The Neighborhood

by paul, on 08.10.2015

Yesterday was a beautiful, strangely cool august day in Brooklyn. We went out for groceries: Steak for dinner Staubitz, our butcher on Court St. Garlic for pesto from the vegetable stand, and finally, pine nuts. The vegetable stand doesn't carry pine nuts, so we head across the street to Oriental Pastry and Grocery, my favorite of the spice stores along the arabic section of Atlantic Avenue.

Oriental Pastry is an old, traditional store. They sell everything from coffee to preserved lemons, salty cheese, olives, dates, all of it. The owner walks around with you and bags up whatever you need. The good stuff. Usually they are playing arabic music inside, but today, it's Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Three Blind Mice. An album I've heard hundreds of times, but not music you expect to hear in an aging middle eastern grocery. I ask the owner if he's a jazz fan. "Oh, Yes! Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington are my favorite". My Man! I hum a few bars along with Wayne Shorter's solo, he asks me if I play music, and we talk about jazz. I buy pine nuts, hibiscus tea flowers, and coffee, because it's impossible to walk into a store like this and buy one thing. He thanks me for the business and wishes me well, and I wave goodbye, thinking to myself I should stop in more often and maybe make some rice with preserved lemon next weekend.

Last night, around 8:30, the owner walked across the street to Key Foods to buy some ice cream. He was struck by a car and killed walking across atlantic avenue. He will be missed, and not forgotten.

More music

by paul, on 05.11.2015

Caught a great double header at the Bell House on a perfect spring sunday evening with Michael; Darcy James Argue and the Secret Society were celebrating their 10th year as a band. Nadje Noorhuis, a longtime member of the Secret Society, opened the show with her quintet.

I'm a big fan of the Secret Society and the show did not disappoint; they started their set with "Blow out Prevention", written for Bob Brookmeyer, Darcy's mentor, to play with the band at Newport. They continued with a 4 part suite from "Brooklyn Babylon", and a few lesser played pieces. One of the highlights for me was "Desolation Sound" a beautiful feature for soprano.

Nadje Noorhuis and her quintet nearly stole the show for me, though. Epic, powerful music, the front line of violin and fluegel/trumpet with a powerful rhythm section featuring Matt Clohesy on bass. As great as the band is, what struck me is how great the music itself was, in terms of its conception really allowing the band to get to another place musically. The closing piece, Mayfair, was the most joyful piece of music I've heard this year. I haven't been this excited by a performance since seeing Christian Scott's group a few years back. Highly recommended!

Categories: Music

Live Music Report

by paul, on 05.03.2015

Work, work, and more work has prevented me from going out to see much music recently.

A couple sundays ago, we had planned to have Michael over for Game Of Thrones plus burgers on a spring evening. Sarah excitedly comes in the room and reminds me that we have tickets to see Stevie Wonder play "Songs in the Key of Life" at Barclays! For the rest of the afternoon, I was like a kid on christmas eve. It was a fantastic show, with horn and string sections, and unbelievable rhythm section, and Stevie just killing it.

Last night we headed up to the newly reopened Minton's, to catch Jon Batiste play a solo piano set. The lowcountry inspired food was great, service was great, music was great. I only had two problems: If you're going to charge a higher music charge than any other major jazz club in NYC, why not hire a piano tuner? In general, the prices were more than a bit much.

Friday, I went to Blue Smoke and caught Gary Bartz's quintet, featuring my old teacher Paul Bollenback on guitar. It was a very solid set of trane inspired music, nothing earth shattering, but a relaxing way to spend a friday evening unwinding.

Categories: Music

Clifford Brown on "What Am I Here For?"

by paul, on 04.05.2015

Clifford Brown's solo on "What Am I Here For?" sounds like pure, unadulterated joy. Clifford is a magician; it's a short, thrilling, perfectly executed romp through some fun blowing changes. The line in bars 8-11 is perfect to me, and still makes me smile. I recently re-listened to a lot of old Clifford sides, and decided to study his articulation in more detail.

Here's my transcription, and you can listen to the solo here. I revisited this solo as a way to study Clifford's articulation; not being a trumpeter, I've tried to reflect the articulations as I hear them, instead of trying to accurately portray any tonguing. The way I hear a lot of the phrases in this solo, Clifford will start tonguing and then move into a more standard slurring from the offbeats. I've used the staccato marking to indicate places where there is a lot of eighth note separation in general.

This solo is the first thing I ever tried to transcribe, my freshman year of college. I didn't take it down then, but I did learn it on my instrument, the guitar. Thinking back, one thing that attracted me to this solo was its simplicity; only a chorus, not too daunting to transcribe. The changes, and Clifford's playing, are unambiguous. There's no grease or funk in this solo at all, making it an easy solo to learn. This solo sits reasonably well in either octave on guitar, and I've found it to be a great exercise to learn to play solos in both.

Categories: Music

March Music

by paul, on 04.04.2015

My April listening started off with a bang; Kanji Ohta played at the Drawing Room with David Williams on bass and Leroy Williams on drums. I didn't know Kanji's playing, but he played admirably. Of course, David and Leroy sounded effortless in their swing and drive. James Zollar sat in for a take "salute to the band box", by Gigi Gryce. There was even a tap dancer sitting in! The gig was sparsely attended, which was disappointing but understandable: I barely found out about it in time, and I live down the street.

In March I saw Austerity Program and Shannon Wright at St Vitus on St Patrick's day. They were both heartfelt in different ways, Shannon Wright was dark and quiet, Austerity program were in your face and intense. My friend Steve and I watched both sets in complete silence, a wonderful thing.

Categories: Music

Wayne Escoffery at the Vanguard

by paul, on 02.11.2015

Trying to write about every show I go to this year, so I'll write about this one, but not a ton to say. Saw Wayne Escoffery with Dave Kikoski, Ugonna Okegwo, and the great Ralph Peterson at the drums. The band was good, but the highlight for me was Ralph tearing it up behind the kit on every tune. Ugonna is a rock solid bassist and they sounded like a dream.

Categories: Music

"Luminous Night" - Chorale Concert

by paul, on 01.24.2015

Last night I saw the Grace Chorale of Brooklyn give a concert at a local church, accompanied by piano and string quartet. After the obligatory Beethoven opening, the program was all new music. "Five Hebrew Love Songs", with full chorus and quartet, was a swirling reading of 5 songs; the contrast between the pieces, as well as how they flowed into each other, was stuffing. "Language of the Birds" is an extremely short work that features an orator. "Three Joyce Poems", my favorite piece of the night, was the work of Vince Peterson, who set James Joyce's poems to melody. The piano played a big role in this piece, and it was full of big chords and some nice cadences. "Luminous Night of the Soul" was a fantastic arrangement and sounded enormous. All the works were short, and the program in total was a little more than an hour.

Categories: Music

La Bohème at the Met

by paul, on 01.17.2015

Puccini's "La Bohème" might be the most well known opera of all time, and we were lucky to see the Metropolitan Opera's rendition this past Thursday. The performance was wonderful aside from a technical problem between acts one and two. The vibrancy of the Latin Quarter and the parade in act two was amazing, particularly in contrast to the stark flat in act one. The third act, which I found the most moving, took place in the snow outside an inn. One of the things I loved about the choreography was the contrast of the flat between the first and fourth acts: In the first act, everyone huddles around the flat closely for warmth, and by the fourth act, it is a warmer time of year and they run out their window and around on the rooftops.

Musically, I haven't been the biggest Puccini fan, but for me it just kept getting better, and better throughout the show, and by the fourth act I was really stunned by the beauty of the score. I found the third act the most moving, when Rodolfo confesses Mimi is sick and that she won't make it.

Fantastic opera, and I look forward to seeing many more at the Met.

Categories: Music

Peter Bernstein Quartet At Dizzy's

by paul, on 01.04.2015

I knew I was in the right place when I noticed Russell Malone, one of the greatest guitarists in jazz, behind me in the standby line. It was definitely the gig to be at; Twenty years after recording "Signs Of Life" for criss cross records, the Peter Bernstein quartet featuring Brad Mehldau, Greg Hutchinson, and Christian McBride would re-group at Dizzy's Club for 3 nights. Reservations for the show had been booked solid for weeks, so there we were in line, hoping for our names to get called on a warm, rainy January sunday in manhattan.

The setlist was a mix of tunes that Pete has been playing for years, as well as newer stuff. The band revisited "Jive Coffee", a re-imagining of "Tea for Two" in 5/4 time, played a viciously swinging blues "Cupcake", where McBride and Hutchinson walked two choruses with a shared look of pure joy in locking into the fiercest swing of a night that featured a hell of a lot of groove and swing. Pete presented a new tune, I think called "Present Moment", and two older ones, an ethereal "Blues For Bulgaria" and a grooving rendition of "Dragon Fly". Peter featured himself on an amazing rendition of Monk's "Pannonica", showing once again that Pete is the greatest interpreter of Monk's music on guitar.

I've listened to the "Signs Of Life" album hundreds of times, and it's fascinating to hear the same musicians work through the same material with 20 years of experience behind them. Mehldau sounded completely different and very much like himself, McBride came close to stealing an unstealable show with his amazing solos. Greg Hutchinson and Christian were perfectly in sync, and everyone was listening deeply.

All in all, a wonderful evening and a great start to what is hopefully a year of seeing and playing a lot of live music.

Categories: Music


by paul, on 01.02.2015

2014 won't go down in the books as a great year for me, it was a bit of a struggle both personally and professionally. That said, I like to keep perspective, and I continue to feel that I'm basically one of the luckiest people ever. Cooking NYE dinner with Sarah and our dog Milo was a wonderful end to 2014.


Sarah and I went to StrangeLoop, a programming conference. Certainly the most inspiring conference I've been to, filled with great talks. It was particularly great that Sarah and I were able to do this together, added a lot to an already great experience. The St Louis City Museum joins the Sagrada Familia on my list of the coolest places ever.

I started playing upright bass. Given that it took me 20 years of playing guitar before I even started to feel like I could sometimes play, I expected playing upright to be a years long project to even sound competent. Instead, after 5 months of playing, I was able to play a very successful gig of original music with our quartet. We had a great night, mostly because of the love and support from everyone that came to our gig. I've got a lot of work to do on the upright, but it feels great to be basically competent.

I wrote a lot of music, and did a composer's workshop with Guillermo Klein. It is truly up to me how much music I write; I don't do it professionally, and am not nearly as rigorous about it as practicing my instruments. So, I'm glad I made time in 2014 to write a bunch of things, particularly for quartet. My tendency is to write for people that I'm playing with, so having a regular session with a quartet inspired a lot of tunes.

I practiced guitar way less, and I don't think it had a negative impact. A demanding day job leaves me with limited practice time, and taking up bass meant less time on guitar. Surprisingly, I don't think this had any kind of negative impact on my playing at all. This might not seem like a big deal to most people, but I am fanatically consistent about practicing and rarely miss a day.

I read quite a lot this year. My favorite newly discovered authors are Neil Gaiman and Hugh Howey. I also read several great books, my three favorite business books are "Turn the ship around!", "The hard thing about hard things" and "so good they can't ignore you". I recommend all three without reservation.

I ran a lot this year. a whole lot. like, way more than I ever have, including 200 miles in december alone, a PR for me. I enjoy it, and as long as I'm mostly injury free, plan to continue.

We found out that Milo's heart murmur has worsened, and he has limited time left. I'm glad to know, and we are enjoying our time with him. He's been a puppy all his life, and in the end, we are all on the clock.

Things I might like to do in 2015

  • Record an album
  • Redesign this website
  • Make it through "Information Retrieval"
  • Play in a string orchestra
  • Start blogging again, particularly about music

Categories: Music, Fitness

Jamey Aebersold Playalongs

by paul, on 10.18.2014

Like a lot of suburban kids with the jazz bug, I spent a lot of time buying and playing along with Jamey Aebersold records in high school and college. Like a lot of people, I would play small gigs with my friends, and then go home and practice the tunes I had butchered along with my Aebersold records. I remember going out to the music store and buying the “Burnin’” volume after a particularly embarrassing solo on “Cherokee” at a bar the previous night, which must be the jazz nerd walk of shame. Playing along with Aebersolds isn’t something I’ve done a lot of in recent years, but I’ve recently re-visited volumes with particularly good rhythm sections, and it can be quite fun to practice with these. Ethan Iverson’s mention of the Cedar Walton volume sparked my interest. In re-visiting these, I’ve discovered that I’m a lot more particular than I used to be: if the Rhythm section is good and the music is interesting, it’s enjoyable, if the pianist is overplaying or the band is rushing, I have to turn it off.

