Music that keeps you happy and focused
November 11, 2011 11:24 AM   Subscribe

What's your favorite uplifting, nondistracting (no or minimal vocals!) background music?

I'm looking specifically for happy film scores or classical music... any sort of nondistracting background music for studying that's not morose and emo like my usual playlist of film scores (see below). I find it's depressing and kills my motivation to listen to music from tragic movies whilst doing problem sets. At the same time, I'm not looking for something super fast in pace with huge build ups, which would be distracting.

Here's what I'm not looking for:

Edward Scissorhands score
Titanic score
Braveheart score
Gladiator score
A Beautiful Mind score
Romeo + Juliet score

The Tarzan and Forrest Gump scores are happy enough. Music that's not part of a film score is, of course, welcome. Give me your recommendations, please!
posted by sunnychef88 to Media & Arts (40 answers total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
Hammock - Kenotic (and their other records too)
posted by capnsue at 11:26 AM on November 11, 2011

oh shoot i totally missed the "happy, uplifting" thing. Hammock is great but doesn't exactly fit that bill.
posted by capnsue at 11:27 AM on November 11, 2011

Not a film score, but I really enjoy Stereolab for studying or reading. It's mostly instrumental, and most of what little vocals there are are in French, and it's upbeat without being smarmy or "epic".
posted by scarykarrey at 11:29 AM on November 11, 2011 [6 favorites]

Do you find it kills your motivation to listen to tragic *music* or music from tragic *movies*? Because I was going to suggest the relatively happy sounding soundtrack to American Beauty.

And a lot of Jon Brion scores are pretty happy and quirky, Eternal Sunshine, for example.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:29 AM on November 11, 2011

A lot of Brian Eno's Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks could be a good fit.
posted by zombieman000 at 11:29 AM on November 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

Brian Eno, Music for Airports.
posted by tully_monster at 11:31 AM on November 11, 2011

I work very well to Wim Mertens's A Man of No Fortune and With A Name To Come or his Jardin Clos. Also most Max Roach.
posted by Frowner at 11:33 AM on November 11, 2011

Nature sounds, you know, birds, forests, creeks, the ocean, rain, etc. Spotify has a tonne of this stuff (it pretty much sounds the same).
posted by Foci for Analysis at 11:36 AM on November 11, 2011

film scores or classical music oh, sorry.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 11:38 AM on November 11, 2011

Robert Rich's Open Window - a series of contemplative but uplifting solo piano pieces (I guess I'd call them contemporary classical) done by a guy who normally works with drones and/or an organic-sounding percussion and melody palette. I like this equally for work and for driving fast at night.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 11:40 AM on November 11, 2011

Any kind of study music that's not depressing and not distracting is welcome.

Re film scores - I haven't seen many movies, so it likely doesn't matter if the content is depressing so long as the music gives off a good vibe.
posted by sunnychef88 at 11:41 AM on November 11, 2011

Bladerunner soundtrack, by Vangelis
There Will Be Blood soundtrack, by Jonny Greenwood
Solaris soundtrack

Other ideas:

Boards of Canada (Geogaddi, Music Has the Right to Children)
Sigur Ros - Heima soundtrack (they don't sing in English)
posted by KokuRyu at 11:46 AM on November 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

There's some decent instrumental post-rock stuff out there that I find pretty happy-making, particularly Do Make Say Think. Sigur Ros can be pretty uplifting-sounding too -- it does have vocals, but they tend to be in a gibberish language so likely won't be too distracting.
posted by zempf at 11:46 AM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I really like Hans Zimmer's music for True Romance. Here's a bit. (The movie is great, too!)
posted by phunniemee at 11:54 AM on November 11, 2011

The Incredibles soundtrack is fun music. I'm also a fan of Penguin Cafe Orchestra.
posted by aimedwander at 11:55 AM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've used a CD of baroque music for years. It was specifically recommended in this book. Apparently, music at 60BPM puts your brain into a relaxed, but engaged state, and a lot of baroque music (think: Pachelbel's Canon) is played at about 60BPM. It's worked great for me. I'll put on headphones and work with solid focus for an hour or two before I need a break.

CD is hard to find, but here's an Amazon link, anyway.
posted by ToucanDoug at 12:02 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ratatouille is frothy and jazzy. The few vocals are in French.
posted by gregglind at 12:05 PM on November 11, 2011

Seconding the American Beauty original score by Thomas Newman (be sure you get that rather than the "soundtrack" of incidental music used in the movie). It's got some wild instruments in it (and the only song I've ever heard that has a solo break for car alarm). Thomas Newman also did the soundtrack for Road to Perdition, which features some gorgeous piano work.

