Dear Rabbi Simon,
I am at home much of the time at the moment, doing computing work out of my home office. I listen to music on headphones to drown out other noise and to help me concentrate. (I have tried using the radio instead or other talking noises – and it does not really work.) Would it be permitted for me to continue to doing this during the 3 weeks?
TY for your timely question.
The Talmud prescribes a diminution of joy with the arrival of the month of Av [until after the Fast of Tisha B’Av]. Ashkenazic tradition has expanded this practice to include the days from the Fast of 17 Tamuz until midday on the 10th of Av. As you know, this is colloquially known as the Three Weeks.
It is generally agreed that the seasonal restrictions include listening to music. However, the essential prohibition is only live music accompanied by dancing and celebrating generally. Hence, chamber music, mood music and the like would not violate the prohibition. Similarly, there are those who distinguish between live and pre-recorded music.
In light of this, I would say that if listening to pre-recorded music enables you to concentrate better, and is not a form of recreation (ta’anug) per se, you may do so until the week in which the Fast of Av falls. If you find that your productively is actually compromised, and that even the last few days represents a hardship, you may even use your earphones until midday on Erev Tisha B’Av.
I hope this is helpful.
Rabbi Rashi Simon