In the blink of an eye, week three has arrived, and with it begins the horrors of midterm season. Since it is the first quarter of the year, some of us may find it difficult to get into the state of mind which requires us to sit still, read, write and do some problem solving. Concentrating can be especially hard for us millennials, we’re always distracted by something, whether it be the Instagram notification that Cardi B just started a live stream, or the Youtube dark hole. Have you ever started watching a Crash Course video and somehow ended up halfway into a 30-minute Vine compilation? I know I have. Let’s be honest, I checked my Twitter and Snapchat notifications twice while writing this paragraph. The point being, we need something to help us focus in this crucial time of academia.  

Sound has significant mental and emotional impact on us, which we associate with different experiences. Brown University auditory neuroscientist Seth Horowitz analyzes sound as our “attentional driver” in his book “The Universal Sense,” claiming, “since sound provides context, it’s operating in the background and is able to give us the basis for a lot of very, very complex cognitive responses.” So what kind of sound will help students complete their school work with ease?

I find that ambient music does the trick. Specifically, ambient techno music — a subgenre of minimalist techno which features stripped down, repetitive sounds — is conducive to focus. Some popular ambient techno artists include Nicolas Jaar, Floating Points and Rhythm and Sound. This type of music often incorporates soothing white noise from running water, the sounds of footsteps or subtle dialogue to synthesizers, sequencers and samplers. This is music that plays in the background and does not bring itself to the forefront of listeners’ attention. It works well with other mental activities like reading or writing whilst creating a calm, relaxed and focused atmosphere. The repetition found in minimal techno allows the mind to predict what sound will come next, creating a subconscious tranquility that creates the illusion of control. I think we all need a little bit of that this time of year. In order to make studying easier on all of us, here’s a playlist for optimal productivity.

To reduce the distractions of the outside world, this playlist allows you to enter a new one where the only things that exist are you and your work. French DJ Evil Needle slowly walks the listener into this universe on the first track of the playlist, “Sunday Morning.” The faint chirps of birds warmly greets us and the soft drums carry the beat into the next song, “Like What” by Tennyson. The track begins with the sound of waves crashing on the shore and footsteps slowly walking through the sand. Jazz group BadBadNotGood picks us up to go sailing on “Chompys Paradise,” and so the adventure begins. Dream Koala brings back childhood memories on “We Can’t Be Friends” by sampling sounds of Yoshi from the Super Mario series. From there, Flying Lotus’ downtempo jazz creates a trippy dreamland for the listener to explore. “Jasmine” by Jai Paul and “See Mi Version” by Rhythm and Sound end the playlist in a meditative trance. Use music to make studying something you don’t resent and midterm week will be a much less intimidating force. Happy studying everybody.