With this in mind, I’ve listed some volumes that I think have particularly cool rhythm sections that are worthy of exploration and listening.

vol 9 - Woody Shaw - Ronnie Mathews & James Williams (p); Stafford James (b); Louis Hayes. This album is the classic Woody rhythm section: Louis Hayes, Stafford James, and Ronnie Matthews were Woody’s rhythm section on a lot of his classic muse sides, including one of my favorites, “At The Berliner Jazztage”. One thing I like about this is it’s the actual band playing the actual book, it’s not watered down. Check out the tempo on “Moontrane”! I bet they played it this way live, quite a bit faster than on the studio recordings.

vol 13 - Cannonball Addlerly - Ronnie Matthews, Sam Jones, Louis Hayes. The Jones/Hayes dynamic is too great, and this is the only Sam Jones in the Aebersold catalog. It’s also Cannonball’s working band. They take the real tempos and play all the real shit, I love this one.

vol 11 - Herbie Hancock. Features Kenny Barron, Ron Carter, and Billy Hart. Hard to go wrong here! I wasn’t familiar with this one, as I didn’t have it growing up. Listening to it now, I think everyone sounds like they might be a bit bored. With Ron Carter, Billy Hart, and Kenny Barron, things are never going to sound less than fantastic, and everything grooves, but there’s not a lot of fire.

vol 12 - Duke Ellington - Ron Carter, Kenny Barron, Ben Riley. The sound of the recording, particularly the drums, sounds like the 70s to me. This is another one I wasn’t familiar with, but there’s a real spark on some tunes, notably “I let a song go out of my heart”. Ron’s bass is very clear and as a bassist myself, it’s great to hear him play some of the Ellington repertoire. I’ve personally avoided doing small group renditions of Ellington tunes, as I’ve never felt able to do his music justice.

vol 17, 18 Ron Carter, Kenny Barron, and either Ben Riley or Al Foster on drums. I love this set because they take real tempos and it doesn’t feel watered down to me at all. Room 608 is tough! I have a slight preference for the first volume with Al Foster. Interesting to hear Ron play the earlier Silver repertoire, as far as I know he didn’t start playing on Horace’s albums until the 70s. It’s pretty tough for me to hear this music without Horace himself on piano.

vol 27, 28 - Ron Carter, Adam Nussbaum, and Harold Mabern. It’s awesome to hear Harold Mabern play this repertoire. Also great choice of tunes, I love that things like “The Promise” are included. Adam Nussbaum keeps his own identity on this, which is hard to do playing this material. Harold is the real highlight for me on this, and the vibe he brings.

vol 33 - Wayne Shorter - I spent countless hours in high school and college playing along with Kenny Barron, Ron Carter and Adam Nussbaum on this. This is a nice set, the changes are good, and the tempos aren’t dumbed down.

vol 35 - Cedar Walton, Ron Carter, Billy Higgins, playing Cedar’s music. This is one of my favorites, although I discovered it much later. So beautiful to be able to play along with Billy Higgins, and of course Cedar and Ron are perfect.

vol 36 - Marvin ‘Smitty’ Smith, Ray Drummond, Ronnie Matthews. I’d love to hear this group playing a different repertoire, I don’t love any of the tunes on this as small group “playalong” material. Like Ellington, I tend to hold Monk on a pedestal and playing his tunes in this setting feels sacrilegious to me. What do I know, though? Listening to this now, I love to hear Smitty Smith on this, and Ray Drummond is clear. Ronnie Matthews is busy, but never goes over the line, as happens with many many Aebersold recordings.

vol 46 - Mulgrew Miller(!), Lonnie Plaice, Ronnie Burrage. I don’t know Ronnie Burrage’s music, but he sounds great here with two masters. It’s hard for me to listen to Mulgrew comp and not ever solo. Lonnie Plaxico gets a wonderful bass sound, and it’s a good session, but not outstanding.

vol 82 - George Cables, Rufus Reid and Victor Lewis play Dexter Gordon. I love this edition of Dexter’s band so much it’s impossible for me to say anything bad. I wish the tunes were a little more varied and that some more modern ones were included, but the music is mostly from Dexter’s earlier stuff, the “Tower of Power” era.

vol 95 - James Williams, Christian McBride, Jeff Watts. I don’t love the tune selection, but this is another one I bought as soon as I found out about it and spent many hours practicing with it in college. When the hell else are you going to get to play with this kind of rhythm section?

vol 115 - Ron Carter. Featuring Peter Bernstein, Stephen Scott, Ron Himself, and Payton Crossley. Particularly great for bassists as there are recordings with and without Ron. I’ve learned a lot playing bass along with this, although it’s a humbling experience to listen to the man himself play along and then listen to yourself afterwards.

vol 122 - The music of Jimmy Heath featuring Jeb Patton, Ameen Saleem, and Winard Harper. This is especially great for me as I’ve been listening to Ameen play since we were both in college in NC, and had the good fortune to play many gigs together since we’ve been in NYC. Jeb Patton has played piano for the Heath brothers since I can remember, and of course Winard Harper is a master.

vol 123 - The Joey DeFrancesco trio. This is new, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed practicing along with this one, particularly on guitar.

Categories: Music

Strange Loop 2014

by paul, on 09.20.2014

Sarah and I just got home from Strange Loop, a conference about emerging languages, data stores, and distributed systems. It's the first conference I've ever personally gone to just out of pure interest. It's held in St. Louis, and I must say it was a great experience. Really well run, not too crowded (even though it sold out). They place a big emphasis on diversity which felt really great for Sarah, and for me.

On friday, we went to the pre-conference party at City Museum, which, no lie and I'm not even exaggerating, is one of the coolest places I've ever been to. We climbed through wire tunnels above planes perched on columns, we rode a ferris wheel on the roof, and slid down a two story slide. The event was great with complimentary food and beer.

The main conference days were thursday and friday. Instead of giving a play by play, I'll highlight my favorite talks. A major challenge at Strange Loop is picking the talks you want to see out of the many awesome concurrent talks happening. This really speaks to the quality of the talks, most of which are now available on youtube. Another fun thing about the conference is that I felt totally comfortable going up to anyone, introducing myself, and then starting a conversation, something I usually struggle with. I think this is because it's a small conference and folks have a common passion for technology.

  • Joe Armstrong gave the first Keynote. One of the creators of Erlang, Joe has been coding since the 1960s, and talked about complexity, the limits of computation, and the wonderful mess we're in.
  • Pete Hunt talked about the principles of REST, from the original Roy Fielding paper, and how they apply to React.js.
  • Great talk on Apache Samza, which is a storm-like system. Martin, the presenter, tied everything back to relational database concepts, which really helped me grok everything. I'm going to take a much closer look at Samza.
  • Consistency without Consensus, by Peter Bourgon. Peter talked about how Soundcloud moved from a "inbox" style architecture (fan out on write), to a "outbox" (fan in on read), and how they used CRDTs to do it. This was especially impactful for me, as I went to a "Papers We Love" meetup on CRDTs, and didn't grok how they could be used in practice. Peter went over exactly how they were implemented using Redis.
  • Nada Amin's keynote on day 2 was about the towers of interpreters, and she did a lot of live coding using black, running on top of scheme.
  • Kyle Kingsbury gave a wonderful talk on Jepsen and Knossos, and talked about his results for RabbitMQ, Consul, and Elasticsearch. Even though Kyle's work, which is top notch, is about highlighting problems in systems, he presented with a tremendous amount of empathy, which I thought was really great: Distributed systems are very difficult to get correct, and there's not a coder alive that hasn't taken a shortcut or made a design decision that had unintended costs or consequences. This talk inspired me to go through cmeik's readings in distributed systems more closely.
  • Rich Hickey's talk on transducers was fantastic. I had read about transducers and quite honestly found the motivation behind them confusing, this talk made everything perfectly clear.
  • The guys from Kitchen Table Coders have gotten a clojure REPL running against Unity 3D, using the clojure CLR. Wow. This was awesome awesome awesome.
  • In one of the most inspiring talks I saw, Julia Evans talked about how you, too, can be a Linux Kernel Hacker. strace, perf, and the Eudalypta challenge. She also wrote the funniest kernel module example ever.
  • Last but not least was Sam Aaron and Carin Meier giving "Our Shared Joy Of Programming". This featured overtone, a music synthesis library I've spoken on before that Sam created, as well as dancing robots. An inspiring, beautiful end to a great conference.

I went to Strange Loop looking for inspiration. I definitely found it. I'm excited to start on some linux kernel hacking, messing around with unity, getting back into the clojure world, and in general having fun with programming.

Categories: Technology, Clojure

Book Review: Secrets of the JavaScript Ninja

by paul, on 05.11.2014

I've done a lot of work in JavaScript, but never really studied the language in a formal way, which means there are often significant gaps in my understanding. To gain a deeper understanding of the power of the language, I decided to read and work through a few books. First on my list was "Secrets of the JavaScript Ninja", by John Resig and Bear Bibeault. The first five chapters of the book are essential reading if you are new to JavaScript, or just want to improve your understanding.

I worked through the book by going through the first five chapters in order, taking notes, and typing in most of the code examples given myself. I learned this habit from the Big Nerd Ranch iOS guide, and I've found that actually typing in the code myself helps me internalize it. I would recommend going through the first chapters on functions, closures and objects in great detail, and then read the rest more casually.

The first chapter gives a high level overview of JavaScript foundational concepts: Functions, Objects, and Closures. The authors emphasize the importance of understanding Closures in order to truly understand the language.

The second chapter introduces considerations around testing and debugging your code, which I found unique and refreshing. By the end of these chapters, you've read an overview of the language, and you've got a basic HTML/JS/CSS setup that lets you try out your code and assert things about the results which you will use throughout the rest of the book.

The third chapter is all about functions. Different ways to declare them, different ways to call them, properties of functions, and how they are treated. The most important section in this chapter for me was understanding the context around functions, namely, "this". Like most developers, I've inadverdently bound many a function to an un-intended context. The most important sentence in the chapter for me is "The Context of a function is determined by how the function is invoked".

The fourth chapter talks Closures. Not all programming languages support Closures, so this chapter is especially important if you've come from a Java background. The nice thing about this chapter are the real world examples of simplifying and improving code using closures. The most important sentence in the chapter for me is "In most languages, scope is derived from the block of code they are in. In JavaScript, scope is derived from the closure that they are in."

The fifth chapter, and the last one I'll talk about in detail, is how Objects work in JavaScript. This is another important chapter to read if you're not familiar with how prototypal inheritance works; as it's a different approach than using classes in Java or C#. This chapter also contains common mistakes, I found this particularly useful as I have made most of these mistakes myself.

The remainder of the book is a collection of other topics: Regular Expressions, Manipulating the DOM, using Timers, and similar. These chapters are fairly self contained, and I found I could skip around a bit and follow my interests.

If you are looking for a refresher in JavaScript, or enjoyed "JavaScript: The Good Parts" and are now looking for a book that has more real world examples, I'd highly recommend "Secrets Of the JavaScript Ninja". It's a great exploration of the JavaScript language.

Categories: Technology

Review: Clojure Cookbook

by paul, on 05.06.2014

I've recently added "The Clojure Cookbook" to my library, a reference style book that contains recipes for doing common things like file and network I/O, string manipulation, math, database stuff, and similar. It's meant to be a reference book, not something you'd read cover to cover. One of the cool things about the book is that it moves from basics into considerably more advanced tasks towards the end, tackling running cascalog jobs on Amazon's elastic mapreduce service. I've found the "performance and production" section to be particularly useful, with a lot of tips about packaging and deploying your application that other books don't contain.

There are a couple areas that I think this book goes above and beyond just being a collection of recipes. First, there are a lot of small tips that make your life easier as a developer ("lein try" for the win!). Second, the recipes are grouped in the table of contents in a very practical way; it's easy to find what you need. This is a very important quality in a book with such a large collection of tips. Finally, the "Discussion" writeups are a great way to learn about the "why" behind the recipes, and make it more than just a place to find code that helps you get your job done.