Another option is something Tom's cousin Randy -- the soundtrack to The Natural. All instrumental, and definitely inspirational (you've probably heard one of the songs from it as it gets used a ga-squillion times in other shows).

Actually, any soundtrack by any of the Newmans is probably going to serve you well.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:07 PM on November 11, 2011

I don't know if it'll work for you, but something I do when I need background instrumentals (doing video editing of educational lectures, for example) is plug suggestions like these into a Pandora station.
posted by thadman at 1:15 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Groove Salad.
posted by seanmpuckett at 1:31 PM on November 11, 2011

I've been really enjoying the soundtrack to "to the moon"
posted by empath at 1:43 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, If you like the Gladiator score, than get anything by Dead Can Dance.
posted by empath at 1:44 PM on November 11, 2011

Ulrich Schnauss?
posted by echo target at 1:48 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hans Zimmer's music for True Romance —if you like that, you might want to listen to the original (it's the first track). It's the catchiest piece of the lot, but the others are pretty good. For that matter, Carmina Burana, while not exactly happy, it certainly rousing and uplifting at many points.

I really like mbira music for happy work music. For instance, try some Forward Kwenda.
posted by bricoleur at 2:06 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Disintegration Loops by William Basinski is brilliant for studying.
posted by stravinsky at 3:04 PM on November 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

There are some great suggestions here already ... for something just a bit older try any of the several albums by The Rippingtons ... or ... Acoustic Alchemy ... and any album by David Arkenstone for some really enjoyable "New Age" ... all are instrumentals and very positive overall mood and "feel".
posted by randiana at 4:00 PM on November 11, 2011

Penguin Cafe Orchestra are great - you'll be surprised how much you recognise, but I really came to suggest anything by OTT, particularly the album Blumenkraft (youtube playlist).
posted by dirm at 4:36 PM on November 11, 2011

the soundtrack to the movie "Syriana"
posted by thelonius at 5:24 PM on November 11, 2011

Lately I've been listening to classical piano, in particular Bartok: For Children. Reminds me of the post-massage chill-out room my wife and I were in on our honeymoon. Simple, delightful, relaxing.
posted by photovox at 5:26 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sigur Ros can be pretty uplifting-sounding too -- it does have vocals, but they tend to be in a gibberish language*

* Icelandic
posted by costanza at 6:41 PM on November 11, 2011

Heart full of Soul
posted by prairiecatherine at 8:15 PM on November 11, 2011

How about Glenn Gould's Goldberg Variations? Works for me. - aj
posted by Alaska Jack at 8:42 PM on November 11, 2011

Philip Glass - Powaqqatsi
Philip Glass - Orion
Miles Davis - Bitches Brew
Miles Davis - In A Silent Way
posted by elsietheeel at 6:58 AM on November 12, 2011

Sigur Ros can be pretty uplifting-sounding too -- it does have vocals, but they tend to be in a gibberish language*

* Icelandic

Actually, this is not correct:

All of the lyrics on ( ) are sung in Vonlenska, also known as Hopelandic, a constructed language of nonsense syllables (technically glossolalia) which resembles the phonology of the Icelandic language.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:22 AM on November 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

The instrumental stuff from The Royal Tenenbaums soundtrack always puts me in a good mood. You might also like the Vitamin String Quartet - they do strings-only versions of pop songs, the quality of which really depends on the quality of the song they're covering. "Poker Face" is surprisingly moving.
posted by lunasol at 1:32 PM on November 12, 2011

I find that Philip Glass makes excellent background music. Start with the Koyaanisqatsi soundtrack.
posted by schmod at 6:14 PM on November 13, 2011

I've put most of these in a Spotify soundtrack to try out, I've not filtered or edited or ordered, just gone down the thread chucking things in.

Thought I might as well share it if it helps anyone:
Spotify Playlist
posted by chrispy108 at 5:47 AM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Update: Emperor Tomato Ketchup by Stereolab totally fits the bill!
posted by sunnychef88 at 3:34 PM on November 15, 2011

The Hotel Costes mixes by french DJ Stephane Pompougnac have been the study jams getting me through problem sets as of late. Hotel Costes 4 and Hotel Costes, A Decade have smoothly mixed, chill yet uplifting music with minimal vocals.
posted by sunnychef88 at 11:53 PM on December 12, 2011

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