Australian artist James Gulliver Hancock is a busy man. He’s created art for companies like Coca-Cola, Ford, Paypal, and the New York Times, taking him to places such as the US, UK, Austria, France, and Germany. (Check out Lenka’s Pandora station here).
Churning out intricate illustrations and paintings requires passion, commitment, and perhaps most crucially, the perfect music station.
According to Hancock, music plays a very important role in jumpstarting his creative juices.
“Without putting something on, I find it hard to knuckle down and get really into drawing. Music is especially important as it provides a space for my mind to wander without absorbing information,” he said. “It’s as if the music occupies a part of my brain, or entertains it while the rest of me carries on with the creative task at hand.
“I think music is powerful in the way that it can fill a room, make it thick and interesting to be in, rather than empty and boring.”
He recently collaborated with music streaming service Pandora in creating the ultimate productivity music station. Powered by the Music Genome Project, the service allowed Hancock to compile songs that have similar traits or moods.
We asked Australian musicologist, Matty Newton, about how the Music Genome project, which categorises music by at least 400 musical attributes, actually works.
“The Music Genome project is a group of highly skilled musicians who listen very, very closely to every song that is on Pandora and manually break them apart into all of their unique elements, from their tonality, to the instrumentation and content of the lyrics.
“For example, if we look at the latest single from The Veronicas (In My Blood), we can see that it features Romantic Lyrics, Repetitive Melodic Phrasing with Subtle Vocal Harmonies, Build Ups and Break Downs, Extensive Vamping, Hi Hat Upbeats, and so on.
“We then take ALL of this information and use it to connect the listener with music they’ll love based on other music they love. For artists, this means we can share your music with the people most likely to love it.”
Have a listen to James Gulliver Hancock’s ultimate productivity music station).
Metronomy – The Look
“I love how this makes me feel, how it’s almost like we’re walking around with the little seagull in the video clip. There’s a train like journey to the beat and a timeless mood to it that helps me keep going when I’m stuck on a project.”
Django Django – Default
“I feel like this is the kind of music I’d make if I could make music. Hence, it makes me feel like I’m connected to a creative community; that there are people out there with a similar view of the world who share a common aesthetic. I think that’s an important feeling to have as a creative.”
Lenka – Faster With You
“This is my favorite all-time Lenka song. Being my partner, I’m lucky enough to hear the development of her songs around the house all the time. This song reminds me of when we lived in Vienna and were in the early stages of our relationship. We were both in this strange town making the beginnings of the type of work we continue to make today. It’s also a great mood song to play in the background of working on complicated drawings. It makes you relax and think everything is going to be okay.”
Nick Drake – Pink Moon
“This reminds me of living in Los Angeles, of dry dusty days, and drawing in the sun. I know that’s not where he came from, but that’s where I found his music. It’s so funny with music that it can be such a marker to a place and time for when you discovered it. Like a smell or taste, music can reference and remember such ephemeral memories.”
M.Ward – Let’s Dance
“Lenka introduced me to M.Ward and I saw him play in Los Angeles with a really simple stage set up. I love that it makes me feel like we’re all around a fire hanging out. It’s hard to draw by a fire, so I’m glad I can listen to his lovely voice and guitar while I work my way through the different worlds in my drawings.”
Ella Fitzgerald – It’s Only A Paper Moon
“This is our wedding song. What we love about it is the nod to the way we like to make things: out of paper and embraced with fantasy and romance. Lenka’s dad is a jazz trumpeter, so jazz has a big part in our daily life, which I really love.”
Stafford Bawler – Amateur Cartography
“This is from the Monument Valley app game soundtrack, and I love that a game with such a mood and emotion translates into a beautiful, emotional soundtrack. Atmospheric pieces like this are really the most perfect for the initial stages of working, where you have to come up with ideas and really use your brain. This type of music leaves a perfect space for you to play in.”
Camille Saint-Saens – The Carnival of the Animals
“My dad and I drove around Iceland together to this music, and for a long time I never knew what it was. My dad was really into classical music and we’d always have it on at the dinner table at night. So I think it makes me relax when I’m working. Again, like ambient music, it leaves a great space for your mind to play with ideas.”
High Highs – Open Season
“Isn’t it wonderful when your friends make music you like? It’s even better when it’s perfect to work to. I love having the High Highs on in the background of the studio. It creates such a lovely, warm atmosphere and reminds me of picnics with friends in the sun.”
Tycho – Awake
“Another beautiful ambient band that I love to put on in the background while I work, though it creates such gorgeous moments I’ll often find myself staring out the window at the clouds, wondering how the world works. Not such a bad thing!”