I am a clojure book junkie; I started learning clojure through Stuart Halloway's excellent "Programming Clojure", and then bought both "Clojure Programming" and "The Joy of Clojure", both excellent reads that are very different views into the language. When folks ask me to recommend a clojure book, I usually recommend they buy all three. I'm going to add "Clojure Cookbook" to the list. Even though I really love my kindle, I've found paper to be better for books that I need to flip through and use as a reference, and the Clojure Cookbook is the best reference for accomplishing common practical tasks in clojure that I have come across.

Full disclosure: One of the authors sent me a complimentary copy, no strings attached.

Categories: Clojure

Use the Source: an annotated clojure function

by paul, on 03.04.2014

I was doing a bit of R&D this evening, and I found myself looking at the source of the always useful clojure function "select-keys". One of the best things about clojure is that much of the source is available to you right from the REPL. I've personally learned quite a lot from reading and understanding the clojure source.

As an exercise, I've annotated the "select-keys" function with comments that explain what's going on. It's mostly easy to understand, and this particular function isn't exactly magical, but it's a solid example and I definitely learned a few things in the process of annotating.

defn select-keys
  "Returns a map containing only those entries in map whose key is in keys"
  {:added "1.0"

   ; I looked this up, and it's a no-op
   :static true}
  [map keyseq]

    ; set up a point for recursion, initializing the return map to empty,
    ; initialize keys to a seq, note that (-> [1 2] seq seq) is a no-op,
    ; so this is just a good general practice to ensure we've got a seq.
    (loop [ret {} keys (seq keyseq)]

      ; this is more idiomatic than what I would have done, if (not (empty? keys))
      (if keys

        ;I'm not sure what the clojure.lang.RT function call does here.
        ;in the cases I tested at the REPL, it's equivalent to "(find map (first keys))"
        (let [entry (. clojure.lang.RT (find map (first keys)))]

          ; define a recursion point
           (if entry

             ; if the entry exists, (conj {} (find {:a 1} :a)) => {:a 1}
             (conj ret entry)
             ; otherwise, recur without modifying the map to return.
           ; next returns either nil or a non-empty sequence.
           ; this is necessary when tied with the "(if entry..." syntax,
           ; as only nil is false.
           (next keys)))

        ; make sure to include the metadata passed with the original map
        ; in our return value. another good thing to keep in mind.
        (with-meta ret (meta map)))))

Categories: Technology, Clojure

My New Orleans Recommendations

by paul, on 01.29.2014

I could talk about new orleans all day long, apart from NYC, it's my favorite city. There are 3 things that I love about new orleans: the people, the music, and the food. Music is a part of new orleans like no other city in the world, there is an amazing array of awesome food to try, and the people are warm, friendly, and will go out of their way to make you feel welcome.

Note that Michael Stipe has written a great guide to his favorite places.

General info:

The only reputable cab company in new orleans is united cab, everyone else will rip you off. keep their number in your cell 504.522.9771


Stay at The Frenchman in the Marigny. The location is perfect, it's close to the quarter and frenchman st. It's not the cheapest hotel in new orleans, but the rooms are clean and it's not noisy despite the location. The only time you should be in the hotel and awake in New Orleans is right after breakfast, and they have a nice patio you can sit to keep cool.

The french quarter is the most famous neighborhood in new orleans, and by far the most touristy. although there is great stuff to do in the quarter, it is a bit like times square, in that the locals regard it mostly as a place that tourists go. if you will be in new orleans 4 days, I recommend exploring other neighborhoods. In particular, the garden district is very picturesque, and magazine street is a nice long street to walk on. For music and general walking around at night, Frenchman st is far superior to Bourbon st. if you like to play poker, note there is a harrah's casino on the border of the quarter and the central business district (called the CBD).


By far the best street in new orleans to see music is frenchman street, which is right next to the quarter, a short walk over esplanade, in a neighborhood known as the marigny. This is an awesome street to walk down, and just go in any bar that you like the sound of, all of them have good live music, in a variety of styles. a few of my favorites:

  • The Three Muses: quieter place, featuring jazz, excellent cocktails and food, mostly small plates to share. get the oysters.
  • D.B.A: My favorite bar in new orleans: great whiskey and beer selection, a separate room with great live music.
  • Snug Harbor: a proper jazz club, they feature national jazz acts.

I highly recommend spending an evening walking along frenchman, stopping in various bars to hear music and drink. Other music stuff:

  • Preservation Hall: this is the best place to see traditional jazz, played on authentic instruments, in the french quarter. one of the few places in New orleans that does not serve alcohol.
  • Kermit Ruffins @ Vaughan's - If you are in town on a thursday, take a cab out to the bywater to catch kermit at vaughan's (featured on the HBO show treme). they make red beans and rice for everyone at midnight, it's a huge party and really fun.


I will try to keep this brief, I could write for days about food in new orleans. the food in new orleans is very unique to the city, it's not really creole, not really southern, but has elements of both, as well as french, hispanic and italian influences. As the area is known for seafood, you generally won't go wrong ordering seafood, or anything on the menu that sounds strange. The most comprehensive site about restaurants in nola is


  • The old coffee pot (french quarter) - rib sticking breakfasts, get the pain perdu (lost bread) or the rice balls.
  • Stanley (french quarter) - on jackson square, I recommend the boudin which is unique to louisiana, or the fried oysters.
  • Surrey's (CBD) - probably the best breakfast in new orleans. I recommend the boudin and the grits. if you've not had grits, this is the place to try them. Update: The shrimp and grits is bar none the best I have ever had.
  • Cafe Du Monde - beignets and coffee. this place gets very crowded but it's kind of a must-do whilst in nola.


New orleans is known for its po' boys. they are like NYC pizza in that everyone has a different favorite place. remember to order your po boy "fully dressed". I recommend:

  • Mahoney's (garden district) - fantastic soft shell crab and shrimp po boys.
  • Parkway Bakery (mid-city) - perhaps the classic new orleans po boy shop. if you're going to trek all the way to mid-city for a po' boy, and I recommend that you do, go to angelo brocato for gelato for dessert.
  • Cochon Butcher (CBD) - The best sandwiches in new orleans. get a muffuletta, a classic new orleans sandwich. this place is so good I went twice on my last trip. you can also get a fine, casual dinner here.
  • Green Goddess in the french quarter has excellent salads and other light, healthy lunch fare
  • .


I recommend reservations for the 4 below places, they are all fairly fancy:

  • K-Paul's (french quarter) - Great creole/nola style dishes. Paul Prudhomme's restaurant.
  • Cochon (CBD) - right next to the sandwich shop, amazing restaurant.
  • Galatoire's (french quarter) - Probably the most classic new orleans french/creole restaurant. Quite the experience, people wear seersucker suits and all that.
  • Commander's Palace (garden district) - Fantastic restaurant, a lot like galatoire's.

I also like Dante's, Brigsten's, Emeril's, and Herbsaint.

Soul Food

  • Dizzy's (Treme) - The best fried catfish and grits ever.
  • Willie Mae's Scotch House - The best fried chicken in the world, no joke.
  • Praline Connection - Good soul food in general, it's right on frenchman st, so good for a late night meal.

Other stuff:

  • Go get oyster's at felix's in the french quarter. stand at the bar, and a guy behind the bar will shuck as many oysters as you want. it's a great experience, and this place is much better than the more famous (and crowded) acme, across the street.
  • Go to napoleon house in the french quarter, and get yourself a sazerac, a classic new orleans cocktail.
  • Rent Bikes from Michael's Bicycles on Frenchman st, and bike on up to audobon park.
  • Go get a slice of griddled pecan pie with ice cream from Camellia Grill. I think it's overrated for breakfast, but their pie is fantastic.

Have fun. I imagine this is entirely too much information, but I obviously love the city and love writing about it, so there you go.

October Listening Notes

by paul, on 10.24.2013

I went to see four concerts in october. Started at the Iridium, watching peter bernstein play trio with Bill Stewart and Doug Weiss on a dreary fall evening. Peter mentioned that playing Monk was a joyful experience for him, but also frustrating, because the music is so difficult. An interesting observation from the greatest interpreter of Monk's music on the guitar

Up in Greenpoint, I saw Sourvein, Scorpion Child, GypsyHawk, and Mothership at St. Vitus, the best metal bar in NYC. Music was raw and loud, but just the kind of metal show I like to see. Also had the steamed buns for dinner, liked everything but the brooklyn cheesesteak. You've gotta be in the mood for St. Vitus, but there's no better place to see a metal show.

Next up, I convinced Sarah to accompany me to the jazz standard to check out Ralph Peterson, Reggie Workman, Donald Brown, Donald Harrison, Billy Pierce and Brian Lynch do a tribute to their former bandleader, Art Blakey. This was quite simply the best straight ahead jazz I've seen for a long, long time. Donald Harrison in particular was on fire. The set was structured like a Jazz Messengers set: a blazing uptempo tune to start, followed by an in the pocket swinger, a ballad featuring the trumpeter, then another swinging blues to finish out the set.

Next, I saw Chris Thile play an incredible solo set of Mandolin. He play a two and a half hour set, featuring the music of bach, and a full rendition of the B minor partita right in the middle. Everything from memory, and plenty of fiddle tunes and originals in between. Chris is the best mandolin player in the world, and a great entertainer to boot. It was a fantastic way to spend a tuesday evening.

Finally, I went to see a great metal show at Roseland ballroom. Lamb Of God, Killswitch Engage, Testament, and Huntress. Went to the show kinda last minute, so bought a ticket from a scalper out front. I've never done this before, but it worked fine and got me in to a sold out show. All the bands were great, but Killswitch Engage's set really stole the show for me. I've since picked up a couple of their albums, and they're good, but this music really comes to life live.

Hopefully I'll get out to a few more shows, but wanted to write up what I'd seen during a relatively quiet thursday evening.

Categories: Music

september listening notes

by paul, on 09.29.2013

Ethan Iverson, Tootie Heath and Ben Street at the Village Vanguard

I caught this same group last year, they sounded even better, and started off with the same tune as last time, "now's the time". Tunes were kept short and to the point, a refreshing change from most jazz shows where you hear 4-5 tunes per set.

Muhal Richard Abrams at Roulette

Muhal's big band music grabs your attention and doesn't let go. I am particularly fond of his album "Blu Blu Blu", so I couldn't pass up a chance to see him solo at Roulette, a wonderful theatre in brooklyn. It was an hour of unbroken playing, free and clear. There was an ensemble set afterwards but I couldn't stay for the second half.

Vinicius Cantuaria at the Jazz Standard

My friend steve and I took in Vinicius' quintet at the jazz standard on friday night, they were fantastic. I wasn't familiar with most of the music except for a cover of "How Insensitive". Vinicius switched effortlessly between nylon string and a semi-hollow with a giant bigsby tremolo, which isn't the easiest thing to pull off.

Categories: Music

June/July Listening Notes

by paul, on 07.28.2013

I'm woefully behind on blogging about live music I've seen, just been quite a busy summer. Went to see a lot of great music this past couple months; Cedar Walton's group with Javon Jackson was a joy to see, and I have never seen Cedar play live. I grew up listening to Cedar playing in the Jazz Messengers, and those records are so intense that I wasn't prepared for how light his touch would be. Wonderful to see a master of the music play; although I wish he had played more of his own tunes, the set I saw was mostly Monk.

Way back in June I went to a couple good metal shows, Tomahawk at some big venue in midtown, and Weasel Walter's group at St. Vitus in greenpoint. I really liked St. Vitus and definitely want to go back; it has a great vibe. Tomahawk was particularly great, I really enjoy John Stanier's drumming a lot and I hadn't seen Mike Patton on the mic since I was in high school.

Also saw a jazz supergroup of sorts at Shapeshifter labs; Clarence Penn's band featuring Adam Rogers, Yosvany Terry, Seamus Blake, and James Genus. It was truly an awesome band and Seamus Blake tore the roof off the place. If I recall correctly, the gig was on a weeknight and was sparsely attended, which I was sad to see. If you're reading this, I'm sure you already support live music, but it was a good reminder that even some of the greatest musicians of our time can use our support on a rainy tuesday night in Gowanus.

