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Library Listens: King James

Have you ever wondered what separates the library spaces in St Andrews from one another? Have any of my fellow Arts students felt deeply intimidated by the concept of the study spaces in the School of Science, or vice versa? Have you never wandered past the comforting walls of Main Library, and, now that it’s been closed, are floundering for a new space to get some work done without having to pay for it?

Never fear! The Arts and Culture team has decided to create a series of playlists to match the vibes of each library space in our lovely uni. Ones that match the vibe and aesthetic of each space so that you might understand them better, or to help facilitate your mindset when you arrive to do your revision.

To begin, the beloved (and exclusive) King James library in St Mary’s Quad: Whereas other libraries in St Andrews offer more modern aesthetics, albeit each one is unique to itself, King James is the one space where the gothic architecture which many people associate with St Andrews has been allowed to take over completely. The vibes in the King James are, simply put, immaculate. It’s got marble busts for heaven’s sake. Columns, high ceilings, ladders to reach high up books, large ornate windows, grand staircases, chandeliers... need I go on? The tunes for this study space need to match and encapsulate its dark/light academia motifs. One needs to feel they are a young wizard or witch studying for their OWLs at Hogwarts, or a member of the Dead Poets Society when they attempt to decipher a historical text or a maths problem. You perfect playlist for romanticizing your time in King James requires a recipe of tunes with a touch of tortured angst, a pinch of the sublime, a dab old money, and a little bit of classical imagery.

It seemed imperative that this playlist include a good deal of classical music. Not only is it easier to study when pesky lyrics are limited, but you cannot tell me that when you are surrounded by Doric columns, a good Chopin or Tchaikovsky doesn’t transport you just a bit. Other than the classic composers, I’ve included songs from iconic movie soundtracks that I felt played into the aesthetic well: Pride and Prejudice (2005), Orlando (1993), Call Me By Your Name (2017), and, of course, Dead Poets Society (1989).

When I think of tunes that fit the “Old Money” aesthetic, my mind immediately jumps to Lana Del Rey. Perhaps it is her contribution to the soundtrack of The Great Gatsby (2013), or simply the Old Hollywood imagery she constantly decks herself in, but regardless I feel she should feature prominently in your session in King James.

As anyone who has worked in this library regularly can attest to, it is almost impossible to get a seat if you do not arrive in the early hours of the morning. It’s exclusive. It’s the hottest club in town. It is a luxury to get to put your bum in one of those cushy wooden chairs. This is why I’ve included a large amount of French songs from the 1960s on our playlist. If you don’t speak French, not to worry, like lyricless songs, a song in an unfamiliar language will help you focus more on that essay or whatever task is at hand. If you do speak French, you can be prepared to feel very superior to all those around you. You’re listening to music they physically cannot understand. They don’t get it like you do. Nobody understands your poetic, tortured soul. If that’s not exclusivity, I don’t know what is.

On the theme of tortured souls, I thought the classical imagery and tributes to nature that both Hozier and Florence and the Machine bring in their music were an excellent match for the King James space. Especially if you are a Classics student, their angsty, yet sultry voices mixed with their heavy drum beats and bass will make you feel you are in that Roman Colosseum along with the gladiators, or dancing with the satyrs in a Bacchanalian festival.

So pop our King James library playlist in your headphones the next time you manage to secure a space in there. I guarantee it will either help you focus, or at least make pretending to work while really sitting on your phone feel productive.

You can find this playlist and all of our Library Listens over on The Saint’s Spotify account:

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