Musical Study Buddies


Sean Koepfinger

With midterms in full swing and spring break on the horizon, you may find yourself struggling to focus. I find that listening to music while working helps to block out distractions and keep my attention on my work. But what kind of music should you listen to? Many people would probably suggest classical, but let’s face it, that’s stale and boring. But listening to your favorite songs can cause you to get distracted anyways. So, what should you listen to? I recommend a musical duo whom many of you may have heard before without even knowing it. I’m referring to, of course, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.

Trent Reznor is a musician, composer and performer best known as the frontman and creative genius behind late 80s industrial rock band, Nine Inch Nails. His partner in crime is long-time collaborator Atticus Ross, best known for his film scores.

Together, the two have created numerous soundscapes that I’ve found to be highly conducive to studying. I’ve collected what I think are their best works below for you to chose from:

Ghosts I-IV – Nine Inch Nails

First up is the experimental Nine Inch Nails album Ghosts I-IV. The album features no singing and the songs are named only as numbers. While some listeners may find some of the industrial guitar playing a little too hardcore to study too, the album’s use of hauntingly melancholic pianos is almost soothing and calm. This album is hard to describe because every track is slightly different, but its nearly orchestral sound makes it a perfect pick for when you just can’t seem to keep your mind on the textbooks.

The Social Network Soundtrack

Speaking of orchestral sounds, the next pick on my list is Reznor and Ross’s soundtrack for The Social Network. While many of their film scores are good choices (Gone Girl and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in particular), this one is probably the most conducive to focussing. A recurring motif of strings and pianos giving way to grungy synthesizers provides a highly melodic sound that never dips too low or high leaving us with a steady flow of music to keep our minds on whatever we need to get done. If the soundtrack was good enough to accompany Zuckerberg creating Facebook, then it’s good enough to accompany us finishing midterm papers.

An Omen – How to Destroy Angels

My last pick is Reznor and Ross’s side project, How to Destroy Angels, which features Reznor’s wife Mariqueen Maandig on vocals. While singing can sometimes be distracting, Reznor and Maandig’s voices become another instrument complimenting the experimental rhythms and synthetic snare rolls. If soundtracks aren’t your forte and you want something that feels more like music, this is the one for you. The musical range stays fairly consistent with a melody that won’t put you to sleep but won’t have you jumping out of your seat either. Calming is the best way to describe it.

Hopefully one of these suggestions helps you crackdown when those final minutes before midterms have you stressing out. Let us know which album you like best. Don’t agree with me? Then tell us what you think is the best music to listen to when studying!