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There was a post long ago regarding the music you listen to while working.  I just went on a binge last night at a used book store.  Found Jefferson Airplane's "Surrrealistic Pillow".  All kinds of groovey late 60's twang guitar on that one., most famously "White Rabbit".  One of life's perplexing oxymorons is that only communists could write music worth selling.  Ponder that.

But back to reality, what music do you listen to for debugging, design (if any), coding, etc.  What about if you had a 200 watt amplifier and some big JBL's and you just want to annoy your co-workers for a few minutes.

I know this is a retread of a post, but so are they all right now.

Nat Ersoz
Thursday, February 20, 2003

I can't listen to music whilst I'm working. If there's music playing that I like, then I have to give it my full attention.

John Topley
Thursday, February 20, 2003

Just me (Sir to you)
Thursday, February 20, 2003

I've got cack headphones here but I listen to all sorts of stuff. Unfortunately the firewall won't let me get real-time radio over the web... :-(

Better than being unemployed...
Thursday, February 20, 2003

Sum 41. With the volume turned to 11.

Helps keep the managers away as well.

Thursday, February 20, 2003

John Topley: I have the same exact embarassing problem. It's hard to explain to a coworker that you have to move to the next room to work because his music is way too good.

Li-fan Chen
Thursday, February 20, 2003


Thursday, February 20, 2003

In general I write code without music, because I find it distracting when I am working on a difficult problem.

The one exception is instrumental baroque music. I can tune it out for the most part, and music with regular rhythm is supposed to benefit the brain when it is doing logical work. I find it helps.

It has to be baroque or early classical period. I use J.S. Bach, Scarlatti, Vivaldi, early Mozart, and Haydn.

When I'm doing something tedious that doesn't require full brain focus, like cleaning up the Javadoc, editing test plans, or other documentation projects, just about any style of music will work.

Anyone else use baroque music?

Lauren B.
Thursday, February 20, 2003

Neat topic.  I listen to:

- A wide variety of rock, picking something according to my mood, when I want to tune out external irritations and/or just be left alone.
- Nothing, when I'm browsing the web... Alt-Space N is my friend :).
- Trance/techno plus coffee when I want the high-octane "flow state", for heavy-duty design, coding, and debugging work.
- Classical if I want to just relax and putter along.

Yah.  I'm weird.  Deal with it.  :)


Thursday, February 20, 2003

Lately, James Brown, William Orbin, Bach, Handel, Mozart, Top Gun Soundtrack, Antonello Venditti (italian music obviously)...

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Oops, William Orbit, not Orbin.

Thursday, February 20, 2003

BTW, does anyone know what happened to the "Silence Machine"?
It sounded like an academic "get the research grant quick" scheme to me at the time, and as I thought seems to have dropped of the planet.

This stuff is most certainly at the very top of my tech. wishlist.

Just me (Sir to you)
Thursday, February 20, 2003

I think Bose do cancelling headphones.

Neil E
Thursday, February 20, 2003

Umm if I'm debugging then it has to be something fractured, something like Robert Fripp, Eno anything too singable I'll listen and as I work alone probably sing as well so its a gumption drain.

If I'm modelling or coding  then its either Radio 4 (being middle aged has its benefits), or something like Bach, Beethoven or Gregorian Chant.

Simon Lucy
Thursday, February 20, 2003

I have a fairly wide mixture on my iPod that I like to listen to. Including D:Fuse, Steve Harley, Style Council, New Order, Chuck Loeb, The The, Led Zep, Sade. Also some classical but NO COUNTRY.

I find it great for 'getting in the zone' and tuning out the distractions - sometimes someone will be waiting patiently at the cube for several minutes before I realize they're there...

Thursday, February 20, 2003

"I think Bose do cancelling headphones"

The idea of the Silence Machine was tot do area cancellation of unpredictable (non-repetitive) noise. No headphones.

Te current stuff (e.g. Bose) only work on very repetitive sounds such as aircraft engines etc.

Just me (Sir to you)
Thursday, February 20, 2003

I second the Baroque vote.  Thats what I listen to while I work, anything else and I get too distracted.  If I can understand the words, I get distracted.  Though many days I get so into my work, its 6pm before I realize that its been silent all day in my office save the typing.  It makes it quite the shock coming home to a loud girlfriend, a loud dog, and the TV.  Anyone else have that problem? :-)

Oh yeah, and when I don't want to listen to classical, I listen to the "secret agent" mix of  Good stuff, with random quotes from Bond thrown in...