Finally, I saw Gilad Heckselman at the jazz standard; a guitarist I've wanted to see in person for a while. It was a CD release party and they did mostly original music, which I really enjoyed seeing. Gilad has his own language on the guitar, and it's always interesting to see someone with that personal a sound and approach play. I always picture young gun players like him as having nearly perfectly efficient technique, although I must say that Gilad kind of doesn't. He has great chops for sure and never plays a wrong note, but watching him play, it's quite an idosyncratic technique (especially in his left hand), there's quite a lot of what a pedagogue might consider extraneous motion. More proof that there's many, many ways to approach the instrument and technique is a broad topic.

Categories: Music

Terminal Setup

by paul, on 05.21.2013

I use unix a lot, a whole lot. Not only is it necessary in my line of work, it's a set of tools I know very well, and I use it for everything from writing blog posts, as a calculator, for slicing and dicing files, for finding text in documents, etc. Spring is a time of renewal, and for trying new things, so I recently decided to overhaul my OSX setup, and try out some new things.
I am now running the following setup, which I am quite happy with:

Seven Databases: Redis

by paul, on 05.09.2013

I've been working my way through the book "Seven Databases in Seven Weeks", in an attempt to get a better understanding of the NoSQL landscape and to start to see use cases for the various stores.

This week I totally cheated and skipped ahead to Redis, because it sounded awesome. Day one lived up to my expectations; it was easy to build from source and install, and the REPL (called redis-cli) makes it easy to interact with, much like a nice SQL interpreter. I wouldn't say the Redis command syntax is particularly intuitive, but I can see myself learning it quickly, and more importantly, the set of commands is quite powerful and also seems simple enough to not get too bogged down in.

The first day runs over storing, mutating and fetching basic data structures: Key/Value pairs, Lists, Hashes, and Sets. Much like SQL databases, Redis supports transactions, and also has some blocking functions on lists that make it useful for coordinating messages. When I read that Redis was sometimes used as a PubSub Queue I was at first confused, but after running through an example on blocking lists, it makes sense. Another nice feature is builtin cache expiries, which obviously make it useful for caching purposes.

I'm looking forward to learning more about Redis, and I wouldn't hesitate to look at it if I were in the market for an application level cache; although I don't take adding caching to an application lightly, as it can introduce a significant layer of complexity.

Categories: Technology

May Listening Notes

by paul, on 05.01.2013

Brooklyn Philharmonic, Outside/In.

My first concert in May was at Galapagos, in DUMBO. Galapagos used to be in our old neighborhood in Williamsburg, but like us, it has migrated to less hip digs. Tonight was the Brooklyn Philharmonic's outside/in series, which presents 4 composers from outside the classical world, premiering pieces for string quartet. The highlight of the show was Hadi Eledebek playing some astounding Oud, on a piece he wrote for Oud and String Quartet. I also really enjoyed Jesse Krakow's piece, which also had the drummer from Dr. Dog (!).

Ryan Truesdell, Gil Evans orchestra at the Jazz Standard.

This was music from "Miles Ahead", and "Sketches Of Spain", conducted by Ryan Truesdell. It was all Gil Evans' original arrangements, with Greg Gisbert providing lead trumpet.

Pat Martino trio at the Iridium.

Pat and the band sounded incredible, but the Iridium is fast becoming my least favorite jazz club in NYC; The sound was terribly balanced for the first two tunes, it was really expensive, and the set was relatively short. They played a wes tune, blue in green, airmail special, oleo, you took advantage of me, footprints, and a few more. Footprints was the highlight of the set for me.

Eyal Vilner Big Band at the Garage.

My friend Dan introduced me to Eyal's band, a wonderful big band. Interestingly, there was not a single sax player in the band that had much trane in their sound.

Peter Bernstein Quartet at Smalls.

This was my first time seeing Billy Drummond live, and he was great. Peter is my favorite jazz guitarist, so seeing him in a quartet is always amazing.

Categories: Music

Seven Databases: Riak

by paul, on 05.01.2013

Week 2: Riak

Riak is a key value store that works kind of like S3. It's implemented in Erlang. I had a few problems getting things up and running because the book is a bit out of date, but once I got through the usual ulimit issues, I learned a lot. I then watched a video on a talk that some guys from Yammer gave, and I've included my notes below (taken in real time, so a bit disjointed). Riak is really interesting, particularly some of the more advanced features which are really a superset of what something like S3 gives you. One of my big takeaways here is to read the amazon DynamoDB whitepaper.

Notes from Riak @ Yammer talk

Streamie: The use case is notifications to users: showing things like "likes", "new followers", "replies in thread", etc. This data gets rolled up into a Rollup, a grouping of category and property. For example, a rollup could be "Category" and "Message_id" to see all replies to a thread. Rollups are then processed: notifications are retrieved into "seen" and "unseen", rollup logic is applied: sort, trim, and merge the notifications; they drop results after a certain point in time, so you're not showing a user 2000000 new notifications. This means that they can bound the size and scale accordingly. Based on this data model, they chose Riak. Note that they use twitter's snowflake for ID generation, which is distributed and scalable. So, the data model stored is id, timestamp, category, and properties, where properties is a hash of things like liker_id, followed_by, etc.

    Reasons for choosing Riak
  • Fault-tolerant
  • Low-latency
  • High-throughput
  • great packaging: don't underestimate advantages of getting stuff up and running quickly.
  • great administrative tooling
  • HTTP + JSON fits well into the Yammer architecture
  • Support + Community is both good

So, how does this stuff map to the bucket+key architecture that Riak is based on?Their buckets are: cursors, keyed by user_id + cursor_name. Different cursors might be "web cursors" vs "email cursors". Also stream buckets, one bucket per stream. "email" bucket, keyed by "user_id". One helpful point is to namespace keys, use the hostname as part of the key. They use protocol buffers to store the data in Riak; but a downside is that protocol buffers isn't Riak MapReduce friendly. They don't use Riak Links and a lot of the advanced features of Riak.

  • Client API doesn't handle failures particularly well.
  • Writes involve passing around vector clocks so that writes are ordered.
  • Complexity is pushed to the developer, largely because of shortcomings in the client APIs, as the backend is remarkably fault tolerant.

Recommendation: Make consistency a first-class concern. Anticipate failure and use retries correctly (didn't take good notes). They use HAProxy in the middle, 2 app servers, requests are 99.9% <= 35ms, including GC pauses(!). 3 weeks from start of project to staging, 6 weeks to production. They very rarely need to worry about Riak, and it works quite well for them as a result.

    Big Takeaways
  • Data Model has to fit.
  • Deal with failure conditions and consistency issues.

Categories: Technology

7 databases in 7 weeks: chapter one

by paul, on 04.28.2013

I'm currently working my way through seven databases in seven weeks, in an effort to increase my awareness of the different NoSQL options that are out there. I have a lot of experience with traditional relational databases, and am rapidly gaining a lot of experience with elastic search, but haven't explored other technologies that are available to the degree that I should.

The first chapter of the book highlights PostGres, and promises to show you something new even if you are a grizzled old SQL veteran like me. It definitely delivers on this promise; I learned about window functions, which function like group by; except they partition data instead of aggregating it. The material on fuzzy text matching packages was new for me, particularly levenshtein distances and trigram comparisons to determine similarity between two strings. These seem like useful techniques to know about in general, and I plan to explore both further. Also, creating rules in order to update views was a new concept for me, I hadn't seen this before.

This chapter is very well done, and covers a lot of ground; I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone wanting a great overview of what an RDBMS can do. Indices, Views, Stored Procedures, Triggers, Query Plans, Optimization, Packages are all touched on. If the rest of the book is this well done, I'm in for a treat. Next up is Riak, an Erlang based datastore that's based off the DynamoDB architecture.

Categories: Technology

French Quarter Festival: Day Two

by paul, on 04.14.2013

I started the second day of french quarter festival by waking up far too early, going on a 9 mile run, then eating the best shrimp and grits I've ever had at Surrey's. Shrimp and Grits are one of those dishes I almost never order out, as I make an awesome version at home. Surrey's version comes with a tomato based BBQ sauce, fresh shrimp, and the creamiest grits I've ever had.

Musically, I started the day checking out The Palmetto Bug Stompers, featuring Washboard Chaz, who play great traditional jazz. I was excited about catching Donald Harrison Jr's set, as seeing him at the Blue Note earlier in the year was incredible, but I was a bit disappointed in his set. Kermit Ruffins sounded great though, as did Harmanouche, who were featured on the poster for this year's fest.

For lunch I went to a place that Sarah and I stumbled on years ago, The Green Goddess. After all that rich food I wanted a salad, so I got a tomato salad with a sweet potato biscuit and it was as good as I remember. For dinner, I took michael stipe's advice and went to Meauxbar. He's right, the oyster salad was impressive. Ended the day, and my trip to new orleans, with a slice of chocolate pecan pie from camellia grill.

French Quarter Festival: Day One

by paul, on 04.13.2013

Four years ago, Sarah and I decided to take a long weekend in the early spring to visit New Orleans. Sarah had never been, and I had only spent a little time there when I was passing through on tour with Regatta 69 many years ago. As luck would have it, we happened to pick the weekend of the French Quarter Festival. I haven't been to jazz fest, but from talking to the locals, it seems like the opposite of jazz fest: The french quarter fest features actual jazz music, locals love it, and it's a chance to experience new orleans as a city along with the great music. I fell in love with New Orleans on our trip, and have returned every year since, to listen, eat, and enjoy this great city.

Day one of the fest I got to see some traditional jazz to start. Connie Jones kicked off the festival, and then Dr. Michael White's band tore it up afterwards. I've always wanted to see Dr. White and he did not disappoint. Watching Steve Masakowski and Victor Atkins at the Royal Sonesta has become a tradition for me, as Steve is a fantastic guitarist. This year he sounded better than ever; playing the music of Ellis Marsalis and James Black. I also caught a smoking brass band, Magnetic Ear, who had a particularly fantastic drummer in Paul Thibodeaux. In the evening, my friend Errol and I caught Linnzi Zaorski at DBA; she has a great band, impeccable choice in repotoire, and most importantly, her own sound.

I always eat well in new orleans, but this year has been particularly awesome. On friday I went out to the Treme to try Willie Mae's Scotch House, which Serious Eats called the best fried chicken in america. They were right, the chicken, cornbread and butter beans is one of the best meals I've eaten, and I've certainly never had fried chicken that came anywhere close. Last night Errol and I had smothered rabbit with oyster dressing at a classic creole place in the quarter; they gave me bread pudding to go on the house. Sadly, it's still sitting in the hotel fridge. This morning, I woke up far too early so I went for a 9 mile run and ate at Surrey's, which I've always liked, and had the best shrimp and grits I've ever eaten.

Today is Donald Harrison, Washboard Chaz, Leroy Jones, and quite possibly a salad for lunch.

Planes, Trains, and Xe Om: How to have a hell of a time in Vietnam.

by paul, on 04.08.2013

Vietnam is an easy place to feel like you're part of everything around you; Walk around until you find a crowd, pull up a tiny plastic chair, sit down and have one of whatever everyone else is having, it'll be good. Watch the world go by until the caffeine, chiles, or sugar kick in. Rinse, and repeat.

We spent two wonderful weeks exploring Vietnam. We found the people to be friendly, the food to be spectacular, and the country itself to be mostly beautiful. For westerners like us, New Yorkers no less, the pace took some getting used to. In the country, things are slow. At the "Pub with Cold Beer", which is in reality the home of an enterprising vietnamese family with a refrigerator and a backyard full of chickens and peanuts, You can order lunch by pointing at the chicken you like. Give it an hour, maybe go for a tube ride down the river, and the lady of the house will present you with sauteed morning glory shoots, fresh rice, the best peanut sauce you've ever had; and your chicken, grilled with lemons and chiles.

In Hanoi and Saigon, thousands of motorbikes run at a breakneck pace, loaded up with everything you can imagine: stacks of buckets to be sold, bags of concrete, dogs, fryers loaded with hot oil, and everything in between. It seems like they are trying to run you down, but really they are doing everything they can to avoid running into you and just get where they're going. There is no native road rage in Vietnam, traffic is a puzzle to be solved, nothing more. To cross the street, walk into a sea of oncoming motorbikes with a smile. Don't bother looking for the traffic lights, there probably aren't any. Marvel as you walk across the street, intact. Shadowing a local person helps build confidence.

