Top 5 Albums to Play When Writing Stats Code

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.

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  1. Sorry for this disturb, but i’m reading the book ‘Thinking, fast and slow’ by Daniel Kahneman in English (i’m a Vietnamese). So i don’t understand the term “a dart-throwing chimpanzee” in this sentence “Many individual investors lose consistently by trading, an achievement that a dart-throwing chimp could not match.” Can you help me definte that term?
    I’ve Google for times, but just don’t know it clearly. Thanks in advance!

    • Ah! I find your wordpess name the same to that term, i i sent you that question 🙂 Sorry again 🙂

    • A dart-throwing chimp is a metaphor for using a random process, like flipping a coin or rolling dice, to make a choice. The metaphor refers to the idea of putting choices for some decision on a dartboard or wall, having a chimp throw a dart in that direction, and then making the choice based on where the dart lands. In Kahneman’s book, he’s suggesting that, if an investor were to make trading decisions purely at random, he or she would expect to break even–in other words, gains would roughly equal losses. In reality, many investors lose by trading, suggesting that their judgment is usually wrong.

      • Ah! Thank you. Now i can understand this and also find a phrase in Vietnamese match with that idea 🙂

  2. A couple suggestions from recent years:
    Emeralds – Does It Look Like I’m Here? – probably the thing on this list that most seems like it would be right up your alley, based on what you described above
    Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma – extremely heady without recognizable lyrics, but perhaps not repetitive enough – might be too groundbreaking for listening while working, although I’ve had some luck with it.
    Mulatu Astatqe and The Heliocentrics – Inspiration Information – foreign lyrics + rhythmic jazz

    And a couple classics:
    Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works 85-92 (naturally)
    My Bloody Valentine – Loveless (again, an obvious choice)

    Not sure that’s a Top 5, because I only thought about it for a couple minutes, but it ought to be close, and covers a couple different genres.


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