Music and Creativity Don’t Mix?

I came across an article on called How listening to music ‘significantly impairs’ creativity. In the past, I had heard the opposite. Music could actually unlock your brain’s creativity. Of course, your choice of music has a lot to do with whether or not it will help or hurt what you’re working on. Actually, what you’re working on has a lot to do with it too.

For me, it ultimately comes down whether I need focused thinking or diffuse thinking for the task at hand. If I’m trying to follow a logical path (understand a piece of code I didn’t write, or absorb a passage from a book) music is likely to throw me way off. However, if I’m trying to come up with a unique idea or solution (how to code a function or write a piece of dialog) music can put my brain in a diffuse mode and allow those solutions to bubble up to my conscious mind.

What really made me smile about the article was the Youtube video they made for it. Without any spoken words, there was a series of b-roll video clips with text overlays extracted from the article explaining why background music can be distracting. The entire thing was set to background music.

Music to Work By

My musical tastes are extremely varied. Sometimes I’m in the mood for beautiful and melodic, sometimes harsh and loud and other times bouncy and light.

While I’m writing code (as opposed to planning and designing code) or building a map, I can listen to most styles of music but I prefer strong, driving rhythms and either no words, words I can’t understand or words that I know well enough to not have to think about while I listen and work.

This week I brought back a song into my mix from a band called Children 18:3. The song is called Moment to Moment and it puts a smile on my face because it’s just so fun. And it helps the time pass as I’m doing repetitive work.

Every choice before you was a challenge to succeed…
And every breath is a step to forever

Moment to Moment – Children 18:3

The Effects of Music on Plants

As I was reading through Tristan Gooley’s book How to Read Nature, I came across a section where he condemns the notion that plants can hear music and react to it.

I hate to be the one to bang a loud cymbal and smash these notions, but there is no scientific evidence of plants reacting to music or noise of any kind. None. They are deaf. If that saddens you, then feel free to let your emotions go; the sound of your weeping will not slow the growth of the forest.

So where does the notion that plants respond to certain music come from? Why is it that some studies indicate there is a connection between plants and music. And why is there so much anecdotal evidence that it’s true?

Perhaps the sounds of certain music puts us in a better mood. Our improved mood makes it more likely that we open the shades to let in more light. Maybe a musically enhanced attitude prompts us to care for our plants more so we feed and water them promptly and regularly. Or maybe we just notice the growth of our plants more when we’re in a good mood.

However, I won’t entirely discount the effects of music on plants. Plants might not be able to hear like we do. But even deaf people can sometimes “hear” music through the vibrations it makes in things around it.  Why couldn’t plants feel the vibrations of music and be stimulated to growth in a way they otherwise wouldn’t? Studies have shown that even extremely low vibrations of a certain frequency for a certain period of time can stimulate bone growth in humans. Shouldn’t we expect the same type of thing with other organisms?

I don’t know if plants respond to music. I’ll never hold it against someone for playing it to them though. Too often we allow the great and mighty entity known as science to dictate what we do or don’t do. And while science sometimes helps us understand the physical world, it doesn’t hold all the answers. So crank up the Mozart and watch your plants grow.