There are fine restaurants in the bigger cities, but please, eat on the street like a civilized person. All the best food we had were from old ladies who are serving one dish out of a tent on the street. If they don't speak english and ignore you when you sit down, all the better. Just point at that ox and the pho noodles, or the thinner bun noodles, and you'll probably be rewarded with a saucy dish. Chili paste, fish sauce and limes are standard on the side. I saw you turn your nose when I said "fish sauce". That's because you haven't tried the national condiment of Vietnam, a solvable problem. It's pungent, salty, maybe spiced with a few chiles, and delicious.

Pho, a noodle soup with herbs, cuts of meat, and chili paste, is common, and delicious, but remember to splash out. Grilled Bananas with sticky rice and tapioca, Chicken grilled in banana leaves, Sauteed clams, Skewers of sausage, pickled vegetables and rice, Pancakes made of vegetables and rice flour, rice porridge with chicken and fried bread, it's all there. The best meals we had were spicy, sweet, sour, salty, and pungent all at once.

Good natured negotiation is expected in every transaction, there is no such thing as a fixed price in Vietnam. They say you can pay in dollars, but we had the best negotiation results paying in local money, as it's a common language. For the best results, buy two or three things, be firm but good natured, and don't make a big deal over small differences.

We spent our time in the south in Saigon, our time up north in Hanoi and hiking around the mountains of Sapa. Our time in central vietnam was split between Hoi An, a beautiful if touristy coastal town, and the Phong Nha province, home of the gorgeous national park and its caves. Every place had something special of its own, and plenty to remember it by. In Hanoi, I remember the beautiful chaos of the markets, and the traffic that swirls around them. In Saigon, the outdoor restaurant where we had our last meal, and the lady with the stall outside Cholon Market, who served us our best meal our second day in Vietnam. In Sapa, I remember our trek through the misty mountains with Cho, our H'Mong guide. In Hoi An, I'll never forget the entire city lit up by paper lanterns at night, with paper candle boats floating down the river. In Phong Nha, the paradise cave was like being in another world; and biking around a culture completely unused to tourism was refreshing; and eye opening.

Thank you, Vietnam.

March Listening Notes

by paul, on 03.20.2013

Saw a lot of great music in March, unfortunately not a lot of time to write about it, since we're preparing for our trip to vietnam on friday! Freddie Bryant's trio at La Lanterna, Killer Ray Appleton with Peter Bernstein at the Jazz Standard, Michael O'Brien's trio at Silver Lining, Composers Collective Bake Sale at Roulette, and I feel like I'm forgetting a few more. All of it was fantastic, Ray Appleton's incredibly deep groove being a particular highlight.

After vietnam, I'm headed back to New Orleans for my yearly pilgrimage to the French Quarter Festival, one of the greatest music festivals in the world, and certainly my favorite.

Categories: Music

February Listening Notes

by paul, on 02.23.2013

So far this month I've seen a blues band at the Cat's Eye in Fells Point, The Brentano String Quartet at Carnegie Hall, and Camerata Notturna at a church on the upper west side. The blues band was a solid bar band, made better by the fact that they didn't play so loud that no one can talk.

The Brentano Quartet deserves a new paragraph, as it's the best string quartet I've seen live. Front row seats was a christmas present to me from my lovely wife, and I enjoyed every minute of the program:

  • HAYDN String Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 33, No. 2, "Joke"
  • STEVEN MACKEY One Red Rose (World Premiere, co-commissioned by Carnegie Hall)
  • BEETHOVEN String Quartet in G Major, Op. 18, No. 2

Lastly, we saw Sarah's Colleague Nate Burke play fantastically with Camerata Notturna, the show was entitled "The Ace of Bass", as it featured a concerto by Bottesini, the virtuoso bassist. My favorite piece of the concert was Wagner's Siegfried Idyll.

Categories: Music

understanding lazy-seq

by paul, on 02.08.2013

I've been working on improving my clojure skills by occasionally doing problems on 4clojure, a great resource. I've been trying to make my code more idiomatic by comparing my solutions against others' answers, or sometimes clojure core, to see where I could have written a nicer solution. This has been really helpful for me.

One of the 4clojure problems is to re-implement iterate. After I did this, I viewed the clojure source code to see how it's done:

=> (source iterate)
(defn iterate
  "Returns a lazy sequence of x, (f x), (f (f x)) etc. f must be free of side-effects"
  {:added "1.0"
   :static true}
  [f x] (cons x (lazy-seq (iterate f (f x)))))

To someone who's recently learned clojure, this might look funny. Aren't we supposed to be using loop/recur to avoid the dreaded java.lang.StackOverflowError? why is explicit recursion ok here?

The answer is lazy-seq macro, which, when used correctly, allows us to avoid realizing the the entire sequence at once. The lazy-seq macro essentially allows the runtime to step through our sequence; keeping only the portion in memory that is being asked for. It's our responsibility to code our function in such a way that we don't ask for the whole thing at once. Remember, the java.lang.StackOverflowError occurs because each function call creates a stack frame, and those frames are stacked and can't be garbage collected until the recursion is unwound. Wrapping the recursive call with lazy-seq allows us to code recursively, without fully realizing the entire sequence all at once at runtime. The key to lazy-seq is understanding that only part of your sequence should be calculated in memory at once, and writing your code in such a way that we don't inadvertently hold on to a reference for to the full sequence, by storing a reference to the head of the sequence, for example.

There are some caveats to lazy-seq, which are outlined in any good clojure text. Basically, it boils down to the earlier recipe:

  1. Don't keep a reference to the head of your sequence in a top level variable. The "Joy of Clojure" and "Programming Clojure" both have great examples of this, I don't want to plagiarize. They're both well worth the money.
  2. The lazy-seq macro should go at the top level of the function.
  3. Don't use functions that force a full realization. Ensure that your function body doesn't force evaluation; keep everything lazy. The example from the clojure docs is to use "rest" instead of "next". When in doubt, check the docs.

I hope this post is helpful to others; I write these mostly as a way of solidifying my own understanding of the language, not because I think we need yet another blog post explaining lazy-seq. However, I do hope that this might be useful to other folks getting familiar with the language.

Categories: Technology, Clojure

January Listening Notes

by paul, on 01.11.2013

I've only been to one show so far, but I'm going to start my post at the beginning of the month, and iterate.

Last night, I noticed an awesome clip of the cobham/duke band, with alphonso johnson taking a killer bass solo. I sent a link to my friend Andrew, and checked twitter. Noticed that Nate Chinen had posted jazz shows of the week to the NY Times, so had a quick read. Billy Cobham, Ron Carter, and Donald Harrison are playing at the Blue Note, and not only that, they are going on in 30 minutes from now!

I deliberated only slightly before I raced out the door to take in my favorite bassist and two other masters of our music play a set. I wasn't dissappointed, it's one of the best concerts I've ever seen.

The set started with "So What", and a solo from Donald Harrison that started hesitantly but quickly built to a head of steam. Hearing Ron Carter play this tune was a treat, endless imagination and groove. Billy and Ron's interplay during their respective solos was beautiful. The next tune picked up more steam, a rhythm changes tune called "Copy and Paste". I never realized what cool composer Ron is until Ethan Iverson highlighted it on his blog.

The third piece was greater still, "I Can't Get Started", featuring a long solo introduction from Donald Harrison. I never really appreciated his artistry fully, until hearing him on this intro. Equal parts ferocity and soul. Ron's way of navigating the changes was something else, and while I don't usually think of Billy Cobham when I think of great ballad drummers, his playing suggested I should probably start.

The penultimate piece was for solo bass, "When you wish upon a star". This was the most creative double bass piece I have ever heard, period. Ron used all sorts of techniques, strumming, tapping, but always in service of the melody and the music. They closed the set with "St. Thomas".

Thinking back, I am sure that my reaction to this music comes from the whole experience: The pacing of the set, the variety of pieces and playing, and the intensity and emotion in the music made this some of the most enjoyable music I've ever heard.

Ethan Iverson and Johnny Gandelsman play Brahms

Last week, Sarah and I went to see Ethan and Johnny play the Brahms sonatas for Piano and Violin (or Violin and Piano, depending on the Sonata). I had never heard this music before, but it was fantastic! On my list of things to do now is some focused listening to these sonatas, and checking out the score at the lincoln center library. The dynamic range of the music was incredible. Bargemusic has top shelf musicians, is a beautiful 5-minute walk from my house, and is affordable. Unfortunately, it's on a boat, and I often get slightly motion sick from the rocking, so we left a bit before the end. Still a very enjoyable evening. Concerts like this often don't happen with regularity outside of NYC, one of the reasons I love living here.

The last thing I saw this month was Ethan and Matthew Guerreri playing beethoven's fifth, four handed. This was at the listening room, and was really more like a salon than a traditional show. It was a real treat to meet Ethan and Matthew, and to meet other folks at the show.

Categories: Music

liberator: a simple repo to get you started

by paul, on 12.29.2012

I've just put liberator-boostrap up on github, my attempt to make a simple project that does some boilerplate setup for the liberator library, which allows us to build RESTful web services using clojure.

This project exists because I started taking a look at liberator, the artist formerly known as compojure-rest. The examples in the project are a good starting point, but it took me a little while to figure out how to get a skeleton project configured, so I've created a simple bootstrap project which I think is close to the simplest possible example of how to set up a clojure project configured with liberator, compojure, and ring.

I hope that someone else can benefit from this as well. I'd love to contribute this back to main project, as a submodule in "examples", or something.

Categories: Technology, Clojure

conj vs cons in clojure

by paul, on 12.23.2012

I think a lot of people, myself included, came to clojure after learning another dialect of lisp. One thing that I have found confusing in the past is that while cons is a fundamental building block in lisp, idiomatic clojure code uses conj more frequently. This can be confusing when you're new to the language, so I wanted to write a post explaining the difference.

One of the first 'gotchas' is that cons will append an item to the end of a list or vector, whereas the placement of the element into a data structure using conj depends on the type. so, conjing onto a vector gives

(conj [1 2 3] 1) ;  result [1 2 3 1]
, whereas onto a list gives
(conj '(1 2 3) 1) ; result (1 1 2 3)
. The philosophy behind this is that conj will add the item in the most efficient place possible for that collection type.

There are some other differences:

  1. conj takes a variable number of arguments, whereas cons takes one. this behavior also means that the argument order of conj and cons are reversed, the collection you are conjing onto comes first in the argument order.
  2. The return types of conj and cons are different.
    user=> (class (conj '(1 2 3) 1))
    user=> (class (conj [1 2 3] 1))

The behavior of conj means that it's pretty easy to write a reverse function if you conj things onto a list. One of the questions is to write a reverse function, my naive initial solution was

(fn [l] my-reverse
  (if (empty? l) [] 
    (conj (my-reverse (rest l)) (first l))))
, but a much much nicer approach is to
reduce #(conj %1 %2) '()
(hopefully 0x89 won't mind me posting their elegant solution). The key to this solution is the empty list, an empty vector won't work.

Hopefully this post makes the difference between conj and cons a bit more clear, if you are new to the language.

Categories: Clojure

December Listening Notes

by paul, on 12.16.2012

Last year, I promised myself I would get out and hear more live music. It's important to me for a lot of reasons. As a working musician, it's important that I support live entertainment myself and go to shows. Seeing live music is a great way for me to keep inspired as a player. Finally, it's a way for me to break out of my routine a little, as I tend to be a creature of habit. I wanted to see at least 3 shows a month, and blog about my experiences, and I am happy to have done that for every month this year.

My parents took me to Cappers, the local raleigh jazz club, to see Bucky Pizarrelli play a show, when I was fifteen years old, and just getting into jazz music. So it was thrilling for me to catch him again, almost 20 years later, at Dizzy's club in lincoln center. Ken Peplowski was playing the hell out of the clarinet, Chuck Redd on drums and vibes, really a fantastic evening. Bucky still sounds great, plays wonderful rhythm guitar in the style of freddie green, in addition to playing great solos and generally being a team player. Derek Smith was excellent on piano.

