Four Pieces of Unusual Instrumental Music

Music is really important to me.  I grew up in a musical household and have to restrain myself from foisting jams on anyone who will listen, and my written work is often very much informed by music. While I’m inspired by everything from Carly Rae Jepsen to Cattle Decapitation and back, I can’t write to anything but instrumental music and red noise . Today, I thought I’d share four instrumental pieces that I enjoy working to and that hopefully are new to you. Explore; be curious. You never know which piece of music could be the key to coaxing out your next masterpiece.

The Bees Made Honey In The Lion’s Skull [Earth]

Guilty confession: while I know that they’re absolutely pioneers in the worlds of experimental guitar music, this is the only Earth album I’ve listened to.  To some degree, it feels like the only one I need.  Here’s my go-to image for describing this album: imagine you’re on top of a butte in the middle of the Arizona desert. There’s the faintest hint of a breeze—not enough to dissipate the heat, but enough to keep you comfortable, and enough to push the clouds you’re watching by, so slowly that only you can see them move.  This is languid, mellow, sun-drenched rock n’ roll, and I’ve written a lot of desert scenes and other words while listening to it.

Time Machines [Coil]

The premise of Time Machines as a work of art is pretty wild; industrial atriarchs Coil chose not to attach their name to this album because it’s such a departure from their other music. The album is composed of four synth-based drone tracks; each was intentionally designed to alter the listener’s perception of time (with the optional aid of each track’s namesake hallucinogen). Your mileage will vary, of course, but I can certainly confirm that it becomes that much easier to sink deep into my writing if I’ve got this album playing. Try it some time; you may find you have more time than you think you do.

Harmony in Ultraviolet [Tim Hecker]

Tim Hecker makes beautiful, densely textured electronic compositions; Harmony in Ultraviolet is my favorite piece of his.  Each track ebbs and flows and breathes with oceanic grace and dynamic nuance as musical fragments peak, cascade, and recede; this makes this a good active listen in addition to some sublime study/work music. Hecker’s most recent album, Love Streams, has a little more in the way of traditional musical structure, if you find that appealing; I’m also a big fan of his remix work on Isis’s Oceanic: Remix and Reinterpretations.

9 Beet Stretch [Leif Inge]

This is a recording of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, stretched to 24 hours in duration with no distortion of pitch. When a segment was first played for me in high school, my English teacher and I had polar opposite reactions. He felt that we were listening to a beloved piece of music being ruined; I was enraptured by its transformation, the way that each vibration of the strings took place over a span of seconds, the slow crescendos and diminuendos. The link leads to a webstream that you can have open in a browser while you work. If you’re like me, and having the browser open is just asking for trouble, you can do the slightly absurd and make your own 9beetstretch. You’ll need Audacity and a regular recording of the 9th; I got mine from my local library. You’re going to want to import the symphony into Audacity and use the Paulstretch tool, experimenting with the percentages and settings until you get something that sounds good. I ended up just using the first movement, rather than the whole symphony, and ended up with an mp3 weighing in at 1.3 gigabytes.  It’s a little involved, but hey: anything in the name of musical bliss.