Maybe it’s my age, but the Rocky Theme pumps me up. I always run harder when it comes up in my playlist. The music from Rocky makes me think of the training montage, and then I want to exercise.
When I read (especially on an airplane), I listen to ocean waves. Music would be a distraction, but hearing waves won’t make me think about them.
I do sometimes listen to music when I program. I once read a study that it can help when doing mundane, rote tasks. Uptempo music helps me—I like to use dance music. Sometimes I’ll just put a single song on repeat.
Right now, I am writing this blog post while listening to “Going the Distance” from Rocky and Rocky II. It’s what plays right after Adrian tells Rocky to win. It’s a little more low-key than the main fanfare and for me, it means that it’s time to get down to business. I think it’s fine when I am trying to get out the words for the first draft, but I’ll probably have to shut it off when I edit.
In all of these cases, I am trying to use sound in the way that movie soundtracks work—to enhance the foreground activity. It’s working in tandem, manipulating my emotions while I am engaged in something else.