Jason Lindner + Panagiotis Andreou + Mark Guiliana form the group "now vs now", who I saw with my friend Geoff at Drom. Great music, great space, and Panagiotis is a phenomenal bassist. Always a treat to hear Linder and Giuliana also, but the sound in the room was way too loud, it was kind of like being assaulted.

Bach in the heights, at Zion Lutheran church, 2 blocks from our apartment. Selections from the christmas oratorio. Really hard to miss a concert featuring bach's music when it's a 5 minute walk on a rainy sunday. Bach in the heights is a fantastic organization, to get so many people into a church to listen to Bach on a sunday is a fantastic thing. I'd like to participate in something like this at some point.

I'm sure I'll see some more music before the month is through, but I'm something of a completist, so I wanted to blog about my final 3 concerts for 2012. I plan to do this again in 2013, for sure.

Categories: Music

On Practicing

by paul, on 12.08.2012

Woodshedding. That's what us jazz musicians call practicing. This comes from a time in history where the woodshed was the best place to practice your instrument without bothering others too much. Most musicians have spent a lot of time in the shed, practicing, whether they call it that, or not.

I have been a musician for 22 years now. Ever since I saved up enough money mowing lawns to buy an acoustic guitar from the flea market when I was 14, music and the guitar have been part of everyday life. People often ask me how often I practice, or, since I have a day job, if I have time to play during the week. My wife often cannot contain a chuckle, because the answer is that I practice guitar every single day, usually for many hours, and it's extremely rare for me to miss a day. Like many jazz musicians, I was particularly obsessive in my early 20s, probably averaging 3-7 hours a day for many years.

I have lived in all sorts of places and done all sorts of things in the past 22 years, but I've managed to pretty much play the guitar every day. My practice routines have varied a lot over this period of time, some periods are extremely structured where I am working on very specific things, and some periods are just me enjoying playing guitar. I've found that when I'm travelling, I generally fall into a pattern of just playing solo guitar, usually without technical goals. Playing things in different keys, remembering tunes I have forgotten, etc. Whereas when I am at home, I generally have a specific set of things I am working on: a tune, a chord voicing or harmonic structure, or some kind of technique. Sometimes I have to remind myself just to play guitar for the love of it, just to hear some music, match it with a feeling, and play it.

What I have failed to do, tens of times, is to document what I've been working on. Record my practice sessions. Write down what I have learned. My subconscious thinks that if I can document it, I am less likely to forget it, and the truth is that all musicians forget things. I have spent hours and hours on melodies that I can no longer play, learned many tunes I have since forgotten. Part of me worries that this has been time wasted, but I think that's the engineer in me. The other side of me realizes that the music we play isn't so easy to quantify; who's to say that the hours I spent learning "Inner Urge" haven't influenced the way I hear melodies in general?

Everyone's music is through the lens of the sum total of their experiences, this is why it's important to emerge from the practice room once in a while. Too much time in the practice room, and your music can start to sound practiced, worked out. Wayne Shorter said that Miles would pay his musicians not to practice, so that they would be more spontaneous on the bandstand. Still, there's no doubt most of Miles' sidemen spent plenty of time in the shed, working through things.

Time playing music is time well spent, regardless of what kind of music it is, or what the goal of it is. Sometimes, when I'm practicing, I forget this, and get too focused on what I'm not as a musician: I am not fast enough, my time isn't solid enough, etc. It's important for me to remember what I am, too.

Categories: Music

November Listening Notes

by paul, on 12.06.2012

Didn't get to see as much music as I would have liked to in November. I did get to see some extremely high quality stuff, though.

Sarah and I went to "Jazz And Colors", a pretty unique event in central park. There were 20-30 bands, scattered all over central park, playing the same set list. The event was timed a little strange, in that there was a long break in between sets, so we only stayed for the first set. We started with Wayne Escoffery's group, and then headed over to see some of the most swinging music I have seen this year: Aaron Goldberg, Omer Avital, and Ali Jackson playing trio. They did a fantastic, grooving rendition of "Blue Trane"; They really played as one unit and it was fantastic.

Miguel Zenon, Scott Colley, and Antonio Sanchez played trio at the Jazz Gallery. This is a jazz supergroup if I ever saw one, and lived up to my high expectations. Miguel Zenon's tone is so compelling, and unique among players I've heard. Tone is a quality that can sometimes be lost on recordings, but it is so apparent when seeing someone live. They played some wonderful original music, and it was a special treat to hear them tear through inner urge. Sometimes, I find it a more interesting point of reference to hear a new, exploratory group tackle material that I am familiar with, because they paint it in such a new way. Monet is more powerful because you know that you are looking at haystacks in a field, but re-imagined. Listening to jazz can be that way, too. Part of the reason I think jazz has lost some audience, is the lack of familiarity with the source material. Back when "Autumn Leaves" was a pop tune, hearing the Miles Davis Quintet tear it apart and re-construct it was really grabbing, but today, most people listening don't know the tune to begin with, and I think something is lost there.

Finally, I took a lesson with the great chicago guitarist Jeff Parker, who plays with a number of different groups, including Tortoise. Jeff and I talked a little, but mostly played, a few standards first, then a few vamp-ish things, then some things that were completely free. I learned a lot from playing with Jeff, as he is such a creative musician, but at the same time, his playing was very supportive and always in service of the music. My lesson came about somewhat randomly, as Jeff posted on twitter that he was stuck in brooklyn after hurricane Sandy, and his gig with Jeff Ballard at the vanguard was cancelled. I asked him if he'd be up for a lesson, and there you have it. Stuff like this is why I love NYC. Great experience, although I'm still bummed I couldn't go to the Ballard gig! On a separate note, I don't always play very well in front of great players, but I played pretty well with Jeff, and he complemented me on my time feel. This felt great, as it doesn't come naturally to me, and I have worked extremely hard to improve my time over the years. Jimmy Bruno once told me you had to be born with good time, but as much as I respect Jimmy, I think he's wrong about that.

Categories: Music

Kaggle's titanic problem in clojure

by paul, on 11.11.2012

I've been getting more into machine learning recently, and after the Hadoop World conference in October, I've registered on and started their titanic competition. Their initial tutorial uses excel, which I don't own, so I decided to code their Getting started with Excel guide in clojure.

My code, which could surely use some improvement, is on github here. It's basic stuff: mostly summing and aggregation functionality. This is really a very basic example of data manipulation, and doesn't get into machine learning at all. I really look forward to getting my hands dirty updating this code in accordance with the python tutorial they provide, as well.

Categories: Technology, Clojure

Clojure: using the source

by paul, on 11.04.2012

One of the coolest things about Clojure is the readability of the core library. Not only is the source to almost any function available at the REPL, but usually, the code is easy to read and understand. In music, one of the best ways to learn is by recording yourself playing a tune, listening to a master musician play the same tune, and note the differences; there is often much you can learn.

Tonight I was prototyping some data wrangling on CSV files for work, and I wanted to merge the header of a CSV file with each row to form a map. Of course, zipmap in clojure does just this. Since it's sunday night and I'm messing around anyways, why not write my own, probably naive version, and compare it with the canonical version, and see what I can learn?

Here's the implementation I came up with

(defn group-row [header data & {:keys [result] :or {result {}}}]
    (empty? data) result
    :else (assoc 
        (group-row (rest header) (rest data) :result result) 
        (first header) (first data))))

basically, I assoc the current first elements of each list with a recursion on the rest of the map. I use an optional argument to collect the results that defaults to an empty map. Not terrible, but let's see how it's done in clojure core:

(source zipmap)
(defn zipmap
  "Returns a map with the keys mapped to the corresponding vals."
  {:added "1.0"
   :static true}
  [keys vals]
    (loop [map {}
           ks (seq keys)
           vs (seq vals)]
      (if (and ks vs)
        (recur (assoc map (first ks) (first vs))
               (next ks)
               (next vs))

Ok, I actually got pretty close! The author of this function uses a loop/recur to add the additional "result" argument, I used straight recursion even though I should, and do, know better. I didn't know the difference between "rest" and "next", but stackoverflow has a kinda clear explanation. Looking at the at the function definition, I am not sure why the explicit "seq" statements are there, I will need to think about this a bit. in any case, I wanted to clean up my initial function, to re-factor it to use a recur, I needed to move some nested calls around, but I think this looks better:

(defn group-row [header data & {:keys [result] :or {result {}}}]
    (let [hs (seq header) vs (seq data)]
    (empty? vs) result
            (rest hs) (rest vs)
            :result (assoc result (first hs) (first vs) )

It's always nice to write a little code and learn a little something in the process.

Categories: Technology, Clojure

October listening notes

by paul, on 11.04.2012

Due to a busy month at work, and hurricane sandy, I only got out to 3 concerts in october. Pretty weak, I know, I will make up for it in november. I saw the west point brass quintet play at trinity church in manhattan, at their wonderful lunchtime concert series. Then, one saturday we went to bargemusic and saw Mark Peskanov tear it up on the violin, playing Bach, Mozart and Schubert. The highlight for me, as usual, was the Bach. The Schubert piece would have been great for me on a different day, but I really wasn't in the mood for Schubert, certainly no fault of the musicians, who were both excellent. We also went to Silver Lining, and dug a piano trio.

And that's it. But, november is here, and there is a lot of music happening! So, I will have a lot more to write about going forward.

Categories: Music

September Listening Notes

by paul, on 09.20.2012

The month is not even through, and already I've been to a good amount of shows.

Bill Frisell at Grace Church

The best solo guitar concert I've ever seen. The only 8am concert I've ever seen. There are so many things to say about this show, which was held at a church two blocks from our apartment. Bill played a lot of tunes; Moon River, Honeysuckle Rose, Nowhere Man, In my life, and I'm sure some I didn't recognize. Like most Frisell performances, Bill didn't say much, just sat down with an old telecaster, a pedal board, and 2 amps, and got right into it.

Twelve in 12 series at trinity church

Just saw Kevin Puts' "Einstein On Mercer Street". Fabulous writing, Kevin won the 2012 pulitzer prize for this work. On the way in, they were playing Ornette Coleman's "Sound Grammar". At a church! The oldest church in NYC, even! Next week is Steve Reich's tribute to Daniel Pearl, which I'm really looking forward to.

Joel Harrison's big band @ shapeshifter

Really enjoyable playing and writing from the band, and Joel. Shapeshifter Labs is a very cool space in Gowanus, and I'm going to try and support it by seeing a lot more shows there. Joel is quite an underrated guitarist, perhaps because he's such an accomplished composer. He mentioned this was the largest ensemble he'd written for, he's off to a pretty good start!

Peter Leitch at Walker's

Saw Peter Leitch and Harvie S play duo at Walker's. This is one of the best regular gigs in NYC for jazz guitar fans, Peter plays great and always has a fantastic sideman. Plus, Walker's has a good manhattan, a great cobb salad, and the best burger in Tribeca.

Not really a concert, but I took a lesson with the guitarist Lage Lund. It was a fantastic lesson, the best and most inspirational guitar lesson I've had in years.

That's it for september so far, wanted to write these down so I don't forget them by the end of the month.

Mariel Roberts at Issue Project Room

Her first performance was cello accompanied by a recording. Then a solo piece, "flutter", which had the most sonic textures of any solo piece I have ever heard. She then brought out a string quartet for a wonderful reading of a piece I didn't get the name of. She's an astonishing musician.

Brooklyn Bluegrass Festival at the Bell House

The highlight of this amazingly great show was discovering Michael Daves, a fantastic, hard driving bluegrass guitarist and singer. Got to see Tony Trischka's band, and the amazing Andy Statman trio. Andy was a force of nature on the mandolin, incredibly powerful playing. It's hard to believe he has a paralell career as a clarinetist! This was a wonderful afternoon of music.

Categories: Music

Bass: Funky Broadway

by paul, on 09.18.2012

Practicing some bass tonight, I noticed a slight difference in the way Tommy Cogbill, the original bassist on Wilson Pickett's "Funky Broadway", plays the groove, and the way Jaco plays it. Jaco's groove sounds good by itself, but doesn't work as well playing along with the original tune, to my ear. Anyways, not groundbreaking, but this is a badass groove, so figured I would jot it down for posterity.

