Something that I think gets overlooked too often on music blogs much like the one you’re reading right now is “vibe” music. Music that sets out to set a mood, and should it choose to tell a story, it does so in a subtle, usually instrumental way. I think there’s a huge place in our everyday lives for this music.
Luckily for us capitalist underlings, a large corporation also had this thought back in the 40s. Muzak, a term that would become an insult rather than a copyrighted moniker, was a company that found their niche in creating music that would boost the productivity of the average american worker, and encourage store consumers to spend more.
“Muzak could apparently make workers happier and more productive. Muzak patented a system called Stimulus Progression that offered 15-minute blocks of instrumental background music that provided listeners with a subconscious sense of forward movement.” (MentalFloss.com)
For better or for worse, this science proved to be questionable at best, but the concept that music can soothe the mind, or focus you on a task is still strongly supported. According to the UMD Medical center, it’s actually good for the heart. “Listen to music. Music is an effective stress reducer in both healthy individuals and people with health problems. Research finds that listening to soothing music can decrease blood pressure, heart rate, and anxiety levels in heart patients” (Florida National University). So the science is there, but you already knew the effects that calming music had on you when you’re trying to focus. It acts as a buffer, a conduit for thought; provides framework but not enough stimulus to distract you or “take you out of it”. It’s the 21st century version of listening to the rain at night; which is, unsurprisingly, a common sound sample in this genre.
There’s something magic about certain tempos, certain grooves, and certain instrumental tones that calm us. The sounds are soft but defined, dark but not foreboding. They feel like a cold summer night, the kind of night that conjures memories of fire-lit evenings and hoodies. There’s a specific feeling that follows putting on nice headphones, or putting this type of music on in the car at night that feels warm, safe, and inviting.
This feeling, I will dare to say, is peace. So much of our days are spent with a checklist in one hand and a heavily caffeinated beverage the other. A paper, some homework, a test, a last minute Not A Sound post because the Head Editor is sick, or just the stresses of feeling the need to move forward every day as quickly as you can. “Chill” music offers you a brief, but welcomed respite from these feelings through nothing more than a few un-quantized kick drums and a warm piano sound.
So go ahead, boot up some of those lo-fi/jazz/chill playlists, because now more than ever, it feels like we as a generation need something that not only encourages stillness, but romanticizes it.
I’ve included the link to the now infamous “lofi hip hop” radio, and my personal favorite I found while listening to it during my writing tonight, so enjoy!
“There is a rhythm to life. You got this… ride the wave.” – Some Random Guy In the Lo-Fi Hip Hop Radio Live Chat