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Hacker Music?
24 points by nextmoveone on Oct 1, 2007 | hide | past | web | favorite | 75 comments
Really wondering? What kind of music do you guys listen to? I realize everyone is different, but is there a majority?

Can everyone comment with their favorite artist or group + genre?

Favorites are Mozart, Brahms, Bach, Chopin, and Beethoven but like dfranke 'omnivorous classical' is a pretty good description. But I will pretty much listen to anything.

Some of my favorite performers are John Eliot Gardiner, Andre Previn, the Kronos Quartet, Cecelia Bartoli, Murray Perahia, Mitsuko Uchida, Emmanuel Ax, Alison Hagley, Bryn Terfel, and Yo Yo Ma.

And I also often prefer quiet when hacking, and only listen to music to drown out distractions.

Eh, how could I forget Helen Grimaud:


She has a great recording of what is probably my favorite piece: Brahms Piano Concerto no. 1


Most often I listen to indie music. My favorites are Rilo Kiley, The Decemberists, Metric, The Arcade Fire, Feist and Stars. It doesn't look like I have any peers here.

But, I do enjoy some Pop (like Ben Folds and Dispatch), Baroque, Ska and Big Band as well.

edit: I also love Gunther and Swizz Beatz. I don't know why.

That said, of course, I prefer soothing tapes of Paul Graham's voice.

I'm exclusively indie rock. You're a bit softer in taste than I, but there's some overlap. The Arcade Fire is one of the best bands playing right now. Their live show is astoundingly good...best I've seen in years.

My faves are: Spoon, Midlake, Fugazi, Death from Above 1979, Voxtrot, Mission of Burma, Cat Power, The Lemonheads.

When I'm working I'm most productive with things that have no lyrics or illegible lyrics, but are familiar. Jesu, The Fucking Champs, and electronica like Booka Shade and Apparat. Embarrassingly, perhaps, I'm totally loving working to old school metal lately--some from before my time, actually, but I like it anyway--Judas Priest, in particular. Also stuff I liked in high school and college: Carcass, Godflesh, Neurosis.

I made a list of my favorite tracks at emusic a while back (need to update it with Arcade Fire and a few other recent faves):


You can't beat emusic if you like indie music. It's cheap, non-DRM, and they've got nearly all of the best bands and labels.

Then you should try http://wazee.org/ as streaming radio.

Anything Trip-hop (Massive Attack, Morcheeba, Portishead, Sneaker Pimps, Bjork, AIR, EBTG, Zero 7, Tricky, etc.)

Music with VOCALS?

You guys have some weak taste in programming music. Only the hardest electronic for me. Stuff that makes you feel like adrenaline is being injected into your brain with a firehose, yet predictable and non-distracting. Who else listens to that?

Are you talking about Vitalic, by any chance?

Yeah, I'm another one for Zero 7, or any downtempo electronica while hacking.

Another nod for Zero 7.

Zero 7. Definitely something I would listen to while programming.

To add to the list, some of personal favs that get me through coding sessions:


Narko Masutra

Kompakt (5,6) - german techno compilation - Germans know their elektronika ;)

Richie Hawtin // Plastikman



Cool, another one for Morcheeba here. Been listening to The Antidote as of late (not their most popular I know).

Omnivorous classical, but particularly the Renaissance and Baroque periods. My favorite composers are Bach, Dufay, Ockeghem, Morley, Byrd, Mussorgsky, and Respighi. Ensemble Unicorn is my favorite group of performers.

While programming, I prefer either baroque classical music or weird glitchy sounding electronic music. When I'm not programming, anything goes.

I can't listen to Baroque music while coding. The same brain cells that I'm trying to use for coding get tied up with unweaving the strands of melody.

Yeah I tried baroque but it made my mind wander too. Distractions must die.

That's interesting... I specifically chose baroque vs. other forms of classical music because it is more repetitive. Bach is way easier for me to zone out with than Beethoven. ;)

Same here, but preferably Bach and preferably only 1 or 2 instruments. The Goldberg Variations by Glenn Gould 1955 is a favorite.

Or weird glitchy sounding electronic music. :)

Recent rotation:

 * Do Make Say Think (recent album I think)
 * Alice Coltrane "Journey in Satchidananda"
 * Various - "Putamayo World Lounge"
 * Hybrid - Live DJ set from Moscow, 2004
In general while hacking, anything ambient, repetitive (electronica) or without vocals (jazz/classical), or vocals in a language I mostly don't understand (tropicalia, death metal, stereolab) is a great soundtrack.

