Playlists for Productivity
Teacher: Josh Dresser
Class Title: General Music
Grade level: 12th
Project Title: This Is Your Brain on Music: Playlists for Productivity
How often do we use music as a background for daily activities? Whether commuting, studying, socializing, or working, music is often used to decorate the time and space we occupy, but how often do we consciously think about the music we listen to? In this project, students explored some of the research around music and productivity and created playlists and original compositions designed for specific types of tasks.
The three different displays represent three increasing levels of cognitive demand. The first display is for repetitive, mundane tasks that do not require a high degree of concentration or critical thinking. The middle display is ideal for tasks that are familiar, but are still cognitively engaging and challenging. The third display is for the highest level of cognitive demand and ideal for immersive tasks, or those that require the highest degree of concentration.
Even as a music teacher, I rarely listen to music while I’m working. I find myself losing concentration because I can’t stop listening to what is going on in the music rather than focusing on the task at hand. When students ask to listen to music while writing essays or reading, the music they choose is often rich in lyrical content, has complex rhythms, and a driving pulse. I’ve always wondered if students really can work harder or more efficiently when music is playing.
When exploring some of the research around music’s effects on cognition, I was surprised at the results. It turns out that in some cases, music can actually help productivity, especially for mundane, repetitive tasks or for tasks that require a high degree of concentration but are not loaded with heavy verbal architecture.
I always enjoy the choices students make for selecting music in projects like this one because I can learn what my students are listening to and what they like (I had never heard of Kodak Black before this project). I think students enjoyed making their own compositions in the context of different types of tasks and I enjoyed listening to their composition, which always seem to mirror their personalities and musical tastes.
My hope is that with this project, my students will be more mindful of the type of music they listen to and more aware of the different elements of music that we examined.
The playlists below represent a mix of original tracks by our students and popular selections they chose to analyze.