Categories: Music


by paul, on 09.11.2012

12 years ago today, I stepped out of our apartment in brooklyn, on my way in to work in the morning, and school in the afternoon. My neighbors, mostly older folks, were all standing around outside, staring and pointing. We lived in the kind of old italian neighborhood where, when something happens, everyone goes outside, to see what's going on, talk about it, all that.

I looked up, and saw that there were two black spots in the world trade center buildings. Smoke was coming out of one of the black spots. Someone said that there had been an accident, and that a plane had crashed into the buildings.

For some reason, even after seeing this, I walked to the subway, and took probably one of the last trains you could have gotten into manhattan. Because, you know, I had to go to work. And then school. And if there's one thing about us New Yorkers, it's that we do what we've gotta do. A steam pipe burst uptown? You take a different train to get where you're going. Sick passenger on the train? Take the bus. But you move, you go, because the world doesn't stop turning.

Except on the day when the world does stop turning.

When I got into work, everyone was in a conference room, watching a small TV. They told me one of the towers came down. I couldn't understand this. Have you ever stood and looked up at the towers? You can't see the top, it looks like they just bend all the way over top of you and go up forever in the sky. How could something like that "come down"? And then I looked at the TV, and there it was. Then, we watched the second one. It was a hell of a silence in the room.

We got in touch, over email and IM, to friends to let them know we were ok. I got in touch with Sarah and made sure she was ok, and we agreed to meet at home; because she worked in Jersey City and it would take her longer. We walked home over the Williamsburg bridge back to our neighborhood. No one knew what to think. I still don't know what to think. I do know that I live in the greatest city in the world, and am stronger for it. I also know that 9/11, for me, caused me a lot of sadness, but never any hate, or anger. I know a lot of people felt that, but I didn't. It seems to me like there is enough anger in the world without mine.

overtone: video examples

by paul, on 09.03.2012

I'm proud to have made a very small contribution to the clojure/overtone community today, I added some sample code for Sam Aaron's Quick Intro to Live Programming with Overtone on Vimeo. You can find the source code in overtone's examples. I hope to find ways to contribute more to open source projects like overtone, even something really small like this is rewarding.

Categories: Technology, Clojure

HTML5 Vs Native? You don't have to choose

by paul, on 08.28.2012

Facebook has just launched a fantastic new iOS app, a huge upgrade in performance and user experience from their previous application. This has re-sparked the debate over native vs portable mobile apps. I think that the reality is more nuanced, and talking about html5 vs. a native app presents a false dichotomy.

Native apps are applications coded using the language, developer tools, and APIs provided by the mobile device's SDK, or software development toolkit. If you want to have a native app for both android and iOS, you would by definition have to write two different pieces of software: Android's SDK is for the Java programming language, whereas iOS is for objective-C. Portable apps, which use html5, css, and javascript, promise a "write once, run anywhere" developer experience. You write your app using standard web technologies, package it up using a framework like senchatouch, and bingo bango bongo, you're in business in the android store as well as the apple app store. A lot has been written on the relative advantages and disadvantages of these approaches, and I will not be re-hashing those arguments here.

The problem with the "native vs portable" debate, is that it implies if you're writing a native app, you won't be using html5. In practice, this doesn't have to be true, and frequently isn't. When I was at GS, my team built GS Research, to showcase equity research to our clients. Equity Research functions quite a lot like a newsroom, and our app is built around a business that publishes timely research, sometimes based around market events, sometimes more general economic forecasting, etc. We wanted our clients to be able to download our app from the app store, and have a first class experience browsing through the research we publish.

When we architected the GS Research app, to allow our clients to read our investment research products, we made a couple of important decisions that allowed us quite a lot of flexibility:
Number one, after some debate, we decided we wanted to do a native app. The usability of the portable frameworks we tried like SenchaTouch weren't quite up to speed. Since our app is iPad only, and would have a lot of visibility, we opted to use objective-C. I would note that none of us, including myself, had ever written a line of objective-C before we started on the project. We used books, I even wrote a small metronome app to prepare. Our attitude was that we are good technologists, and can use whatever technology is required to get the job done. Programming languages are not like spoken languages; they usually have a lot of common ground, and are relatively quick to learn, and as programmers, we love to learn new languages.
Number two, we didn't want to rebuild the whole enchilada if we wanted an android client. Most publishing and news apps have a non-trivial server side component, and for our app, we had roughly three times as many developers working on the server side as we did on the client side. I don't want to trivialize client development; but we had to implement services for search, app activation, personalized content, email alerts, etc.
We needed a clean, platform agnostic way to represent our investment research. Guess what we chose? HTML5 for documents, JSON for reference data, and javascript (jQuery) and CSS for styling. The app uses a UIWebView to display research documents, which were semantically marked up and delivered to our app via HTTP.

In general, the decision to use html5 and JSON as a contract between our web services and client application served us very well, and I would readily architect another web application this way. In fact, my colleague Bryan Irace, who was instrumental in the planning, crafting and implementation of virtually everything I've just described has, as far as I know, done just that at his current gig. My current job is pretty far removed from the mobile space, but my experience and feeling is that architecting your app using a native wrapper, but html5 for transient content, is a very sound, flexible approach.

Categories: Technology

August Listening Notes

by paul, on 08.27.2012

Interestingly, all my listening notes for this month involve the pianist Ethan Iverson in some fashion. I went to a concert, a master class, and a gig at the vanguard.

I have to say, watching the Bad Plus play "The Rite Of Spring", with a short film as visual accompaniment, is one of the coolest concerts I've seen this year. I don't know the Rite well, but after seeing this, I have gotten several orchestral recordings, and plan on digging deeper. This was a free concert at Damrosch Park in Lincoln Center, and I got there late, but in enough time to watch them play "Flim", which I have been really digging since. After that, they launched into the Rite, and it was 45 minutes of stravinsky jazz heavy metal awesome.

Ethan gave a masterclass, again for free, in downtown brooklyn, so I went to this. It was quite long, 3 hours, and various pianists played, and Ethan commented. The playing was very high level, and it was extremely instructive. Ethan had some good practice ideas, like playing with the metronome on 20bpm, playing tunes in the "chorale style", tight 4 note block voicings, and also walking basslines and playing rhythm changes in all keys. By far the biggest takeaway for me, is the attention to detail and really knowing the repotoire. For me, there are too many tunes that I know well enough to get through on a gig, but don't really know inside out. I am going to change this.

Finally, last night I went to the Vanguard to check out Ethan, Ben Street, and Albert "Tootie" Heath play trio. Tootie was the star of the show, and was fantastic. His quiet, minimal accompaniment on "How Insensitive" was a great lesson on how to play for the song, his hits on "Now's The Time" were fantastic, I think we could have recognized the tune from his drumming alone. Ben and Ethan sounded really great, as usual.

Calling Clojure from Java

by paul, on 08.16.2012

Last night, I was doing some prototyping using some functions we're using for statistical analysis, and after a full day of working in java, I realized what I really wanted. I wanted to write my functions in clojure, and call them from java. There are several lengthy posts on this, including one by Uncle Bob, on how to do this, but I am adding to the pile because I didn't read anything on how to do this using leiningen.

My goal was to build a function in clojure, package it in a JAR, and reference that function from a java class. this post on stackoverflow was my starting point.

When you call "lein uberjar", leiningen will build you a JAR containing all the necessary dependencies from clojure core, etc. What it will not do, unless you tell it to, is include compiled classes for your clojure functions. The way to do tell leiningen to include .class files is to include the :aot keyword, which lets lein know to compile the classes Ahead Of Time (AOT), instead of just in time. My project.clj looks like this:

(defproject intellij-scratch "1.0.0-SNAPSHOT"
  :description "testing java clojure integration"
  :dependencies [[org.clojure/clojure "1.3.0"]]
  :aot [com.paulsanwald.tiny])

The other trick is to add some extra directives into your namespace declaration to let the compiler know how things should be compiled. We use gen-class for this. Here's my namespace:

(ns com.paulsanwald.tiny
    :name com.paulsanwald.tiny
    :methods [#^{:static true} [binomial [int int] double]]))

From here, you can simply call "lein uberjar", include that jar in your java project, and BingoBangoBongo, you can reference your nice, beautiful clojure functions:

import com.paulsanwald.tiny;

public class TestBinomial {

    public static void main(String[] args) {
        double something = tiny.binomial(5, 3);
        System.out.println("(binomial 5 3): " + something);

I wanted to post this because the process was considerably easier for me than I thought it would be. Leiningen is truly a fantastic tool. Using a few keywords in your project.clj and namespaces, you too can write clojure functions that are callable from java.

Categories: Clojure

clojure basics: argument destructuring

by paul, on 08.05.2012

Argument de-structuring is a really nice feature of clojure that, as someone new to the language, I often find myself forgetting to take advantage of. I wanted to post a simple example to show how it can simplify code.

Part of my new job involves working with statistics, so I've been going through a statistics refresher course, and writing some very basic clojure code to do things like calculate expected value of a probability distribution, etc. A probability distribution can be modelled as a map, with the key being X, and value being the probability, call it P(x), of X occuring. once you have this map, the Expected Value, or EV, of that distribution, is just the sum of the products of X and P(x), this is very basic stuff you probably learned in high school.

Anyways, it's pretty straightforward to write this in clojure, my initial, naive implementation looked like this:

(defn multiply [[p px]] (* p px))

(defn ev [distribution]
    (sum (map multiply distribution)))
This is fine, but having a separate function for multiply kinda sucks, there has to be a better way. The only bit of "multiply" that provides any value is the argument de-structuring, the stuff inside the [[ ]]. We'd really prefer to use an anonymous function, but with an anonymous function, we're going to end up with variables like %1 and %2. How do we de-structure these? Use let! The below code is nicer to my eye:
(defn ev [distribution]
    (sum (map #(let [[p px] %1] (* p px)) distribution)))

Categories: Technology, Clojure

July Listening Notes

by paul, on 07.30.2012

Orrin Evans, Vicente Archer, and Obed Calvaire at the Jazz Standard

I've seen Orrin play a lot this year, but this was my first time catching him with a trio. An explosive set, a lot of dynamic contrast in tunes. The highlight for me was the slowest of slow blues, which I feel like is an art form that has gotten a little lost in jazz.

Ed Cherry Trio

I went out and downloaded all the Ed Cherry records I could find after hearing this set. A fantastic straight ahead player, and a joy to hear live. I'll definitely be catching ed again.

Jason Samuels Smith

Dancer/Choreographer, this show was all about charlie parker's music. They had a live band for part of it, and they were KILLING, especially the 18 year old drummer. There were parts of this show I really enjoyed, and parts I didn't care for at all.

Grant Green's first chorus on "Miss Ann's Tempo"

by paul, on 07.15.2012

One of my favorite Grant Green sides is "Miss Ann's Tempo", and I figured I'd post a short transcription of his first chorus. The phrasing on this is just about perfect.

a transcription of grant's first chorus

Categories: Music

just intonation: a very short introduction

by paul, on 07.05.2012

Ten years ago, I purchased a book called "The Harmonic Experience", by the wonderful writer, teacher, composer and musician, W.A. Mathieu. I ordered this treatise on harmony sight unseen, after reading his short collection of essays, entitled "The Listening Book". Both books are beautifully written, but the "Harmonic Experience" has been particularly eye opening. Reading it was a little like watching the matrix for the first time.

The language of modern western music is one of twelve notes. These twelve notes, A through G#, are, in our modern times, typically tuned in something called Equal Temperament. Open up garageband and play a middle C on the keyboard, and you will hear a tone with a frequency of 261Hz. Play an E natural above that, and you will hear a tone at 329.63 Hz. A G natural above that one, 392. Play all three of them together now, and these notes will sound like vanilla ice cream; a C major triad. One of the first combinations of notes you learn at the keyboard or guitar

Play the same thing on garageband or a well tuned piano, and you'll hear the same tones. The thing is, there's a little something missing. Our electric guitars, ipads, baby grands, play a C triad on any of them, it won't sound quite all the way there. There's something that we, culturally, have assumed. Next, listen to this.

Now, listen to the first one again, followed by the second. Listen once more, especially to the way the notes fade away. Do you hear a difference? Listen some more.