While designing though, no sounds at all! Maybe something really ambient to shut out environmental noise, like Stars of the Lid.

Stars of the Lid is great, thanks for the recommendation. I tend to listen to ambient stuff when coding. Shpongle, Bonobo, Boards of Canada, Andrew Coleman, Bill Laswell, Birdy Nam Nam (definitely not ambient), Broken Social Scene are all good.

I've got to second Boards of Canada. Also, Four Tet, Alan Sparhawk's solo guitar (his band, Low, is some of my favorite music for when I'm not hacking), Sigur Ros, Collections of Colonies of Bees, Mouse on Mars, Do Make Say Think, Squarepusher, Dirty Three, Six Organs of Admittance, and Labradford

Generally, familiar music. I can't think of any other commonality beyond what stems from the fact that programming doesn't facilitate the ability to listen to new music.

I was going to say--oh, Debussy and Chopin. But why be a snob when I also listen to early Madonna music, and stuff too horrible to mention except anonymously:



um, im classic rock, led zeppelin, blue oyster cult and stuff

i guess im a little different than most programmers/hackers judging by the other posts

I'm with you there. Led Zeppelin is my favorite band of all time. And classic rock is the best music of all time. Now if only I could write the best code of all time while listening....

silence anyone?

Nothing like silence.

I've been known to listen to Zep and other classic rock, it's about half of what I listen to, but usually not while programming.

I'll second the zeppelin. Although generally for me its Detroit Techno, it has a lot more in common with led zeppelin than you probably think. Also I listen to a lot of motown as well.

Oddly enough - game and movie soundtracks. Mostly game though, because it's music designed to be ignored.

I knew a coder who listened to the Muppets Christmas Sing-Along on repeat for about 10 hours during a marathon coding session. At about hour 9 she started to feel like she had lost her mind.

Edit: I just listened to Zero 7 on pandora, and it's awesome. I think I've found a new favorite.

About game soundtracks: they're also designed to be catchy given very constrained sequencing. On, say, the PS3 or the Wii, you can just have a full, ambient MP3 and nobody will bat an eyelash. But on, say, the NES, you had to make every tone count, just like you had to make every pixel count. This pushed games composers to focus on the core melody, giving the world such memorable tunes as Mario and Zelda (Tetris was just a conversion of a real song, interestingly.)

Of course, after these well-thought-out melodies are born, they can be dressed up all you like. http://ocremix.org/ is the exemplar there.

Zero 7 are awesome. They have been around for a while. I heard their concert in SF was breathtaking (they came last year).


I figured I'd start.

Kanye West (& The Roots) + Hip-hop

Current favorite hacking music: Pink Floyd, Goo Goo Dolls, Guster, Real McCoy, Dar Williams, bunch of college acapella, Van Canto, Crash Test Dummies, Sophie B. Hawkins, Savatage, Nightwish, Postal Service, Narnia soundtrack, LotR soundtrack, some Dream Theater.

Mostly progressive rock, jazz, power metal. Favorite artists: Spock's Beard, Savatage, The Strawbs, The Tangent, Gentle Giant, Herbie Hancock, Thelonious Monk, Stratovarius, Rhapsody, Dream Theater, Sonata Arctica.

Uh, gregorian/rennaissance/etc. chant? Classical too, though don't really know who's playing usually. I like Chopin alot. The best is music that sounds like thinking.

I also second silence. That's the usual case.

Punk/Hardcore (bands like Bane, Paint it Black, Modern Life is War, Good Clean Fun, Minor Threat, Gorilla Biscuits) mostly, with some Pink Floyd and Violent Femmes thrown in there for good measure.

I'm a musician, and particularly a composer/arranger/orchestrator, so it's hard for me to listen to things without having them distract me.

Thus, when I want background music that doesn't distract me, I go with something I've listened to about 3,000 times in the past. Doesn't really matter what it is: Schubert sonatas, 70s Herbie Hancock, showtunes ...something that requires the same number of brain cells to take advantage of as a library that I wrote a long time ago and have been using ever since.

I used to love happy hardcore, acid jazz, progressive house, and electro metal, but now i mostly listen to electroclash, eurotrash, synthpop and all of the other hipster variations.

