I like to listen to music when I’m working, but not all music works equally well for all tasks. When I’m writing prose, for example, I constantly get distracted if I play music with a narrative or clever wordplay in the lyric; the words in the song keep pushing out the words in my head. When I’m writing (or, more often, debugging) stats code, I find that certain pieces of music actually help me get and stay in a nice flow. So, in the brilliant tradition of High Fidelity, here are my Top 5 records to play when writing stats code:
5. Cocteau Twins, Heaven or Las Vegas. This one has words, but god bless you if you can understand what the heck she’s singing. All I hear is a lush run of sound with a fantastic bass line.
4. Beethoven’s piano sonatas. I usually listen to Volume II of the three-volume, many-disc Glenn Gould edition, which gives me a few hours of uninterrupted music. My favorite piece is the allegro section of the opening “Pastorale,” which always makes me feel like I’m meandering down a country lane on horseback on a sunny day.
3. Kronos Quartet Performs Philip Glass. I wonder if Glass’s “repetitive structures” help turn on parts of the brain that deal in math and logic. In any case, this recording of a few of his string quartets feels romantic to me in spite of its modern structures, and it never gets old to my ears.
2. Daft Punk, Tron:Legacy Soundtrack. I know, I know, it’s pretty much a cliché, but if you can tolerate the snippet of Jeff Bridges’ character geeking out about The Grid, this album kills for code-writing.
1. Sviatoslav Richter, The Authorised Recordings of J.S. Bach compositions for piano. Put on good over-ear headphones, and listening to this is like slipping into another world where there’s just one long, unbroken thread of gorgeous sound. It’s like coding in a vacuum.