In 1993, the famous book by Don Campbell, The Mozart Effect, convinced millions that listening to Mozart can have a substantial effect on cognition. Now, the debate over whether or not music improves intelligence is filled with psychologists, neurologists, teachers, and musicians with so many different takes, it's hard to know the truth. But one thing neurologists know for sure is that music "activates the brain regions related to attention, semantic processing, motor functions, and emotional processing," according to a study in Brain: The Journal of Neurology. It also helps relax the person studying. So before I get too nerdy, let me start. This is a list for all those times you go to coffee shop and want to drown out the annoying couple playing crossword puzzles; this is a list for all those times you have a block, while you're writing your term paper or a poem; this is a list for anyone who wants to hear good music, while still memorizing the order of all the dead presidents, without being interrupted by lyrics. These are my favorite songs to listen to while studying and writing.
10. Kronos Quartet -- Kronos Quartet Performs Philip Glass
What is so striking about this album is that it grabs you right away on the first track with a brilliance of blooming harmony, and then the album lulls you into colorful melodies so textured and layered, you'll swear you're listening to an abstract painting. Kronos Quartet is a string section who have been performing for nearly 40 years, and they're internationally renowned as one of the most influential groups in contemporary music. And on this 1995 album, they play music written by another powerhouse, Philip Glass -- a brilliant composer known for minimalism, operas, and film scoring. While you're studying or being creative, the repetition, the sonic intimacy, will have you so focused on the work in front of you, of your own space, you might lose track of your surroundings and forget where you are.
9. Hold Me to This: Christopher O'Riley Plays Radiohead
It might be hard to listen to Radiohead while you're studying, because, well, Thom Yorke's voice is so haunting, it will command attention away from your essay on why California should legalize marijuana. So, that's why Christopher O'Riley's Hold Me To This is perfect. O'Riley loosely interprets the melody lines, but he captures the dynamic changes on songs like "there there" and presents your favorite songs Radiohead tracks in a new way that leaves you thinking maybe some of these songs were meant for the piano.