Hello All. Below is an article that I have recently written for the Modern Business Life website at http://www.modernbusinesslife.com/ . I thought that it might interest folks on the board, and I was interested in your feedback. You can view the entire post at http://modernbusinesslife.com/?p=146
Thanks, and Enjoy!
How "Gladiator" & Other Soundtracks Help Work Productivity
In the year 2000, Ridley Scott released an award winning film starring Russell Crowe entitled, "Gladiator". Accompanying this film was a stellar (and award winning in its own right) soundtrack by one of the most popular film composers in recent times, Hans Zimmer. This soundtrack contains heroic anthems, soaring French horns, and sweeping strings that heighten the tension of the film and elevate the listeners emotions. One might ask at this point, given the title of the article, how can "Gladiator" help work productivity? The answer is in the emotional and physiological effects of music on work effectiveness and efficiency.
Several studies have come out on this subject, and the findings have been all across the board. Given that there does not yet seem to be a final consensus on the effects of music on work productivity, much of what I will discuss in this article is based on what I have found to be undoubtedly true for myself. Nevertheless, I feel that it is important to take a brief look at some of the more notable studies on this subject that find that there is a significant increase in work productivity during the presence of music.
The Mozart Effect
Since 1991, several studies on the psychological and physical effects of the Music of Mozart have taken place through the studies of such researchers as Dr. Alfred A. Tomatis, Rauscher, Shaw, and Ky. These studies have found that listening to Mozart, as opposed to other forms of music, actually increase spatial reasoning (the ability to form and manipulate mental images for the purpose of problem solving). Since these initial studies, people have begun to interpret the results as "listening to Mozart makes you smarter", though this is not what the original studies actually concluded.
Many smaller studies on the Mozart Effect have taken place in recent years, and the results have been varied. My personal results however, while not dealing specifically with Mozart compositions, have been far more definite and conclusive.
The Soundtrack Effect
When preparing to start on a research paper, intense work assignment, or something that will require my concentration for an extended period of time, I turn to movie soundtracks to help me along the way. Having movie soundtracks (and specifically only movie soundtracks) playing while I work helps to create a focus that propels me forward in my current task. On the surface, one might say that this music just keeps me from being bored. However, upon closer inspection, I believe that there is a psychological effect to this specific genre of music that plays an important role in the "Soundtrack Effect" that I experience. I classify these factors as the following; mood manipulation, pace and swells, and instrumentation sans lyrics.
Firstly, I think that we can all agree that you current mood directly effects how efficiently you are working. If you are in a poor mood, and feel drowsy, lazy, or otherwise unmotivated, you work efficiency will likely be very poor. Alternately, if you are in a motivated mood, ready to work, and "gung-ho" then your work efficiency will likely be much greater. So the question then becomes, how can we affect our moods to represent the latter? The answer, I believe, is in movie soundtracks.
The primary purpose of a good movie soundtrack is to compliment the story being told on the screen. Good story tellers draw you in, and make you feel and relate to the characters in the story. The movie soundtrack then serves as a magnifying glass for these emotions, drawing out and evoking these feelings to create a heightened state of emotion. Infact, some of the best movie soundtracks are transparent while watching the film. You don't necessarily hear them... rather, you feel them. So then, movie soundtracks are by nature designed to manipulate the mood of the viewer. This effect do not necessarily go away when the film is removed from the equation, and only the soundtrack remains (such as is the case on soundtrack CDs). So then, choosing a movie soundtrack to listen to when working that motivates you, inspires you, or gets your blood pumping can serve to enhance your mood going into long periods of work, which can increase your productivity. We see a similar effect with techno music and exercise. Music has the ability to put you in a certain "state", and finding music that puts you in a state appropriate to what you must do can assist in the efficient completion of that activity.
Pace and Swells:
Movie soundtracks are also appropriate for long periods of work because they are designed to rise and fall. Music would likely, at some point, begin to decrease it's positive effect on your work if the pace of this music is sustained and never lets up. While your body and mind might adjust to a frantic pace of work, given that the music you are listening to matches that pace, you will fatigue. Your mind needs to sprint, and also walk during sustained periods of work. Here too, movie soundtracks are beneficial. Well designed soundtracks will lift you up to a certain pace and energy, and then enter lulls. Your work pace will likely slow down slightly with these lulls. Once the pace is picked back up again, so to will the pace in which you work. This may all be happening on a subconscious level, but it's effect is notable nevertheless.
Instrumentation sans lyrics:
Lastly, movie soundtracks are well fit for the job of assisting in work productivity due to the instrumentation... or more specifically, the lack of lyrics. I find it quite hard to work and focus on items that require an excess of attention when lyrics are blaring in my ears. Movie soundtracks (specifically Hans Zimmer compositions) typically have over-arching themes and re-occurring melodies that do not require you attention to follow. These melodies can add to the emotion of the song without over-complicating it. While I love music with lyrics (I'm a huge U2 fan), for me the lack of lyrics in movie soundtracks make them a perfect fit for work. My brain is not competing with listening to words, and what I am trying to focus on with work.
Having now explained the reasons why, for me, movie soundtracks help increase work efficiency and productivity immensely, we can return to the subject of "Gladiator". Of most all of the soundtracks that I have, "Gladiator" composed by Hans Zimmer is my constant "go-to" to help propel me head first into my work. It meets all of the criterion mentioned above; it alters my work mood by inspiring me and heightening the pace of my work, it effectively swells giving my brain brief rests in-between sprints, and it revisits a common melody throughout the soundtrack that does not fight for my attention.
While I don't expect "Gladiator" to be everyone's solution to work productivity, I am confident that finding a movie soundtrack that works for you, and listening to it during long periods of work, will increase your work efficiency and productivity far greater than doing the same work without. Give it a try, and let me know if it worked by posting below.