A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about some of the music that I was listening to so that I could stay focused while doing my comprehensive exams. Today, I’m finishing up revisions to one of those questions, and I thought I’d highlight some of the other sounds that I use to block out the world and concentrate on reading, ‘riting, and researching. I use the word “sounds” intentionally: There are times when not listening to anything is distracting but listening to music is also distracting. Over the years, I’ve discovered some fun equivalents to white noise that keep me in the zone.
I’m not sure how I discovered this, but AtraverslaSuisse (across Switzerland) is the channel of an employee of the Swiss Federal Railways who sometimes sticks a GoPro in the cabin of his train and posts the results to YouTube. I find the sounds soothing, and if I can stick it on a second monitor, I can even take a look up from my writing every once in a while and pretend that I’m on my way through the Swiss countryside (instead of stuck in the library).
Numbers stations are a really fascinating, kind of creepy phenomenon. In short, they are anonymous shortwave radio broadcasts that repeat numbers, words, phrases, and clips of music and are held to be coded messages to spies embedded in a foreign country. The Conet Project is dedicated to recording and preserving numbers station broadcasts, and I picked up an “audiobook” of four hours of numbers station recordings several years ago. It’s just enough to keep my mind occupied, and I sometimes get to pretend like I’m a deep cover CIA agent instead of a grad student.