Music To Hack To -- The Belated Summary

Posted: Sun, 3 September 2006 | permalink | No comments

Back in the embarrassingly early part of this year, I wrote a blog entry on music that I liked to listen to whilst cutting code. I solicited feedback, and promised a followup. Technically, I didn't say when I'd be posting a summary, so I don't feel quite so bad about leaving it for 9 months before posting this followup.

Firstly, Matthew Davidson gave a lengthy treatise on The Fall, whom I'd never heard of before, and actually haven't gotten around to listening to yet, either (shaaaaame!). It certainly must do the trick for him, though, because he says:

I try to avoid programming wherever possible -- I know how it's done, and really appreciate it when it's done well, but I generally find doing it as much fun as a trip to the dentist. However, put a bit of the Fall on, and I find myself settling into a pretty productive groove without much trouble.

Next up, Decklin Foster pointed me to where I could do my own research -- the Debian Developers group on Although I've glanced at now and then, I've never really gotten into it much. I suppose I should harness the hive mind and find more music similar to that I already like -- you can only listen to your old favourites so many times in a row before they start to wear out.

Apparently, my tastes in coding tunes isn't unique -- Roger Barnes shares my preference for the quick-paced abstract:

When I'm coding though, I prefer something fast and electronic. I think this is for two reasons, one is the rhythm tends to get my mind going, and the lack of vocals means that there are no words disrupting my thoughts.

As does François Beausoleil, who says:

I have the same need as you for loud, fast and driving music. Personally, I've been listening to Born to be alive, the first Matrix's theme song, Confusion from New Order of the Blade soundtrack.

Since the original Music To Hack To post, I've been listening primarily to the Chillits 2005 sets whilst coding. In the words of Boing Boing (where I originally found out about Chillits), "Every fall in Northern California, the Chillits music festival brings together a stunning line-up of DJs who spin mesmerizing sets of ambient and downtempo music under the sun and stars."

The key word there is "ambient"; I'm not looking for something to listen to so much as I want backdrop to my other activities. The collection of laid-back and thumping tunes keeps a nice work/relax rhythm going while I'm coding.

There are some immensely funny bits in some of the mixes, too, like the (hopefully) mock ad for speed ("The little blue diet pill you don't have to be overweight to need!"). Sometimes the tracks go into some area that bugs the shit out of me, which is when I exercise the skip feature of my music player, but most of it is pretty good at blocking out the world and letting you concentrate on the code at hand.

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