when i start writing code, i like to get 'in the zone' -- and i'm sure all you developers are no different. you want to enter a state of bliss and utter ignorance of any world other than that between your eyes and the screen of squiggly lines and foreach statements.
well, usually i help get in this developer "rem" state by using music. for me, ambient music is almost essential. sure, i like the occasional heavy metal to really get the motivation going, but at the end of the day, i found myself concentrating on the song more than the code. i was getting into the music a little to much. the band tool, however, keeps me going -- i find there method of music soothing enough to enjoy while not wanting/needing to concentrate on the tunes of something like metallica, or black sabbath.
now, where was i...oh yeah, ambient music. well, a little known fact (above and beyond my 5 things) is that i love mariachi music. perhaps it is because where i live (arizona, united states -- very big latino culture), but i also think that the mariachi is one of the more talented pieces of music you can listen to. the number of instruments, the choreography of the sound...oh man, it's wonderful. perhaps the best part aside from enjoying the music is the fact that i don't speak spanish. i have no idea what they are saying so i'm not distracted! pretty much any latino/cuban music is awesome for this purpose. one of my favorites is buena vista social club -- very, very good. for some mariachi with some speed...look for the song el cascabel performed by mariachi vargas (unfortunately the video cuts the harp solo which is friggin amazing)...you'll be amazed and how one of the band members picks on what essentially is a mexican harp.
other music i like are "lounge" type music like that found on www.smoothlounge.com internet radio.
however, recently i have been really sunk in to a composer who i didn't even really know about. i watched the lady in the water recently and while i'm still figuring out if i liked the actual movie or not, the music really soothed me. i purchased the soundtrack and it is amazing for ambient music (especially: "cereal boxes", "the healing" and "the great eatlon"). the composer/producer of this is james newton howard, and as i've learned has an extensive collection -- having composed for other movies like king kong, devil's advocate, sixth sense, hidalgo, the village, batman begins, etc. i had no idea he's so involved in a lot of projects...now i'll have to check out his other music.
anyhow, just a random thought on what keeps me 'in the zone' when writing code.