Andrew Hurst
Thursday, February 20, 2003

Depends what I'm doing. When I'm working on a particularly hard problem (usually architectural issues (hey, it's an evolving system), I prefer something quiet or something I can ignore. Some good techno can be good for that (though i dislike the majority of electronica). The rest of the time, like when I understand exactly what I'm doing and just have to get it done, I listen to almost anything: ska, punk, rock, :), goth... My playlist now starts with AFI, Garbage, Bryan Adams, Our Lady Peace, Megadeth and Frank Sinatra right now.

How's that for musical whiplash?

Mike Swieton
Thursday, February 20, 2003

For work?  ABSOLUTE SILENCE.  I really don't think anyone who is listening to music is actually working.  They just think they are.

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Can anyone find the reference to the scientific study last year that showed music had no particular impact on doing assembly line type of work, but completely trashed performance on anything requiring creativity?
I remember reading it in Science or NewScientist I think, but can't find it anymore.

Just me (Sir to you)
Thursday, February 20, 2003

Just Me:

I'd tend to agree with that study. I am more productive when I can work in true silence, at least when working on tasks requiring creativity.

Like I said above, when I know what I need to do, I turn on the music, tune out the world, and code.

When I'm actually really thinking and planning and architecting and all those other buzzwords, I usually turn off the music and think.

The problem is this: silence may be more productive, but there are two problems with this:

1) Silence is hard. Really. My own typing distracts me if it's the only thing I can hear. I can't imagine trying to have silence in an office environment. It'd feel like taking a test: silence always feels like there's pressure on you. Not relaxing.

I find that almost complete silence is worse than white noise, because the opening of a door or whatever can't be missed in that environment.

2) As noted in 1, having some music is relaxing. You don't feel like you're afraid to move, lest your chair squeak. And I like music. I like working with good music. Sure, I may be less productive than if I had a perfect environment, but whatever.

I also point out that most programming is not creative work: The big, important stuff is, but I've already developed all the architecture for my current project, the vast majority of the rest is grunt-work (Which is fine, but is much easier than what I've accomplished in the last month). Now that I've done high-level design, there isn't much left to do but fill in the blank coding.

Just a few thoughts.

Mike Swieton
Thursday, February 20, 2003


Thursday, February 20, 2003

Well, I'm sitting here listening to the periodic fire alarm test ... so far we are at about 20+ minutes and counting.

It really helps the concentration ...

Thursday, February 20, 2003

I must have silence when I read papers or laying out plans for
what to program, solving core problems. But once I have a clear goal I like music.
When you have programmed for half an hour and you
don't know what tunes you have listened to you know that
you have been in the zone..

Music is a good way of removing sounds that could disturb
you.  A loud computer fan or something can sometimes be enough to irritate you. Also if you have headphones on the
threshhold for a collegue to disturb you with a question is higher. If it is realy important he will still ask it, but if it is semi
important he may wait until a coffebreak or something.

Fredrik Svensson
Thursday, February 20, 2003

I like music in the background, stuff like Bach, Mozart, and soundtracks (Hans zimmer), that kind of stuff.

When I am surfing or reading JoS I listen to (my own station on Launh - their algorithm for generating songs is interesting) or (Modern Rock )

Prakash S
Thursday, February 20, 2003

Like others in this thread, I need quiet while doing thinking work.  Instead I have an office mate who pops his gum while chewing it and at the same time listens to the "Dave and Mike" show, which might better be called the Dumb and Dumber show.  It is a talk show, but not as intelligent as, say, Rush Limbaugh or Dr. Laura.  It is sort of like living next door to a loud dysfunctional family that is always arguing.

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Just to annoy the co-workers? The Turned On CD by the Rollins Band. You did mean the co-workers in the other office block two streets way, right?

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Artists/Albums to Avoid While Programming:

Captain Beefheart
Frank Zappa
Neil Young - "Arc"
Lou Reed - "Metal Machine Music"
certain King Crimson LPs (you know which ones)
Sun Ra (except maybe his standards stuff)
Ornette Coleman
The Birthday Party
Einstürzende Neubauten (in case you were wondering)
The Stooges
Mr. Bungle

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I've heard that anything in Jerry Jeff Walker's catalog and the soundtrack to "Dirty Dancin'" may also be lethal to programmer productivity. However, I haven't tested this personally-- I'm afraid the damage might be irreversable.

