I don’t like working with music in general–it distracts me when I’m fighting against code or complicated maths, and it just makes me miss the important bits when reading a set of technical specifications. However, when writing, it’s a whole other problem. I find music is helpful–only certain kinds of music, mind you, to get me in the proper mood.
Basically, I require anything that doesn’t require me to focus on the actual lyrics, or distract me with a strong, aggressive beat: either songs I know well, soft instrumentals I don’t know–or light pop, where the lyrics aren’t much of a problem… Songs in languages I don’t speak so well–Spanish or Vietnamese–are more of a hindrance because of that knee jerk reflex to try and understand every single word of the song. Songs in languages I don’t speak at all (say, Japanese or Chinese) are not a problem, and they’re generally a welcome change.
But I kind of like variety in my music, too; and recently I found that I knew by heart most of the songs in my itunes library, which was a little boring (even more so for the H, who I think was about ready to kill me because I listened to the same stuff over and over). I bought a few more CDs, but I was really looking for was a radio station that would have music I liked. I used to be a big fan of Pandora‘s system, which basically learnt what you liked over time and presented similar songs to you–but Pandora threw me out because I don’t live in the States (a common problem in my life, see ebooks).
Until a recent post by Tobias Buckell alerted me to the existence of Last.fm. Basically, download the Scrobbler app for Mac, which links to itunes and analyses your recent playing history–and then offers you a choice of “radio stations”: either the stuff by people you already love and listen to (the “library radio”), or mixes between the familiar and guesses as to what you’ll like (the “mix radio”). And, like Pandora, you can like songs or ban them in order to improve the accuracy of suggestions. So far, I haven’t had to do that: the mix radio has been pretty accurate (unlike Pandora, actually, which had a tendency to offer me metal out of nowhere, based on some weird association).
Consider me addicted 🙂
Yup, it’s paying. 3 euros per month, but at that price, given how often I listen to music, I’ll fork out gladly.
(for the record, the stuff I listen to tends to be Vienna Teng, Dar Williams, Emmylou Harris, the Innocence Mission–lots of singer-songwriters with a folk or classical vibe, and some classical/religious music)