Study Music

I often listen to music while doing math. I’ve never been one to pay strict attention to lyrics, so it doesn’t usually matter too much whether the music is instrumental or not. I remember listening to a lot of Kanye West while studying for quals for instance, which seems kind of weird in retrospect but I guess it worked out. Usually I get stuck in music ruts, which is kind of fine for doing work to because you don’t necessarily want to be challenged by unfamiliar music while you’re busy doing heavy mental lifting.

Gnawa music has origins in Sufi mysticism, and is apparently supposed to be for exorcising jinns, possessive spirits. It later caught on with some American jazz musicians and is now identified with Morocco as sort of a “national music” (though there is more socio-political subtext to that story than I realized). In any case, it is great math music because it has good impulse but is also kind of drone-y so it keeps you sort of cruising along in the zone. I think this album from Mahmoud Guinia was my first exposure, and one I still come back to regularly.

Whenever I’m really stuck but I want some study music, Zuckerzeit from early German electronic duo Cluster is another album I go for regularly. The title means “sugar time,” which, coincidentally, is often math time as well. Bring on the cookies.