This is going to be one of those posts where I pretend like I am offering something useful but really am just fishing for good ideas to steal.
I don't know how the habit formed, but sometime in my early readerhood, listening to music while reading became an absolute necessity. I don't know why really, but like macaroni and cheese, coffee and doughnuts, Charlie Sheen and stomach pumps, cracking open a book and turning on some music are, for better or worse, bound together.
Finding suitable music, though, has turned out to be a bit of a chore. For when it comes to picking out something to listen to while reading, I am pickier than Goldilocks, if Goldilocks were also Cher and had OCD. I need something quiet but not soporific. Something ignorable yet not boring. Something stimulating yet not diverting. Something I like, but not something I'll notice. You get the idea.
Anyway, here are my three go-to reading soundtracks:
Birth of the Cool (1957)
This the spriteliest of my sonic arsenal, best suited for springtime and pleasure reading. Davis is reacting to the hard-bop of the day with mellower, more melodic tracks that are inspired as much by classical music as jazz. Well, not as much, but a lot. I always start with "Boplicity"--to the point that if I hear it out and about I get a junkie-like hankering for a hardback.
The Goldberg Variations
Generally, there is too much going in classical music for me to be able to focus on what I'm reading, so solos and concertos tend to work the best. For a long time, Bach's cello concertos were my favorite classical option, but a recentish recording of The Goldberg Variations by Simone Dinnerstein has turned out to be even better. I used to play the cello (very badly. Really, I might have been the worst cello player of all time. Actually there was this one kid who tried to play the cello who only had four fingers on his left hand and he was tone deaf. So I was tied with him for the worst cello player of all time) so every now and again I would have a flashback, just enough to take me out of whatever I was reading. I also used to play the piano, but with not near the trauma associated with my cello days. So this works better for me.
I wouldn't be a 30-something Brooklynite if I didn't listen to The National, but little does your run-of-the-mill indie rock fan know, this is a great record to read to. Three central virtues: virtually indecipherable lyrics, soothing baritone lead-singer, and enough rhythm to cover any ambient noise you might be fighting. Ideal use case: subway reading.
So there are three recommendations from me. Now to what I am really interested in---what do you read to? And more importantly, do you think it would work for me?