Take it away, Stephen:
Like many authors I never listen to music when writing, and when editing or tidying-up I only listen to instrumental music. Words plus mental words equals problems. Music is a huge part of my life, so my other rule is never to listen to anything I know well or which has strong melodies. What I use is tranquil, usually ambient music which is too diffuse or improvised to remember in any detail. This music "sets a mood" for me, in that it allows me to settle down in front of the screen. Here's five from the iTunes list on my Mac…
1. Arvo Pärt - Tabula Rasa.
A beautiful piece by a much admired composer, which slowly unfolds and which is ideal for soothing the fevered brow at keyboard...
2. Loop Guru - The Third Chamber.
Although these remixes by the much-missed world music explorers do have a melodic heart, their repetition makes the music ideal for 'getting lost in' so that the mind is not too distracted. A really wonderful CD this, which is also great for long-distance driving.
3. Toumani Diabaté - The Mandé Variations.
Like many, I was completely seduced by the sound of the kora when I heard it, and have subsequently bought lots of this master's albums (and a kora). Quite the most beautiful sound from Africa.
Alas Carolyn Hillyer and her other half Nigel Shaw suffer from the New Age tag, which is a shame, as these two musicians - amongst the most exceptional I know - are both superb and deserve a wider audience. Cave Of Elders is completely improvised, consisting of multi-tracked wordless voice. Perfect for sinking into without realising it.
Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze and Robert Schröder was the soundtrack I grew up to, but almost all subsequent Berlin School music suffers from people just copying the classics. This album however manages to mix keyboards and sequencing into something more.