The Social Network: A Soundtrack for the Developing Mind

Recently I’ve been spending a lot of time searching for the “zone” while deep in technical thought.  As a non-traditional student I spend my days working in information technology, and my night’s engrossed in technical theory while studying information systems.

Over the course of my Summer studies I’ve had a split focus; I’ve been studying C++ and  developing skills in the area of systems analysis and design.  Somewhere in the middle of that I managed to complete a study in algebra.  However, as a fourth year technology student at Empire State College I’ve found its been a little challenging finding focus lately.  The situation is probably a little more pronounced because of the online format of my classes.

There are many positive aspects of attending classes online, but there are also some unique challenges that come with the pursuit.  Maybe the most insidious is the mental discipline required for the craft.

My college experience is dominated by the amount of time I spend seated in front of computer screens.  Where students at traditional schools spend much of their day involved in face-to-face interactions with their classmates and professors, I spend mine in online forums and digital libraries.  There are some commonalities that exist between my traditional peers and I.  Chiefly the requirement to read (a lot), and the experience of writing and research (which are extensive activities at Empire State College).

Spending that much time staring at computer screens has a way of eroding the focus of even the most discipline mind.  One way I attempt to combat this is by frequently changing up the playlist on my iPhone.  My theory being if my physical surroundings have to remain fairly static throughout the day, I may as well make some changes to the ambience of my mind.  Music is a fairly simple tool for feeding your thought life.

The problem with using music to focus on your studies is you have to reach a balance between fending of  boredom, and it becoming a distraction.  Personally I enjoy listening to New Age music during activities that require me to focus intently; such as prayer, meditation, and bible study.  However I’ve also been known to use it while practicing taekwondo poomsae and running.  Most recently I’ve tried to use it to power my creative energy while coding; although the experiment has met with mixed results.

I sometimes find it hard to focus on anything but falling asleep if I practice coding to New Age late at night.  So began my quest for another source of musical inspiration.  Enters techno.  I typed “best music for coding” into Google and waited to see what came up.  It didn’t take long to discover the developers penchant to techno.  But what kind?

As a techno newb the results seemed infinite and unclear.  I opened a random thread, in an unknown forum, and discovered someone else had asked the same question.  To my surprise some friendly cyber soul recommended Trent Reznor’s soundtrack to The Social Network.

Generally speaking I kind of find Trent’s persona a bit off-putting.  I’m not knocking the man as an artist, but the brand of his persona (probably not surprisingly) butts heads with my overall sensibilities.  That said, the geek side of me was attracted to the possibilities.

I hadn’t seen The Social Network, but seeing the flick was on my movie going bucket list.  I decided to give Trent’s work a look.  I found it to be a bit dark, but enjoyable.  It’s since became a proud member of my music library.  In fact I’m on my third listen (today) as I write this.  I’ve enjoyed Trent’s contribution both at home and at the office.

The tone of the album seems to simultaneously invoke deep thought, yet distract.  It takes the bite out of documenting ticket items, and inspires while evaluating code.  I like it.  I’m not sure I’d consider it New Age or techno, but it seems to be a bridge between the two.

I’d definitely recommend it for my fellow denizens of geekdom.

I’m still trying to expand my musical horizons for this purpose.  Any suggestions?


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