This post is part of Project: Inception, written ~8 years ago. It has been untouched from its original, pseudonymous, form. It is also part of the larger “farewell” tour and countdown as I turn-off this blog and head to the
metaverse where I will live out the rest of my wonderful days. I hope to see you there!
Oh, what can I say about my love for music? It is so much a part of my life that I could literally have a soundtrack to my life since there is always something playing, in my car, on my notebook computer as I work, or even in the background as I walk around my home.
Most of the time it doesn’t bother anyone except when I play it publicly or the people in close proximity to me begin to notice something “odd” about my musical habits – I will listen to the same song over and over and over again. My iTunes playlist has many songs into the thousands of plays. I will loop one song for a day – perhaps for an entire week.
This is not just a part of my workflow – it is very much a foundational element in it. I cannot work without a consistent and repetitive beat in my eardrums. Over time I’ve realized that I made people uncomfortable with not only a song on repeat but the fact that it really accentuated my rocking behavior as I would rock back and forth and side-to-side as I was listening. No harm to anyone in my company but it would certainly cause people to ponder what they were observing.
Over time I investigated my musical behavior and discovered that there was a particular tempo or BPM (beats per minute) that really worked the best how my brain was wired and how I could maximize my productivity. I built a small software application that could easily count my BPM and I had scanned my current active song library based on play counts to see what the average tempo was. What I found was that any song that was at least 100BPM has a good chance of being in the range of optimal performance while songs that hovered between 120-140BPM was about the sweet spot. There were a few songs that fell below 100 but on very rare occasion – these typically had a deep emotional connection based on some experience or memory.
Another interesting fact was that most of the songs that found there way into the top spots with thousands of continuous plays were Billboard Top 40 hits, especially songs in the more “Pop” category. These songs had a tempo that fell well within the 100-140BPM range. This is also why many people would distance themselves from me and call me odd since I would listen to songs that were excessively over-played on the radio that would typically appeal to young adolescents and teenagers. This became more odd as I grew up into an adult who would totally rock out to top 40 Pop music hits. I can’t even tell you how often I was told that I had “zero” musical taste – I didn’t care, to me, music was as fundamental as breathing and this particular tempo was just generally found in more of those types of songs.
So away I would go – pick a track for the day and put my earbuds on and go to work. Traveling, writing code, you name it. It helped me concentrate and it helped me do my very best work. I credit it with much of my ingenuity and the progress of my projects. Some of my most recent success as an entrepreneur were thanks to the likes of Katy Perry, Maroon 5, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Ke$ha, Taylor Swift, Justin Timberlake, and tons of other popular (overplayed) performers. I also have a suite of songs on the electronica and vocal trance spectrum that have play counts in the hundreds of thousands. It’s the only type of music that I played during my undergraduate years – I believe there was one album by Paul Oakenfold that I may have played 50,000 times.
And I’m not interested in listening to the lyrics and making interpretations on what the particular artist is trying to communicate – I know some people who can’t help but psychoanalyze the music and that wouldn’t be helpful at all since my time and attention would be on the music itself rather than my work! I’m using it as an internal metronome to help set the pace for my work and a rhythm of high functioning. The result is that the music becomes literally imperceptible and that’s when it’s at it’s best.
But it’s more than just sheer productivity – it’s also how I see the world in many respects. I once wrote a very long research paper on how music creates near-physical environments for people and how you can, in your mind’s eye, understand the physical structure of environments through sound. One of the core pieces of research was centered around a flutist who created unique music in spacious environments and how you could psychologically “go there” when you listen to his work.
For example, he would go into the Taj Mahal and play music, bouncing his sounds off the walls and harmonizing with himself as the music would return to him. He’d do the same thing in the Great Pyramids and other extremely large structures. What you would literally hear are the nuances of the styling of architecture and the spacing of the walls and internal pieces – needless to say it was overwhelmingly convincing and I could literally see the locations and environments as if I was there.
I intrinsically knew that music helped craft environment but I had never seen it done on such a large and explicit scale. It spoke directly to my very own being and I began realizing how important it was to my very own life – how personal it was and how profound the effects were.
As a result as I learned more I realized that with the right music I can literally transport myself to a place of high capacity and productivity every single time – all it takes is the music to bring me to that literal place and things begin firing on all cylinders. The physical space is important, sure, but not nearly as important as the psychological state that is assisted by the presence of music.
That’s why I invest heavily in some nice equipment and why I’m always interested in experimenting with other sound and audio systems because it’s such a vital part of my work. The environment that music creates in my head (and my heart) while I work is mission-critical.
Finally, I will admit that I get a deep and abiding sense of enjoyment from it as well. Simply put, I’m a much happier human being with music in my ears and a part of my world. We see this in the movies where the music enhances the enjoyment of the visual experience, that is, what we are seeing the on screen. Naturally, it just makes sense that music enhances the moment in our own lives, not just on the silver screen, and increases and deepens engagement. Consequently, a deeper level of satisfaction and enjoyment.
You see, music does that for me and when I love what I do I am more productive as a result. If I’m not enjoying it then I’m not as productive. Music moves my soul and it’s rooted in the principle of work, environment, and pleasure – when the three are combined it creates an environment where masterful work can be created and achieved. My soul sings. I am alive.
And over time I’ve adjusted my behavior slightly to not weird people out when I’m in public – less rocking and better noise-canceling/isolation headphones. A little behavior modification and better technology go a long, long way.