Longplayer

Listening to music while working helps me focus. But it can also help me procrastinate.

I'll block out a few of hours to work on some daunting project, only to spend the first twenty minutes browsing through Spotify for the Most Utterly Epic Movie Soundtrack playlist. To say nothing of interrupting my work occasionally to look up the obscure films I am reminded of.

I'm ever in need of aural distraction that is not itself distracting -- nothing with comprehensible singing will do -- and which won't goad my procrastinating tendencies. A procrastination-proof, distraction-free soundtrack.

Enter Longplayer.

Longplayer is an art project devised by Jem Finer. He was a founding member of the Pogues, the finest spewers of celtic punk.

The impetus for Longplayer was to create a musical composition that would take a thousand years to play before repeating. You can read about the project's history and conceptual background on its website. Unlike purely conceptual abominations, Longplayer is actual music, not merely an idea expressed with sounds. You can enjoy it without being an aural snob.

That playing out all possible permutations requires a millennium is actually irrelevant. It repeats in the ordinary sense of the word, always sounding about the same. The only instruments used are singing bowls, of various pitches, struck intermittently. The resulting music is at once diverting and becalming; occasionally startling, even menacing. In this subtle variety, it resembles a natural soundscape.

More importantly, it has no features or options, no shuffle or repeat buttons, no ratings or trending charts. No paraphernalia of any kind. It is only itself.

You can stream Longplayer for free. Their server is not great and I had to increase the buffer in my player to allow for uninterrupted playing. If you're stuck on a machine without a client that can stream internet radio, there's a web player on TuneIn.

There is no offline option. You can feasibly record a few hours to listen to later, but that goes against the spirit of the project. A forthcoming iOS app will work offline by literally performing the music from moment to moment. As an Android user, I'm rather jealous.

A 16-hour long version for voices is in development. It sounds amazing, but won't see completion until 2018. What's a few years, given the span of this project?

Longplayer is rather sparse, even by the standards of ambient music. If you need to drown out environmental noises, try layering on some ambient noise. Rain works well.

Longplayer is background music that is impervious to tinkering. It is best paired with a daunting project.

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