With a new year nearly upon us, it seems appropriate to address a serious issue that will impact student productivity in the coming year: what music should one listen to when transcribing Greek manuscripts?
Personally, I aim for instrumental music that is engaging enough to please the senses while unobtrusive enough to remain undistracting. There is a time and a place for searing guitar solos and the like—that time is not while performing careful transcription work. To that end, I offer up the following musical recommendations.
Johannes Schenck: Nymphs of the Rhine, Vols. 1 & 2 (Les Voix Humaines)
I know what you are thinking, “Oh, how obvious that he would choose some classical music!” Yes, but there is a host of classical works that I would not consider for this list. The ethereal quality of these two albums of Baroque viola da gamba duet pieces is sublime and is a sure-fire means of getting in the zone for productive transcription work. The CDs are not always easy to obtain, but the music is available for streaming as well. I guarantee, the time will pass and the next thing you know you are typing Greek at 2am.
Light Years (Stellardrone)
There are several Stellardrone albums I could recommend here (Between the Rings, Echoes, Sublime), but Light Years is out of this world. I started listening to this music while living in Münster and working in the library of the Institut für Neutestamentliche Textforschung. With the windows open there was inevitable street and student noise from outside. Stellardrone was key in keeping me focused on my work. Fortunately, it did not seem to drive away those who would share my workspace.
Lumiere (Dustin O’Halloran)
I am a sucker for solo piano works, so O’Halloran’s two solo albums (Piano Solos and Piano Solos II) were almost too obvious as choices for this list. Lumiere, on the other hand, is a bit dreamier. With added strings and more somber compositions, Lumiere is true mood music. Any one of the three albums is a great choice for transcribing manuscripts, however. If you need something slightly more upbeat, then the solo albums are better choices.
World of Sleepers (Carbon Based Lifeforms)
If you have not heard of these albums before you may be thinking, “What cave did this guy crawl out of?” Maybe this is my transition into senex fessus. But CBL has produced some charming ambient music. And by the time you have listened to Abiogenesis a few times—which has an ironic element I need to comment upon when I have more time—you will be able to repeat the Drake equation (N = R∗ · fp · ne · fl · fi · fc · L) in your sleep. Wake up!
Jetzt Mal Ganz Piano – Volume 2: Einaudi & beyond... (Lukas Schlattmann)
Wrapping up PART ONE of my list is a bit of a dark horse. But, as I said, I am a sucker for good solo piano music. At the Weihnachtsmarkt in Münster there was a street musician with a piano playing some lovely pieces and I grabbed a CD to support the local music. At the time I did not see a copy of Jetz Mal Ganz Piano available for sale or I would have purchased that one as well. Regardless, this album makes the cut as something I happily listen to while doing this demanding work.
In PART TWO we will venture out a bit further. As I will be adding some jazz to the list, I may have to permit a rejoinder from one of my jazz-challenged colleagues.