Thumbs up for happy hardcore and acid jazz. I love highly active, fast techno. Anything from the breakbeat, big beat, 2-step, hardcore, happy hardcore, gabba, drum & bass, and jungle subgenres. The problem with rap for me is that the lyrics distract my thinking while coding. Other types of electronic music don't keep me energized.

But when reading something more substantial than, say, looking something up in documentation, silence is excellent.

Ambient. It never taxes my brain and helps me focus: Brian Eno (Music for Airports, Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks), Sigur Ros, Four Tet, Cliff Martinez (Traffic, Solaris).

Most anything Orbital, Sasha and John Digweed - Northern Exposure, most NIN remix / single releases, Any Tool (but mostly Lateralus), Enya, Sarah McLachlan - Remixed or Surfacing, sometimes other stuff of hers, Brian Eno, Yoko Kanno, sometimes Audioslave or APC's first albums, Mushroomhead, TCM's Vegas album, and as others have said, glitchy electronic stuff - I'm especially partial to Download's stuff and some other cEvin Key stuff.

Amon Tobin, William Orbit, Miles Davis, Moby, Fatboy Slim, DJ Food, Speaker Pimps, Telepopmusik, Rara Avis, Robbyn Rhodes, Trilok Gurtu...

Those are just some of the artists I've been listening to recently. Usually chill/ambient electronica with good repetitive beats-- the best example is Angel by Massive Attack. I turn that way up and hack the night away, sometimes.

I made a group for Hacker News members to join for last.fm It will create charts and statistics if the group reaches over 15 members. Here is the link: http://www.last.fm/group/Hacker%20News%20%28Ycombinator%29

I has joined your group.

Also, this is me: http://www.last.fm/user/codepolice

Even thought I don't listen to rap that much, Method Man works for me. I find rap like that, where it's just a constant flow of lyrics and rhymes, really gets me going.


I like ambient electronic music for coding. Check out:


I fluctuate between indie-ish stuff and techno type things. I'm not up on my music categories, but bands like Say Hi To Your Mom and spoon.

Also piano music. http://jamendo.com has some great free music, particularly Rob Costlow.

I listen to 202.fm and c9radio.fr while coding.

If I listen to something local to my disk, I get distracted wondering what's coming up next, or otherwise fiddling with the order of play. If that's not in my control, I don't think about it.

Lately I've been listening Jack Johnson, but I like any kind of music.

I also love to dance Salsa :P

+1 for Salsa. It's also a great way to meet women while doing something fun. And it is a learned skill, something you can become good at if you practice, and it makes you seem a bit less nerdy, I think. My wife agrees.

hehehe, It is a great rhythm, and not so hard to learn. That kind of music is the best for dancing!

Bonobo, Clint Mansell (The guy who scored The Fountain. Try listening to Death is the Road to Awe, it's worth your time), Talking Heads, Moody Blues, Pink Floyd.

I'll mix in some hip-hop if I'm feeling a burst of excitement.

* metal (heavy metal, progressive metal, death metal, some goth...), rock, jazz, some electronic music...

You can check my tastes: http://last.fm/user/egimenez :P

Lots of Hip-hop and classic rock; Some metal (lots of 3 Inches of Blood recently); some indie (i guess) stuff (Fall of Troy, etc); some Funk and some Jazz; the occasional orchestral track never hurts.

80s porn music.

"I only watch it for the music."

I love eclectic bands with a ska/horns bent, like Fishbone, The Cherry Poppin' Daddies (from my hometown, Eugene, Oregon), Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, plus other stuff like the Voodoo Glow Skulls.

Kraftwerk, DMX Krew, Boards of Canada, Aphex Twin, Autechre, IT & My Computer, anonymous minimal house, Daft Punk

Radiohead, Modest Mouse, Jose Gonzales, The Knife,



A mix of old school and some new school melodic trance :o

House music, downtempo chill type.

Avoid music with vocals, or that is too upbeat/danceble type, as it will be hard to concetrate on anything.

try stars of the lid's "and their refinement of the decline." some of the finest ambient music since eno.


Most active for me while working (from iTunes): Skye, Coldplay, Keane, Morcheeba, Afro Celt, Zeppelin.

Telefon Tel Aviv! or any kind of good intelligent dance music.... (check lastfm...)

- Whatever is on radio 4 (bbc.co.uk/radio4/) - Jungletrain.com

Jackson and his Computer Band. (pardon the pun)

Maurice el Medioni's album Descarga Oriental.

late, i know: tiesto(some), atb(more), always looking for more will check out z7.

luke vibert all day long.

80s and classic rock


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