Thespis' World

Ramblings of an old man about Networking


If you’ve ever been put on hold, you’ve likely heard the rhythmic thumping and synthesizer named Opus No. 1, but commonly called Cisco Hold Music. There have been numerous articles written on the history of Opus No. 1. You can find them with a very quick web search. The short version is that Tim Carleton and Darrick Deel composed the tune in 1989 in Tim’s garage when only 16 yrs old. A decade later, Deel was working at Cisco when he called Carleton and asked if they could use it for their default hold music. He agreed and history was made. Millions of phones around the world have their default hold music set to the now infamous tune. Some hate it, some love it. I have a theory about how it’s so mellow that it calms you down. More on that later. If you’re unfamiliar with the tune, or you just want to listen to it, here is a link. I hold no copyright on this song.

Opus No. 1 by Tim Carleton and Darrick Deel


How many times have you had an outage that has required you to call into Cisco Technical Assistance Center(TAC)? If you’ve been working in the networking field for any amount of time it’s at least once. The stress of having your boss or their boss or even their boss’ boss staring over your shoulder wanting to know when it will be fixed is sometimes too much to bare. I confess, that in my nearly 18 years of experience this has happened to me one too many times. Whether it’s hardware failure, an undocumented feature or self inflicted, the stress can be down right nerve racking! But, as soon as I get TAC on the phone and the hold music starts playing I seem to calm down. I think clearer. I’m not as panicked. Fear and panic can wreak havoc on your thought processes. That’s why the soothing music of Opus No. 1 helps you think clearer I think. It calms you down. Pushes the panic down and allows for clearer thought.


Not only is it a calming tune, it also helps me think. I can’t actually put my finger on it. But when a TAC Engineer puts me on hold 9 times out of 10 I have solved the issue before they get back. The first time I noticed it was one fateful night I was upgrading our 2 ASA Service Modules. They both got stuck in a reboot loop after the upgrade. We were hard down. I’m absolutely freaking out at this point. I call into TAC with a Severity 1 issue and get transferred to a very nice individual. We spent an hour on the phone troubleshooting. He showed me how to break the reboot loop, but we couldn’t get the configs to load. At this point he said he needed to consult with a colleague. For some reason I get that a lot when I call into TAC. Typically if I’m calling into TAC and it’s not for an RMA it’s a difficult issue. Anyway, the nice gentleman put me on hold and Opus No. 1 came on. Within 5 minutes I figured out the issue and corrected it. He came back about 20 minutes later with a colleague on the line. I explained to them that I had solved the issue. Both were dumbfounded that I had figured it out. I then showed them exactly what I had deleted out of the config to get the systems to boot. I attributed the solve to the hold music. I even told my boss at the time that I thought the hold music did it. I have a few other stories like that as well. I eventually downloaded the music to my desktop so I could listen to it before calling into TAC. Most of the time it worked. I would even be questioned if I was listening to Opus No. 1 after solving an issue. Something about the music just puts me in the right frame of mind. It’s calming and soothing. If you’ve never tried listening to it while troubleshooting an issue, I highly recommend it.


Love it or Hate it, the default Cisco hold music known as Opus No. 1 by Tim Carleton and Darrick Deel is iconic and known the world over. As I stated earlier, if you’ve never tried troubleshooting with it on in the background, you should try it. Trust me on this one. I’m thankful to both of the creators. May their music live on forever