A couple of years ago I wrote in a FedSmith article that you can tell a lot about society by what it sells and what it gives away for free.
My point was that iTunes University, part of Apple’s iTunes store, was (and still is) giving away thousands of hours of audio and video lectures from professors at many top schools. You can actually take the online equivalent of years of classes in just about any subject from just about any college or university in the country. All for free. But a profanity-laced pop song at the very same iTunes store will cost you $1.29. Not a good sign.
So I guess this is sort of a good news, bad news thing.
Recently I discovered a productivity tool I’d been hearing about my whole life but never really believed would work as advertised: Classical music.
The bad news: After discovering the productivity- and creativity-boosting power of classical music, I quickly figured out that there are roughly 10 gazillion classical songs on the web for free. That tells me society places little value on arguably the best music composed in hundreds of years. Beethoven. Bach. Chopin. Mozart. Someone is giving it all away. How much of that top-40 stuff can you get for free from iTunes? Not a good sign.
The good news: This stuff really works!
I realize I’m 25 years late to this discovery, but this is amazing music, uplifting music, get-those-synapses-firing music. I’m not sure what the connection is between having a great piano solo playing in the background and feeling a surge in productivity. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that a lot of this music (especially Bach’s) makes it sound like you’re conquering an army. I don’t really care why it helps me so much with my work; I care only that it does.
The other good news: It’s free!
You can laugh this off, as I did until about three months ago when I finally gave it a try. Or you can download a few songs and throw them on the next time you have to tackle a complex, all-consuming project.
The great news is that you don’t have to invest any money in the experiment. Just go to Classic Cat, or Piano Society, or the Gardner Museum. Each of those sites has thousands of free, downloadable mp3s with recordings of all the great composers.
I hope you’ll give it a try.
And if anyone reading this has any idea why classical music acts like a generous creativity muse, please share your insights in the comments below.