One of the best aspects of my job is the problem solving. Sometimes it is just a matter of “How do I get that hero banner to overlap the hero text?” while accounting for all the browsers and screen sizes. Other times, it is chunking logic of code so that it makes sense not only to me, but the next person that might have to use it. Spinning a problem into a challenge is even a means of problem solving, and that alone can be fulfilling. Properly triaging, recreating, dissecting, and fixing a bug involves many levels of problem solving. You get the idea.
One of my favorite things to do while problem solving is listening to music. I believe it can enhance the process, but in moderation. Obviously, blaring Carly Rae Jepsen is dance worthy (definitely encouraged), but it is distracting, and can influence productivity. I won’t bore you with reviewing the countless studies on the effects of music on the brain, but here are a few if you’re inclined:
- Mehta, Ravi, Rui (Juliet) Zhu, and Amar Cheema. “Is Noise Always Bad? Exploring the Effects of Ambient Noise on Creative Cognition.” Journal of Consumer Research 39.4 (2012): 784–799. Web.
- Lesiuk, Teresa. “The effect of music listening on work performance.” Society for Education, Music and Psychology Research Vol. 33 (2) (2005): 173–191. PDF.
I believe there is a certain genre of music that is mostly conducive to problem solving and coding, and I like to label it: ambient. Ambient music is subdued, while slightly engaging. At least, that is my definition. Here is Wikipedia’s:
Ambient music is a genre of music that puts an emphasis on tone and atmosphere over traditional musical structure or rhythm. Ambient music is said to evoke an “atmospheric”, “visual” or “unobtrusive” quality.
Throughout the years I’ve found albums and artists that help me stay in the zone while writing code and designing, and I would like to share a few.
Artist: Brian Eno / Album: Music for Airports (1978)
Let’s start out with a classic, Music for Airports
Brian Eno, is one of the pioneers of ambient music, and this is certainly a masterpiece, and great place to start.
Ambient music must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting.
This music is imbued with a subtle atmospheric presence, and created with mostly electronic piano and synthesizers.
Eno went on to make several albums which fit nicely within the ambient genre, and all equally worthy of a listen.
Artist: The Album Leaf / Album: In a Safe Place
The Album Leaf are not entirely ambient in classification, but this album has always provided a subtle soundtrack to get things done.
Artist: Aphex Twin / Album: Selected Ambient Works Volume II (1994)
The notoriously subversive Richard D. James claims the sounds on his SAW2 were inspired by lucid dreams, and whether you believe it or not, they certainly have that quality. Some of these songs are fairly haunting.
Artist: Tycho / Album: Dive (2011) & Awake (2014)
I’m saving the best for last. Tycho is not only a compelling musician, but also visual artist (see ISO50). Their music really sits in a fine place for this list, and has taken ambient music to another level in my opinion. 🙂
Currently my iTunes Play Count for Tycho’s entire Dive album is at 113. There have been countless days I’ve spent in a #codeComa listening to Tycho, and tapping my feet.
Other worthy mentions
Some other artist to check out, as the list can go on and on…
- Ulrich Schnauss (Learn) (Listen )
- Boards of Canada (Learn) (Listen )
- Andy Stott (Learn) (Listen )
- Oneohtrix Point Never (Learn) (Listen )
- Isolée (Learn) (Listen )
While these are some of my favorites I would be curious to know what other developers listen to, and what keeps you in your #codeComa? Please share your favorites in the comments.