Background music for these experiments was standardized to The Gorillaz
July 11, 2013 1:28 PM   Subscribe

I'm spending the summer in the sunless basement of an academic building, doing biophysics research (which mostly entails dual-wielding pipetters and punching expensive machinery when it doesn't work). I'm fortunate that our lab is isolated enough that no one could ever complain about me playing music, and we have a very nice sound system. What kind of music pairs well with hard research? When I joined the lab it was all trance music, but that student left, and now there's a gap to be filled. Right now I just play the music I most enjoy, but I'd like for the music we play to give the lab some personality (I like to imagine that I'm acting in a science movie montage). Specific album recommendations would be best. Bonus points for stories of experiments going well (or horribly) with music.
posted by Archibald Edmund Binns to Science & Nature (15 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I would suggest developing a library of SciFi movie soundtracks.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:35 PM on July 11, 2013

Yeah the soundtrack to Moon would work.
posted by Lemurrhea at 1:38 PM on July 11, 2013

Aphex Twin: Richard D James Album and Come to Daddy EP.
posted by sacrifix at 1:51 PM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oh my god please please please play The Avalanches album Since I Left You at top volume. If the song "Frontier Psychiatrist" (or even better, the video) doesn't make you feel like a mad scientist I don't know what will. I can't vouch for any experiments but I can say it's really successful writing music.

You could also try The Flaming Lips' Zaireeka, a four disc set meant to be played simultaneously. I've always wanted to try it with a good set of speakers.
posted by stellaluna at 2:02 PM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

What kind of personality do you want your lab to have? That seems important to decide.
posted by Going To Maine at 2:02 PM on July 11, 2013

The Spaceship Zero CD from the Darkest of the Hillside Thickets is about a space voyage that goes a bit wrong, and their Shadow out of Tim album talks about some marine biology that goes wrong. As far as I know, the lyrics to 'Marine Biologist' are the only ones that include the phrase 'peer reviewed journal'.
posted by cobaltnine at 2:51 PM on July 11, 2013

Amon Tobin's album Out From Out Where is perfect for this. A few tracks:
Triple Science
Back From Space
Mighty Micro People
posted by mannequito at 3:10 PM on July 11, 2013

Seconding Aphex Twin, both those albums.

Dntel, get the three disc compilation of Something Always Goes Wrong/Early Works For Me If It Works For You/II.

Ligetti! How about Lux Aeterna? Or the Musica Ricercata?

Anything from this question about bleepy musicthat I asked a while ago.

Mark Mothersbaugh scores. For instance, The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou.

This is a fun question.
posted by carsonb at 3:43 PM on July 11, 2013

Sci-fi soundtracks
posted by Tom-B at 4:42 PM on July 11, 2013

Classical music that has been lab tested* for soundtrack worthiness:

Repetitive, tedious stuff, because you know that's what most labwork is:
Bolero, Ravel
Clock Symphony, Second Movement, Haydn

Goofy, whimsical, fun:
Waltz, from Eugen Onegin, Tchaikovsky.

Exciting, bombastic music to accompany your most audacious experimental ideas:
7th Symphony, Beethoven
Les Preludes, Lizst
Jupiter Symphony, Mozart

*Tested by myself, a certified scientist, in a lab. I have a colleague who swears by Tchaikovsky's Cinderella, but I have not independently verified her findings.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 5:22 PM on July 11, 2013

I dunno man, I might just have to throw on the Tool collection.
posted by cashman at 6:05 PM on July 11, 2013

I'll go ahead and say that maybe the thing to go with is some instrumental jazz. Classic stuff, like Miles Davis's Kind of Blue, Bill Evans's Portrait In Jazz, and Dave Brubeck's Time Out and At Carnegie Hall. (That last one is great.) Or maybe give it a bit of a Brazilian vibe with Soul Jazz's Bossa Jazz compilation or Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto's Getz/Gilberto.

Commit to an idiom, is what I'm saying, and if y'all go with jazz from those years you can kick back with some highballs as you wait for some experiments to finish.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:07 PM on July 11, 2013

Alternately, if you want to keep on with that Life-Aquatic-ish vibe, Yo La Tengo scored eight videos of sea life filmed by Jean Painleve, so if you consider sea life close enough to biophysics and like instrumental rock, The Sounds of The Sounds of Science might be for you.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:13 PM on July 11, 2013

David Bowie's Low, Station to Station and Heroes
posted by a humble nudibranch at 9:41 PM on July 11, 2013

When you're tired of doing your own music programming, try some of the channels at Most likely to give your lab a 'space-age bachelor pad' personality; you could pretend you're doing bench work for a Derek Flint research project.
posted by bartleby at 2:35 PM on July 12, 2013

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