Open Thread: Music to $action by

2010 October 18
by Terri

A friend of mine released some songs with the following note:

Originally conceived for release on 3″ CD, this four-track EP was inspired by the many difficulties encountered over the years by women who are writers and writers who are women. It encompasses glitchy droning ambience, mellow downtempo beats, aggressive drum’n'bass, and distorted rhythmic dance.

I’ve found I really like track two while I’m actually writing:

Ess EP by We v2 Collective

I listen to very different music when I write English (or French) than when I write code, though. For writing human language, it’s all about the classical with some jazz or wordless ambient electronica thrown in to mix it up. Or really, anything wordless can do in a pinch, but I find it hard to write and listen at the same time. And it’s much worse if I’m listening to a different language from the one I’m writing (an issue given that I radio-flip a lot and we’ve got a decent number of non-English stations here). But for coding, it’s completely different: there, it’s all about the uptempo (fast) stuff, and words are fine. As a teenager I once scandalized my parents and my friends by coding away happily to ABBA for hours, and I can listen to stuff while coding that I find to monotonous if my brain’s not engaged elsewhere.

So… what’s your music of choice for your geeky (and non-geeky) activities. Do you have any pattern?

And, as you likely guessed, this is an open thread, so feel free to talk about anything else that’s on your mind and needs sharing!

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This post was written by terri.

Terri is a web security researcher, open source developer, teacher, amateur photographer, naturalist, geek, gamer, musician, and woman in technology. She blogs/tweets under the name terriko, and maintains a web security blog at

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9 Responses leave one →
  1. Cindy Auligny permalink
    October 19, 2010

    My co-workers often play music during working time. And you know, we all are PHP developers, and, in my opinion, that’s a great way to brainstorm and analyze the algorithms. I prefer the 90′s English songs (it’s not my native language, I’m Vietnames).

  2. Mary permalink
    October 19, 2010

    I’m a SimplyNoise person for programming, at least when I own headphones that don’t hurt me (my ears are usually too large for cups), which isn’t true now.

    • Terri permalink*
      October 19, 2010

      Does anyone review earphones including the cup size? I’m should replace my headset for exactly that problem, but it’s hard to tell what’s going to be comfy when I’m trying to find what will also sound good. If I were just buying headphones and not a headphone/speaker combo, I’d be able to just go to an audio shop and try things on, but nice headsets for gaming seem to fall into that “not expensive enough for us to let you try it on, too expensive for us to have any where they might be stolen” range.

  3. Restructure! permalink
    October 19, 2010

    Yes! When I write English, songs with words interfere, but when I write code, songs with words are fine. It seems like people subvocalize more when they write in English, but code is more visual-based.

    Because of this, I wonder whether coding with steno would work. Steno seems sound-based, but coding is more visual, so it would be harder to associate sounds with curly braces, for example. Also, IIRC, closed captioning is case-insensitive, but coding is case-sensitive, so perhaps it wouldn’t work so well.

    I also thought that maybe vim doesn’t work well with steno, because vim assumes that you are using a QWERTY keyboard. Maybe emacs is better, because there is some semantic association between letter keys and actions. I use a non-QWERTY keyboard layout when I use emacs, and it’s fine.

    • Mary permalink
      October 20, 2010

      I gather vim has an entirely different command set with Dvorak keyboards and so on, so presumably you’d get vim experts to make one up in chords.

      I have a nasty wrist injury at the moment that makes QWERTY very painful, I wish I knew steno already…

  4. Sushi permalink
    October 19, 2010

    My music collection on shuffle works quite nicely. When I’m writing fiction, I like to listen upbeat music to make the words come out faster, as I’ve found that I really do write faster when the music is faster. I also wrote my math and French theses while listening to various and Pandora stations (in English). No headphones unless there’s actual noise to block or the need to look productive.

  5. Carrie permalink
    October 19, 2010

    I like Radio Paradise for any kind of non-verbal work (i.e. lab bench work). In fact, I first heard of Radio Paradise when I interviewed for my Ph.D program and it was playing in the lab. It’s taken me through a lot of long days and nights.

  6. jon permalink
    October 20, 2010

    I mostly listen to symphonies, chamber music or psytrance for $action, depending on just how energized I want to be. Back when I was a lot younger I would listen to punk but at some point the words became too distracting for me.

    Back around 2003/4 I rather dramatically announced that I was giving up music with lyrics — not just for $action, in general. I stuck to this for about 5 years before deciding “enough already” :-)

  7. Mags permalink
    October 20, 2010

    I have an opportunity to give a talk on Geek Feminism to a bunch of college students. I’d love to get some input on what I should try to cover.


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