I've never been able to do much more than take notes or write rough story outlines while listening to music. I usually need to concentrate on what I'm trying to write, and music inevitably distracts me* (I start humming along, which grows into singing along, which blossoms into me performing a solo concert in front of my computer, and then I get on a roll and decide to belt out the tunes at the top of my lungs until I reach the end of the CD--but if you're listening to songs on iTunes then the end of the CD never comes... you see what I'm getting at here, don't you?) Music means not writing, generally.
But today, I'm being a rebel. The computer in my PhD office hums and whirrs and makes such a racket of fans and engines that this morning, for the first time, I've decided to listen to music in order to try and drown out the computer noise. Noise as a means of conquering other noise is the theory. And not just music, no. I mean, I have been known to put some Mendelssohn or Mozart on my iPod so that I can have some background noise that won't distract me with lyrics. But classical music just isn't cutting it today.
Lyrics it is.
*This is a music-only problem. I love sitting in the middle of the noisy university cafeteria when I'm trying to read something difficult; the cacophony that results when crowds of people speak, laugh, argue, cough, etc. creates a sort of white noise that really helps me concentrate.