For the most part I can't listen to pop music while writing or reading intently; the words being sung simply interfere with the words I'm trying to write or read. Even when I was writing the poems of "Anarchy for the U.K.," I couldn't set the iPod on Sex Pistols or Gang of Four or PiL; I'd listen intently, scribbling notes, then I'd switch off and tinker with the evolving collages of the poems. When I read an interview with Jerzy Kosinski where he talked about always listening to rock music at high volumes while writing, I thought to myself, that explains a lot about his his prose style (which I loathed).
I can on the other hand listen to classical or jazz, or really anything without words, & maintain a pretty decent level of concentration on the language before me. Not happy about this, tho – it makes me feel as tho I'm using music which demands & rewards full attention as something little better than sonic wallpaper. Like the listeners to the dire local NPR classical station – all warhorses, all the time – do. "It's nice music to have on in the background." Me, I think Webern's nice music to have on in the background – but I'm sure Anton himself would be pretty pissed off to be so used.
(The most radical refunctioning of the late 20th century: the intensely autonomous "high" art music of the late 19th c. – Brahms, Wagner – retrofitted to the social function of the baroque era's background sound.)