Man’s Greatest Invention, Music, is Your Path to Getting Stuff Done

One of the greatest inventions in the history of man is music, and I have a love affair with it that goes back 5 decades.

Your musical journey is both entirely predictable, and completely unique. It starts at a very young age listening to, and liking, your family’s music. Then, in your teenage years, as you rebel against the restrictions imposed by your parents, you set out to chart your own course. Funny thing is, even that unique musical journey that you chart yourself is fairly predictable.

Time passes and eventually your musical tastes harden, probably about the same time your neurology matures, i.e. around 25, and that’s your music for life.

Does some of that seem a little contradictory? How can it be entirely predicable, and completely unique at the same time?

A long time ago I was listening to a psychologist speaking on the topic, and he noted that the music you listen to is largely a product of your environment. For example, a young, female grad student in an Ivy League college would most likely be listening to Indy Rock, and consider it the greatest music in existence.

At the same time, a factory line worker in the Michigan Upper Peninsula would probably be listening to hard rock, and consider that to be the best.

Why would these two people, roughly the same age, possibly even from the same home town listen to, and love, such completely different types of music? Because that’s what their peer groups listened to, and peer group influence is powerful

I think over my musical journey, and damned if it doesn’t completely break the mold, except in the beginning.

When I was a kid, I listened to the 70s rock my brothers liked, which is pretty normal behaviour. However, when I got to high school, I got exposed to two waves of music which came over from England, the British New Wave, and the middle wave of Heavy Metal. There my journey diverged from the norm.

The high school I went to had a peculiar mix of students. One group (mine) came from the professional side of town. The other group (very much not mine) came from the blue collar, factory side of town.

In general my peer group listened to the New Wave electro-pop garbage like Culture Club, The Eurythmics, Flock of Seagulls and a host of other mind numbing shit I only remember if the radio gets stuck on the “Mind Numbingly Grating Shit From the Early 80s” station.

The blue collar, wrong side of the tracks crowd were listening to Ozzie Osbourne, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and the like. That shit I liked. But even the stuff you like can get a little dull, if it’s not truly in your wheelhouse.

What was truly in my wheelhouse? Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and even a little of the Early Modern music. For years, all through university and beyond, that was all I listened to. Years? Hell, for over a decade, that was all I listened to.

Then two completely unrelated events occurred. I moved to Colorado, and Metallica release S&M, Symphony and Metallica.

Those crazy, magnificent motherfuckers (excepting that squidgy little shit, Lars Ulrich, who was certainly in the band, but was certainly not magnificent) decided to marry Thrash Metal with Classical Music. And what a marriage it was.

Listening to some of their early stuff (which came out when I was in high school, by the way), accompanied by orchestral compositions created by the San Francisco Symphony director, specifically for those tunes, made me fall in love with “Master of Puppets,” “Ride the Lightning,” “Fuel.” etc. all over again.

I’d been out of heavy metal for over a decade, and I was sucked back in.

All good things come to an end, my Colorado years included, but since I didn’t want to move back to Canada, they lead to spending time working and studying in China, where I met a fellow head banger, who introduced me to a newer form of metal, death metal. I was instantly hooked, and off I went on a journey of discovery.

And what did I discover? The speed riffs of the big 4 of American Thrash; Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax, went back across the Atlantic and landed in the Nordic countries. There they got absorbed into the Nordic music scene and came out as Norwegian Black Metal, and Swedish Death Metal.

Now, I never intended this to be a primer on the evolution of heavy metal, so I’ll stop the history lesson here.

What I will do, instead, is to return to my original thesis, that my musical journey was unlike the norm, because I listen to music that is the opposite of what my peer group listens to. Seriously, the hardest thing any of my hockey buddies listen to is Dream Theatre. And until last year, the hardest thing anyone at work listened to was Baby Metal (death metal meet Japanese Pop…yeah, it’s weird, but Japan is the world’s primary source of weirdness).

Until my brother in law, there was literally no-one in my peer group who would touch Amon Amarth, Opeth, Arch Enemy, Shadow’s Fall, The Agonist, etc., with a 10 foot pole. Yet I did. All the while still listening to Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, etc. Which, outside of a couple of friends at university, no-one in my peer group listens to.

What is the point of all this?

Your musical tastes are yours. Whether you got them from your family, your friends, or out of the blue, they are yours. And whatever they are, they can be used to affect, and effect your mood.

What you choose to do with this is entirely up to you. What I choose to do with it is to choose the type of music that is most likely to help me get the job done.

On the drive to work? Classical.

For morning intense concentration, to Get. Shit. Done, Gregorian Chants.

For my lunch time walks, whatever has a tempo that matches my walking pace. Could be Swedish Death Metal, could be Bach.

For lagging energy in the afternoons, to keep up my motivation, Death Metal.

For evening sleepy time, Classical or Baroque solo piano, Chopin or Bach, mostly.

So, what’s YOUR jam? And how can you use it to control your mood, your energy, and your concentration to help YOU get shit done?