A lot of people will swear by working to music, especially tailoring it to a situation: old programming buddies will write their code to electronica, the fitness-minded will ride the heavier energy of metalcore to get S-W-O-L-E, and others just need the most dead-familiar pop they can get their ears on to get into a comfort zone.
I’ve personally found “slow noise” to be the way to go, though. Lyrics (especially those in English) constantly nag for just enough of your brainpower to become a distraction on their own. Tracks with even a modestly strong rhythm beg for attention and movement from the listener.
Not that I’m totally opposed to those flavors of work music; I’ve certainly been known to throw on a livestream or some such in the background. But especially for tasks involving written language, you don’t want to jumble lyrics against the thing you’re lookin’ kinda dumb with her finger and her finger and her thumb in the shape of an L on her forehead.
Really, what you’d want to look for is something in the vein of a soundtrack – music purposefully designed to evoke a certain mood without being stand-out enough that they percolate up to your active attention. Something that carries you into a mental space, but does so subtly enough that you won’t notice it doing so.
And the soundtrack(s) to all four seasons of Hidamari Sketch in particular fit this job to a ‘T’.
I’ve talked previously about how Hidamari Sketch is a gold standard for shows about nothing in particular, so it should be no surprise that the music made to accompany it isn’t much of anything in particular, either.
Past the sometimes-bouncy title themes (which only come around twice per album of 31-52 tracks), you get a few recurring themes and elements, but otherwise the tracks are so light that you can hardly tell one giving way to the next (especially when your brainpower is being directed elsewhere). They tend to share one of a few relaxed speeds and reserved volume to smooth over the track-to-track transitions, too – the show’s near-complete lack of antagonism or active conflict lends itself to a very even tone from end to end. Lots of soft “ba de da” filler vocals and frequently-toylike instrumentation.
None of the tracks are especially long enough to gain traction, either – they range from little six-second jingles to, at the upper end, pieces barely breaching the two-minute mark, but the more casual nature of Hidamari Sketch means that these tracks can very quickly settle into much simpler motifs before effortlessly moving on without anyone’s even noticing.
It’s admittedly a bit more of a spring or summer listen – the light piano in many pieces (one including a little sampling of windchime noises) – possibly to line up with the literal word for “sunshine” in the title of the show and its resulting upbeat nature. But for many others, the sunny days of spring and summer are in and of themselves beacons of positive thoughts, and coming back around to that feeling can boost one’s energy in more of a helpful, optimistic way that a raucous, amp-you-up way. And it’s not like there aren’t more minor-key, cooled-off offerings tucked away among the cheerier pieces.
And it all comes back around to a nothing-in-particular sound that, much like its parent show, fits its purpose just fine. Often enough, I don’t want music to engage or energize me; I just want some rather pleasant and noninvasive tunes to drown out ambient sound. That’s where the Hidamari Sketch soundtracks slot in oh-so-nicely. This is one place where shallowness and simplicity can be openly championed as a virtue!
Regrettably, the soundtrack isn’t readily available to purchase (at least in the U.S.), nor is it officially available through the obvious streaming channels (such as Soundcloud, YouTube, Spotify, and their ilk). On the other hand, in today’s world, you can relatively easily buy foreign goods over the internet – and audio CDs are region-free! What a time we live in!
I’m sure that more saavy readers could find it in other ways, though.
…such as streaming the actual show in a second window and tuning out the voices. I don’t know where your mind went.
Postscript: This is the first post that isn’t on a Sunday, and that’s because of Blaugust Reborn, an initiative to challenge hobbyists to grow their skills through regular applications, much like your NaNoWriMos or your Inktobers. Belghast, the instigator and orchestrator, lays it all out in his own words here. You can find a spreadsheet of the over-seventy participating blogs here.
The upshot is, I’ll be making shorter posts here most-days-if-not-every-day throughout August; time will tell how well the different rate of output works for TTIN, but in theory you should enjoy a more rapid spread of articles and topics in the meantime.