Music for programming

Like many programmers, I am a night owl. Also, as many other programmers, I have a day job that forces me to be there at 8. These two characteristics interact badly with each other.

For most programmers, this is the type of problem normally solved with coffee. But not being a coffee drinker in general (I think it's just okay) and with what I can only assume is a natural immunity to caffeine, my to-go alternative solution is music: a good pair of headphones and epic, upbeat music makes wonders for my concentration until lunch time, when all productivity dies.

2019 was a great year for me to both catch up with songs I didn't listen to in many years and to discover new ones. The following is a list of songs to which I return every week, divided into three sections: Full albums, Instrumental songs (no words), and Individual songs (with words).

Full albums

There are two full albums that I have often listened entirely during long coding sessions, and that I definitely recommend:

  • For no one's surprise, Daft Punk's soundtrack for TRON: Legacy makes the list. Too bad the rest of the movie was not as good.
  • I haven't seen The Exorcist yet, so I never considered this album "creepy", but if you have seen it then you might recognize the opening of Tubular Bells. I found that the song's rhytm perfectly syncs with my internal rhytm, and it is not unusual for me to realize that I need to take a break right as the album comes to an end.

Instrumental Songs

It has been common knowledge for some time now that movie music is ideal for focusing on a task - you don't want the music to pull you out of a movie, the same way I don't want my music to pull me out of my work. For this reason alone, the first three items in this list are pulled straight out of Hollywood blockbusters:

Moving onto TV, the next two songs are taken from the Japanese series "Kill la Kill": Naming Sense Gata Boshi Gokuseifuku, which I could swear I never heard in the series itself, and Nui Harime's theme.

Finally, and cheating a little bit, the theme from "The Good, the bad, and the ugly" as performed by the Danish National Symphony Orchestra is the one piece of music that got me to actually, physically buy music in many years.

Individual Songs

Individual songs are always tricky, because it takes a lot of listening to them before you learn to ignore the lyrics and let them blend in the background. That said, if you are looking for songs to listen over and over again, here's a bunch:

  • The least controversial song in this list are The greatest show on Earth and Ghost Love Score, both by Nightwish. They have long instrumental-only sections, and they are epic enough to give you an extra push while working.
  • Both Heldenzeit and Guten Tag by the German band "Wir sind Helden" are the perfect example of a great band that you discover long after they have disbanded. If you are a geek, the videoclip for Analogpunk (performed by the singer of "Wir sind Helden") is full of easter eggs.
  • The theme of "Revolutionary Girl Utena", Rinbu Revolution, is really good. There are not that many series where seeing the opening over and over is a plus, but Utena manages it.

Honorable mentions

I feel John Butler's "Ocean" deserves a spot in this list. It didn't make it into the official selection simply because I couldn't decide which version to include. I'm partial to the live version because it's the first one I heard, but the 2012 studio version is not bad at all.