Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

26 Oct 2013, 12:42 p.m.

Hacking Music

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2013 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

I spent a day at Hacker School without a working pair of headphones recently. So I spent about three hours pairing, which I loved and which I'm going to repeat every day that I can. But I also booked a room to play music in and invited fellow participants to come in and code while listening to music together for an hour. I was just going to play some video game soundtracks off my Nokia N9, but Andrew showed up with his massively multiplayer music player and the speakers we use for parties. I know when I'm outclassed.

When I ask my colleagues what they like to hear while coding, we mostly agree: "nothing with words I can understand." So, here, monolingual English speakers have a big advantage! Some albums I like:

  • Greatest Marches (various composers and performers). The original techno music!
  • Beirut, The Gulag Orkestar
  • Eric Skiff, Resistor Anthems
  • Wendy Carlos, Tron soundtrack (original Tron)
  • Daft Punk, Tron:Legacy soundtrack (like everyone else, I also enjoy the "Reconfigured" remix album)
  • El Ultimo Skalon, Ciudadano del mundo
  • Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble, In C Remixed
And then there are the songs I listen to on the subway when I am discouraged from bughunting and troubleshooting. These are my "Perseverance!" songs.
  • "Tubthumping" (They Might Be Giants version)
  • "Give Paris One More Chance" by Jonathan Richman
  • "Be Born" by Tally Hall
  • "The Sadder but Wiser Girl" from The Music Man soundtrack
  • "This Too Shall Pass" by OK Go
  • "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana
  • "Get Around" by Leonard Richardson
  • "Better Times are Coming" by Kate and Anna McGarrigle, from "Songs of the Civil War"
  • "You've Got To Do It" (lyrics and tune by Mr. Fred Rogers, interpretation by Holly Yarbrough in Mr. Rogers Swings!). Some lyrics I have listened to over and over:
    If you want to ride a bicycle and ride it straight and tall
    You can't just sit and look at it, 'cause it won't move at all
    It's you who has to try it
    And it's you who has to fall
    If you want to ride a bicycle and ride it straight and tall


28 Oct 2013, 3:36 a.m.

I think this may be the first Perseverance song list that I've seen that doesn't include "The Mary Ellen Carter." So I'm guessing that you know the song but intentionally didn't include it, but figured it was worth mentioning just in case.

This isn't quite the same thing as Perseverance, but here's a Hope playlist I put together at one point:

Morning Has Broken, by Cat Stevens<br/>When the Shore Is Out of Sight, by Si Kahn<br/>Step Into the Water, by Lui Collins<br/>A Little Gracefulness, as performed by The Short Sisters<br/>Keep Your Eyes on the Prize, as performed by Talisman A Cappella<br/>Light Is Returning, which I got from the Rise Up Singing Teaching Discs<br/>Be Like a Bird, as performed by Libana<br/>Shine, by Vienna Teng<br/>Unseen Angels, as performed by Domestic Science Club<br/>Might As Well Dance, by Patty Larkin<br/>Dance into the Light, by Phil Collins<br/>Hope, by Shaggy [this is a Perseverance song, and I was going to mention just this one, but then that made me think of this playlist, so I figured I'd post the whole thing]<br/>This Island Earth, as performed by The Nylons<br/>Turning Toward the Morning, by Gordon Bok, Ann Mayo Muir, and Ed Trickett<br/>Wish You Goodnight, by John McCutcheon

(My "by" vs "as performed by" is mostly just guesswork on my part; didn't bother looking up actual authors.)