written by a genius can make us geniuses, too.
Scientists really have studied this. They subjected mice to a 10-hour recital of Mozart for 10 weeks and discovered the mice could navigate a complex maze better than the mice who didn’t hear Mozart.
Those same scientists call it a caffeine shot to the brain.
Therefore, most of the surgeons I worked with had music playing during surgery. They work more accurately, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. That is something you want — an accurate surgeon. The study also pointed out that no music at all was least helpful to surgeons.
So, you have decided to listen to music. Now you need to put a playlist together. A behavioral psychologist named Holland Haiis has some great suggestions:
Avoid music with words. If we are being creative, the words distract us. We tend to focus on the words and the message of the song unless you are doing something repetitive, like data entry. Upbeat music with lyrics can help you stay alert and motivated.
Film scores, like “Lord of the Rings” or “Gone with the Wind” can make a task seem more epic, Haiis says.
And, if you cannot find music to inspire or soothe you, try sounds of the ocean or a babbling brook or a waterfall. These sounds, she says, reduce stress and improve concentration.
Since my Tall Tale this time is focused on music, I thought I would conclude with a musical meme, one of the funniest I have ever seen. It showed up on my Facebook page a couple of weeks ago, thanks to Rhonda Dishongh, one of my favorite former co-workers at Memorial Hermann Northeast:
Me at 16: This radio station is playing my song.
Me at 21: This bar is playing my song.
Me now: This grocery store is playing my song.