Hangin' by a Corpus Callosum
Thursday, February 20, 2003

Early Tragically Hip
Peter Gabriel
Linkin' Park
Tenacious D
Sonic Death Monkey
Mary Kate and Ashley

Thursday, February 20, 2003

The Smiths
The Police
Stone Roses
Suede (London)
Ned's Atomic Dustbin
Smoking Popes
Sunny Day Real Estate
The Living End
Joy Division
Mazzy Star
Teenage Fanclub
The Clash
Toad the Wet Sprocket
Belle And Sebastian
Mojave 3
Matthew Sweet
The Strokes
David Bowie
Metallica (Pre-Black CD)
That Dog
They Might Be Giants
The Sundays
New Found Glory
Bad Religion

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Astral Projection
Robert Miles
Fatboy Slim
Miles Davis
Stan Getz

Vincent Marquez
Thursday, February 20, 2003

For "grunt coding" I'm stuck in the 80's - at home I'll listen to one of the top three or four shoutcast streams on

If I'm "in the zone", doing something really creative, then I need trance music or nothing. Trance is great because it's (mostly) pure instrumental, and for me it blocks out background noise and lets me focus on what I'm doing.


Philip Janus
Thursday, February 20, 2003

Currently (over the past week)...

The Smiths
The Verve
Beth Orton
David Grey
Red Hot Chilli Peppers
Ben Harper
Nick Cave
Alex Lloyd

Thursday, February 20, 2003


Fredrik above said:
"Also if you have headphones on the
threshhold for a collegue to disturb you with a question is higher. If it is realy important he will still ask it, but if it is semi important he may wait until a coffebreak or something."

I wholeheartedly agree, I sometimes just wear  my headphones without listening to music for this very reason alone.

Thursday, February 20, 2003

silence (preferred) or:

bill evans
brad mehldau
charles lloyd
some coltrane
kathleen battle singing mozart

and when I'm done:

some other coltrane
michel camilo
weather report
early prog
keith jarrett
classical and romantic chamber...

fool for python
Thursday, February 20, 2003


Do you know any good online/ streaming Trance radio stations?

Prakash S
Thursday, February 20, 2003

J. S. Bach (keyboard works, Passions)
Handel (Messiah)
Mozart (operas, piano concertos and sonatas, symphonies)
Beethoven (piano sonatas, odd numbered symphonies)
Arvo Pärt
Pink Floyd
Sex Pistols
Concrete Blonde
Painters and Dockers



Friday, February 21, 2003

I'm slightly stumped by the idea of a talk radio show less intelligent than Rush Limbaugh and Dr Laura.

By the way, right now Desert Island Discs is extremely diverting.

Simon Lucy
Friday, February 21, 2003


In fully agree with you on the point of putting up a blanket sound source to cover the otherwise distracting variance in unsuccesfully attempted total silence.
Problem in most cases of shared offices is that one man's blanket often becomes another man's chinese water torture. Leading to an armsrace in "turn up the volume".

Headphones should come with special "designed for shared office environments" certification, that should ensure no noise escapes to the outside world.

Just me (Sir to you)
Friday, February 21, 2003

Or you could go and buy that Bose headphone for 300 quid!

Prakash S
Friday, February 21, 2003

The idea here being "pollutor pays" Prakash.

Just me (Sir to you)
Friday, February 21, 2003

That would be rich:-)

Prakash S
Friday, February 21, 2003

I agree with some of the posters. Music provides a background noise that you can tune out. Much better overall than working in absolute silence where a loud sneeze can throw you out of the zone.

I have ripped my entire CD collection (300+ cds) and so have a wide choice to listen to on my machine.

Willie Nelson
Boxcar Willie
Red Hot Chilli Peppers
Grateful Dead
Destiny's Child
Smashing Pumpkins
Counting Crows
Dolly Parton
Miriam Makeba
Mango Groove
Doobie Brothers
Grand Funk Railroad
Gladys Knight
Clarence Carter
Bob Marley
Quite a wide spectrum

Friday, February 21, 2003

I agree with much that has been said in this thread.  If I'm trying to figure out a difficult problem or design something complex, then I need silence, but most of the time music is much better than the conversations and noise in our large, unwalled office area.  And I often wear my headphones without playing any music.  For whatever reason, coworkers really do find it so much harder to interrupt you when you have them on.

One thing I'd like to add is that I tend to only have a few albums that I listen to at work at any given time.  This cuts down on the distraction level; if I really like a new song, I stop to listen at first, but that goes away quickly on repeated listenings.  I usually listen to albums on a loop.  If I'm into my work, it might be two hours before I notice songs repeating.

Right now I'm on Joe Jackson's Night And Day II, and The Presidents Of The Unites States of America's self-titled album.  Oysterhead's The Grand Pecking Order is also excellent background coding music, once you get over just how good an album it is.

Greg Falcon
Friday, February 21, 2003


Trance: I like Digitally Imported (


Friday, February 21, 2003

Thomas, this is some pretty cool stuff. thanks.

Prakash S
Friday, February 21, 2003

For work that requires some concentration I tend to look for music that contains no intellible lyrics and offers a fair amount of repetition at a lowish beats per minute and long tracks.

