Easy Listening For Uneasy Listeners

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Tan Kian Khoon/iStockphoto
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Tan Kian Khoon/iStockphoto

There's a considerable amount of stress and responsibility involved in simply showing up for work. Then, of course, you're required to stay calm and productive once you walk in the door. Even though your coworkers could never match your intellectual rigor, your senior managers would rather stare at their shoes than talk to you in the elevator and your boss can never quite pronounce your last name correctly, you're still required to get through the day without kicking anyone in the shins. So here are five musical tranquilizers, guaranteed to calm frayed nerves and ease the frustration caused by the inadequacy that surrounds you. Ration them — one at a time, please — for when you feel compelled to spew an acid putdown, flame-throw an email to your supervisor or simply walk out the door.

For more entries in NPR Music's Listen While You Work series, click here.

Easy Listening For Uneasy Listeners

Cover for The Magic of Satie

Gnossienne No. 5

  • Artist: Jean-Yves Thibaudet
  • Album: The Magic of Satie
  • Song: Gnossienne No. 5

People like to say that Satie was the original New Age guy, because some of his piano music is soft and gentle. Actually, he was a kook who maintained a closet filled with 12 identical gray velvet suits. He loathed work, got kicked out of the Paris Conservatoire and drank himself to a relatively early grave. So turn this one all the way up, drift away and daydream of the perfect vodka gimlet.

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Song
Gnossienne No. 5
Album
The Magic of Satie
Artist
Jean-Yves Thibaudet
Label
Decca
Released
2008

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Cover for Sevilla: The Music of Isaac Albéniz

Cordoba

  • Artist: Jason Vieaux
  • Album: Sevilla: The Music of Isaac Albéniz
  • Song: Cordoba

There's something about the gentle plucking of these nylon strings that will force you to forget your next conference call and instead confront -- comfortably -- that vacation to Spain you never took. The tangy spicing of the paella. The quaint, whitewashed villages. The freshness of the unfamiliar customs. It's all right there in Jason Vieaux's exquisite playing. And, if the squeal of fingers sliding over frets can be vexing, fear not: Vieaux's playing is absolutely silent.

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Song
Cordoba
Album
Sevilla: The Music of Isaac Albéniz
Artist
Jason Vieaux
Label
Azica
Released
2008

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Cover for Brian Eno: Music for Airports

Ambient 1: Music for Airports

  • Artist: Bang On A Can
  • Album: Brian Eno: Music for Airports
  • Song: Ambient 1: Music for Airports

Brian Eno easily could have called this ambient classic "Music for Workplaces" because, like airports, the office fosters intense feelings of dissatisfaction and alienation. In this beautiful recording, the New York avant-garde outfit Bang on a Can decided to play Brian Eno's electronic soundscape on real instruments. It was the right decision. The music is, like Eno says, as listenable as it is ignorable.

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Song
Ambient 1: Music for Airports
Album
Brian Eno: Music for Airports
Artist
Bang On A Can
Label
Point
Released
1998

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Cover for Frederick Delius: Orchestral Works

By The River

  • Artist: David Lloyd-Jones
  • Album: Frederick Delius: Orchestral Works
  • Song: By The River

How the British cornered the market on peaceful, pastoral music remains a mystery, given that there's rarely a moment in their rain-drenched climate when you can actually take off the mackintosh long enough to enjoy a pleasant stroll over the heath. Perhaps that's why Delius, one of the deans of English "country" music, moved to Florida. This music, with its carefree yet delicate dance rhythms, is designed to whisk you far away from dwindling 401Ks and make you wonder why anyone should be required to hold down a job.

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Song
By The River
Album
Frederick Delius: Orchestral Works
Artist
David Lloyd-Jones
Label
Naxos
Released
1996

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Cover for Morton Feldman: Piano and String Quartet

Piano and String Quartet

  • Artist: Kronos Quartet
  • Album: Morton Feldman: Piano and String Quartet
  • Song: Piano and String Quartet

Here's one last piece to take the edge off of your active lifestyle. Feldman was a loud, burly New Yorker whose music is often a bold antidote to the noise pollution reverberating off Manhattan's canyons of steel. This little gem goes on, gently rocking, for nearly 90 minutes. Better than Thorazine, with no pesky side effects, listening doesn't get much easier than this.

Purchase Featured Music

Song
Piano and String Quartet
Album
Morton Feldman: Piano and String Quartet
Artist
Kronos Quartet
Label
Nonesuch
Released
1993

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Featured Artist

Purchase Featured Music

The Magic of Satie

Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

Album
The Magic of Satie
Artist
Jean-Yves Thibaudet
Label
Decca
Released
2008

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

 

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