When I lived in my little crow's nest over Edinburgh there'd be noise all night, but a different range of sounds from the day. At night there would be the clatter of bottles being emptied into giant wheelie bins at the back of the pubs, the faulty air conditioning fan outside, the whoops and cries of folk out for the night, singing, arguments, the traffic... Meanwhile I'd be trundling on at my sewing machine, waiting for the kettle to click as my signal to stop for a break.
There's something satisfying about the level of concentration that builds up during the evening, that last burst of energy before sleep. It's the kind of concentration that will tolerate irritating music on the radio rather than allow you to get up to change the channel and break the thread of activity. It's the concentration that blots out the discomfort of sitting for hours cross-legged, that numbs the bladder so that when you eventually come back to the world you can barely stagger to the loo in time.
So it was one night that I was sitting on the floor trying to regrade a knitting pattern for a sample garment needed at work the following morning. The radio was on; I remember registering there was some kind of drone coming out of the speakers. Every now and then there would be an almost instinctively felt change in the sound, not enough to distract, but soothing in the way that a slight movement after a lengthy period of standing still brings relief. It went on...and on... Somehow, it seemed to set some kind of order in my brain (which is not on particularly friendly terms with numbers) and I had most of my pattern regraded as the drone ended.
The radio programme was Late Junction on Radio 3. I think the track must have lasted at least 15 minutes. I don't know many radio programmes that would give up 15 minutes of airtime to a church organ drone. I don't know why I didn't scribble down the track title, although I got the name of the composer/performer. I don't know why I let it go for years without seeking it out.
But then the other day as it started to sink in that I will have to "do" some Maths on my new course, I had a mini freak-out tempered by the recollection of that evening of church organ-powered brain efficiency. I will do my sums at night when my brain is at its top setting. I will listen to my newly arrived cd of Charlemagne Palestine's Schlingen Blaengen (a full 71 minutes of splendid organ drone) and see what transpires.