The following usually hit the spot:

Sheila Chandra - especially the A Bone Crone Drone -type stuff.
Dub Reggae - almost anything on the Blood and Fire label
some Goran Bregovic
A.S Rahman
Philip Glass
Ali Farka Toure and Afel Boukoum
and of course, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.

For stuff that requires more energy than concentration - The Pixies/Rammstein/Apocalyptica and Cabaret Voltaire.

Thats the way the money goes
Saturday, February 22, 2003

You mean A R Rahman?

Prakash S
Saturday, February 22, 2003

"4 minutes and 33 seconds" by John Cage, on endless repeat is
the only music I can concentrated to. ;-)

David Clayworth
Monday, February 24, 2003

But only when it is played over a really top notch HiFi setup :-).
Wouldn't it be great if we could just turn up the volume on that to blanket out the rest.

Just me (Sir to you)
Monday, February 24, 2003

I've also ripped my entire CD collection, here's the bands I have a subset of songs for at work...

Air, Apoptygma Berzerk, Arkana, Babylon Zoo, Barry Adamson, Bauhaus, Beborn Beton, Beloved, Ben Harper, Beth Orton, Bis, Blur, Boards Of Canada, Boxcar, Brendan Perry, Cake, Carter USM, Charlatans, Chemical Brothers, Chris Issak, Church, Clan Of Xymox, Cocteau Twins, Coldplay, Corpus Delicti, Cult, Cure, Curve, Dandy Warhols, David Bowie, Dead Can Dance, Death In Vegas, Def FX, Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, Ed Kuepper, Einstürzende Neubauten, Electronic, Endorphin, Evils Toy, Eyes of the Nightmare Jungle, Farm, Fatboy Slim, Fear Factory, Felix, Fields of the Nephilim, Filter, Flir, Fluke, Foetus, Front 242, Garbage, Gary Clail, Gary Numan, Goldfrapp, Goteki, Gus Gus, Happy Mondays, Happyland, Haujobb, Headless Chickens, Hoodoo Gurus, Hybrid, Hyperdex 1 Sect, Ian Brown, Itch-e and Scratch-e, James, Jesus Jones, Jesus and Mary Chain, Joy Division, KMFDM, Kate Bush, Killing Joke, Kraftwerk, Kylie Minogue, Ladytron, Lamb, Leama, Leftfield Lydon, Lisa Gerrard, Lisa Gerrard & Patrick Cassidy, London After Midnight, Love Is Colder Than Death, Love Spirals Downwards, Love and Rockets, Luscious Jackson, Machines of Loving Grace, Marionettes, Massive Attack, Menswear, Meridian, Merry Thoughts, Mesh, Moloko, Monaco, Moonman, Morissey, Mozart, Mussorgsky, My Bloody Valentine, My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, Nancyboy, Neds Atomic Dustbin, Neneh Cherry, New Model Army, New Order, Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds, Nine Inch Nails, Nirvana, Nosferatu, Opus III, Orb, Orbital, Ordo Equitum Solis, PPK, Pachabel, Paul Mac, Paul Oakenfold, Pendulum, Pepe Deluxe, Pet Shop Boys, Peter Gabriel, Peter Murphy, Planet Funk, Pnau, Pop Will Eat Itself, Portishead, Primal Scream, Prodigy, Propellerheads, Public Image Limited, Pulp, REM, Radiohead, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, Regurgitator, Republica, Revolting Cocks, Rise and Fall of a Decade, Rob D, Rosetta Stone, Royksopp, Severed Heads, Shadow Project, Sheep on Drugs, Shpongle, Simple Minds, Single Gun Theory, Siouxsie And The Banshees, Sisters Of Mercy, Smashing Pumpkins, Smiths, Snog, Soulscraper, Space, Specials, Spiderbait, St Etienne, Stephen, Stoa, Sugarbabes, Sundays, Supergrass, Suzanne Vega, Switchblade Symphony, Talk Talk, Talking Heads, Tanita Tikaram, Tears For Fears, The The, They Might Be Giants, Thomas Newman, Tori Amos, Transister, Travis, Unkle, Unsorted, Vast, Verve, Visage, Voice of the Beehive, Wall of Voodoo, White Zombie, Wiseguys, Wolfsheim, X Marks The Pedwalk, XTC, Xtigma, Zero Defects

Gordon Hartley
Friday, July 9, 2004

Oops. That post was longer than I thought.  Also silence. I find once you're in the 'zone' you don't notice the music anyway (although it still helps to block out other unwanted ambient noise).

I accidentally listened the track "What Your Soul Sings" by Massive Attack on loop for over an hour and a half before I noticed...

Gordon Hartley
Friday, July 9, 2004

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