Here's a visual representation of these two sounds. They look a bit different, don't they? Have one more listen. waveform of an equal temperament C triad waveform of an just intonation C triad

What's going on here?

The building blocks of harmony are expressed as ratios. The interval of a major third, between C and E, is at its essence, a ratio of 5:4. A perfect fifth, 3:2. These ratios sound pure and sweet, they are derived from the harmonic series, and occur throughout nature. Harmonics on your guitar will sing them to you. Birds will, too.

In the examples above, the first triad is played using the notes C, E and G in equal temperament tuning, giving us 3 pitches: 261.63Hz, 329.63Hz, 392Hz. The second example is tuned using the ratio 4:5:6 for the three notes, giving us 261Hz, 326.25Hz, and 391.5Hz. Below is a table that illustrates the results. Look at how big of a difference there is for an E natural!

NoteEqual TempJust IntonationDifference

The reason the second example sounds different, is that it's tuned using these low-prime ratios. If you think, as I do, the second example sounds better, why don't we just tune everything using these low-prime ratios?

Problem is, these ratios, called low-prime ratios, don't play nicely when you want to do things like change keys; When the jackson five take it up a half step for the bridge, you can't stop to retune your piano. So, we, culturally, make a small compromise, for practicality. We tune our instruments using a slightly different system, that subdivides the all the notes from middle C to the B above it into equal parts. This is close enough for our ears to accept, but we have one foot out of our musical eden, so to speak. Sometimes it's useful to peek behind the curtains, and for all the wonderful things that our modern musical tools can bring, to also recognize and remember what we are giving up in the process.

I used clojure's overtone library to generate the waveforms, using the pretty-bells function from the example. The screenshots were taken from audacity.

Categories: Music

Generic Granola

by paul, on 07.02.2012

When I was a kid, I lumped granola in with other breakfast cereals like cheerios and grape nuts, something you buy at the store, not something you make yourself.

Little did I know that making your own granola is infinitely tastier than anything you can buy at the store, much cheaper, and takes 10 minutes of preparation to make. Here's the generic ratios for granola:

  • 5 cups oats
  • 2/3 cups sweetener - honey, maple syrup + brown sugar, or somet other sweetener you like. You can adjust this to taste, but add some water for moisture if you cut back a lot on the sweetener.
  • 2/3 cup fat - a neutral oil like peanut, olive oil if you like it, melted butter, any kind of liquified fat that you enjoy.
  • 2 cups nuts. I like cashews and almonds.
  • additional options - vanilla extract, warm spices like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, etc.

Mix all of this together in a bowl, spread on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 325 for 20 minutes, rotate the pan, and bake for another 20 or until golden brown. Resist the urge to mix the granola or otherwise mess with it while it's browning.

After the granola is done, let the pan cool, and break it into whatever sized chunks you like. You can add dried fruit, chocolate chips, really anything. There you have it!

Transcription: Christian McBride, On a Clear Day

by paul, on 07.01.2012

Did a quick one chorus transcription of Christian McBride's bass line from "On a Clear Day". I love the slur he puts in bar six, the fantastic line that he drives through bar 16, and the way he anticipates the A7 coming from C major in bar 21.

I transcribed this one because in a bass line, it's the small things that count, and christian brings a lot to the table in that regard. I've notated things as triplets with a quarter followed by an eighth, but they could almost be dotted eights and a sixteenth. He almost sits right in between the two, and neither notation is quite correct. As always, the truth is in the music, not on the page. Nevertheless, Here is my transcription of Christian McBride walking a chorus through "On a Clear Day", by Lerner and Lane.

Categories: Music

June Listening Notes

by paul, on 06.24.2012

Dayna Stephens group at the Jazz Gallery

Dayna Stephens has an enormous tenor sound, the kind that envelops the entire club, no microphone required. I went to check this group out because Julian Lage, one of my favorite guitarists, was playing, and the band did not dissapoint. They played a varied set, starting with Skylark, followed by Straight Street, Radioactive Ear, and the ballad After Love Comes. Next, they played an interesting Wayne shorter tune I hadn't heard before, called Emptiness. The bell ringer was a rhythm changes, Loosey Goosey. It was a real treat to hear Julian play a rhythm changes tune, really effortless, creative playing over the barlines.

Peter Leitch and Dwayne Burno at Walker's

I took Sarah to see Peter Leitch play duo with Dwayne Burno at Walker's, home of the best burger in Tribeca. I didn't write down any of the names of the tunes, because we spent most of our meal drawing with crayons on the tablecloth, but they started their set with "My Ship", one of my favorite standards.

Bela Fleck with the Marcus Roberts Trio at the Blue Note

The highlight of my month was catching Bela Fleck play with Jason Marsalis, Marcus Roberts, and Rodney Jordan playing fantastic bass. I had never seen Marcus live, but he lived up to my expectations; His unaccompanied solos were particularly imaginative. I'll definitely be getting their album.

Kurt Rosenwinkel standards trio with Geri Allen at the Jazz Standard

I again dragged my wife to this gig, with promises of BBQ and manhattans. Great playing from Kurt and Geri, but the band didn't really catch fire ever. Jason Faulkner kinda stole the show for me, with his fantastic drumming.

Peter Bernstein Quartet at the Village Vanguard

I'm really glad to see Peter getting his due as a bandleader; This set featured his quartet with Donald Vega on piano, Dwayne Burno on bass, and Bill Stewart on drums. Peter played the verse to Cole Porter's "I Love You" unaccompanied, and sounded great as always. They started off with a trane-ish tune that had Stewart slashing and burning, and Vega showing a strong Tyner influence. A wonderful set, indeed.

Categories: Music

transcription: Christian McBride's bass line in As Time Goes By

by paul, on 06.22.2012

Christian McBride has always been one of my favorite players. Like all great bassists, his time feel and beat is impeccable, but his sense of pacing and dynamics has always stood out to me.

Sarah and I watched "Casablanca" a few weeks back, and since I have a recording of Christian playing it, I thought I'd learn a chorus or two of his. This comes from a Jamey Aebersold play along, "Hot House". It is one of the baddest playalongs on the planet, the rhythm section is Jeff "Tain" Watts, Christian McBride, and James Williams. Unbelievable! I don't use many playalong records anymore, but I particularly like this one, since it's probably the closest I'll get to playing with a rhythm section of this caliber!

Here is Christian McBride's bassline on "As Time Goes By". Heavy triplet feel throughout, particularly notable is the lines he plays to tie together the different sections, and the huge arpeggio he plays coming out of the bridge. Well worth learning.

Categories: Music

new tune

by paul, on 06.21.2012

Last week I wrote a tune, called "Before". I wanted to write something, and then record it, playing all the instruments myself. I did this, with the exception of the drums, which are a loop from the always excellent Loop Loft.

Here is the recording, and here is a PDF of the sheet music.

Categories: Music

Bird's bridge on "Dewey Square"

by paul, on 06.02.2012

Charlie Parker's music sounds like a dream; it can lead you down a road, turn on you, and then drop you off someplace you never expected to be. I've been learning the tune "Dewey Square", and decided to write out Charlie Parker's fantastic improvised bridge. This has everything that makes Bird's music so great; rhythmic variety, surprising phrasing, and a nice melodic arc. The first phrase is punctuated by a beautiful little Eb descending run which I really like, it sounds like kind of an afterthought, but in the best possible way. Followed by some tight double time with an abrupt end, then ending the bridge with some dissonance. He resolves the last phrase beautifully, but again, in a very surprising way. It sounds completely natural, until you try to sing along with it!

You can listen to the solo here.

In learning this, I've found the last 4 bars deceptively hard to hear, both because of the ending, but also because he starts the phrase earlier than I expect after the previous one. It's very easy to rest an extra beat, but of course, that throws everything off.

In terms of playing this on the guitar, my instrument, I prefer to keep this bridge it in the original octave, I think it lays better, and sounds better on the instrument. I do play the rest of the melody down an octave. There are a lot of smears that are fun to do and lay pretty well, I think the most awkward part is the chromatic run down in the last two bars.

Categories: Music

clojure: type hinting and warn on reflection

by paul, on 05.28.2012

I've been working a bit with the javax.sound.midi libraries, using clojure. I just ran across a problem I hadn't encountered before, so I wanted to share the solution. If you are a clojure veteran, this post won't be interesting, but if you're new to the language like me (or googling the error I got), it might help.

Quick MIDI background. A synthesizer is something you can use to generate sound. A Synthesizer has one or more channels, which you use to generate the sound. For a real world analogy, a Synthesizer is like a piano, and a channel is like your left hand.

I was executing some fairly basic clojure code:

(import 'javax.sound.midi.Synthesizer 'javax.sound.midi.MidiSystem)
(def synth (doto (MidiSystem/getSynthesizer) .open))
(aget (.getChannels synth) 0)
IllegalArgumentException Can't call public method of non-public class: public javax.sound.midi.MidiChannel[]  clojure.lang.Reflector.invokeMatchingMethod (

Hey, what's going on here? According to the javadoc, Synthesizer.getChannels() is fair game!

The problem is caused by the fact that clojure's java interoperability works by reflection, and in this case, it's getting confused as to what type the class is. Since this is a common problem, clojure provides a mechanism, type hinting, to help deal. There is also a flag you can set to be notified of potential errors of this type, warn-on-reflection. So, all I had to do to fix this, was let clojure know what type it should be using to call .getChannels(), using a type hint:

(aget (.getChannels ^Synthesizer synth) 0)

voila! also, setting *warn-on-reflection* allows us to see what's happening here:

(set! *warn-on-reflection* true)
user=> (aget (.getChannels synth) 0)             
Reflection warning, NO_SOURCE_PATH:7 - reference to field getChannels can't be resolved.

Categories: Technology, Clojure

May Listening Notes

by paul, on 05.28.2012

I only made it to 3 concerts in May. I had planned to do more, but was sick and/or injured for several weeks.

Billy Budd at the Met

I took Sarah to the opera for our seventh anniversary. I first became interested in Benjamin Britten's work through reading Alex Ross' excellent book on 20th century music, "The Rest Is Noise". Alex is the best kind of writer, the music is described so beautifully, and in so much detail, the first thing you want to do is go out and listen to it! The opera was really well done; it's an all male cast, so the music was written much lower than we're accustomed to hearing. This informs everything about the music, including the orchestration; When the melody is right in the center of the orchestra, instead of streaming overhead, the instruments, particularly the strings, take on a much different role. The set was also incredible, a giant tilted boat that rose and fell to show the different parts of the deck.

Peter Zimmer, Peter Bernstein and George Garzone at Smoke

Best show of 2012, so far. George's reading of the melody on "I want to talk about you" was one of the best things I've ever heard, period. Heavy, undulating post-coltrane jazz, but Pete Zimmer was completely his own man, and brought a lot of intensity while sounding nothing at all like Elvin Jones, no small feat when you're playing tunes like "Crescent". Peter Bernstein sounded great as always, and George Garzone just blew me away. George's phrasing was both unpredictable and incredibly decisive.

the Ear-Regulars at the Ear Inn

Finally, I get to see Howard Alden on guitar! In a small, packed, bar, all the way on the west side of Manhattan just north of the Holland Tunnel, no less. A fantastic hang, great group of bass, trumpet, clarinet, trombone and guitar, doing old school jazz. I wish I would have gotten there for the first set, they take a long break. Peter Leitch plays at Walker's on sundays, next week I am going to take Sarah there for a burger, and we'll walk over to the Ear Inn for an after dinner drink. If we're up for it, cap it off at the Silver Lining. Jazz is alive and well in TriBeCa!

Categories: Music

nyc clojure meetup notes

by paul, on 05.17.2012

On Wednesday, I went to my first NYC Clojure meetup, which took place at Google's 8th ave offices. I got there way too early, and ended up standing around in the lobby with Rich Hickey waiting to get in the building. There were three speakers presenting at the meetup; Rich was there to talk about the new clojure reducers library, David Nolen gave a talk on ClojureScript performance, and and Kovas Boguta talked about the future of REPLs on the web.

David Nolen, one of the key developers on clojure script, started off by showing us some JVM vs V8 spectral norm benchmarks, showing that clojure script is quite fast. He talked a bit about protocols in clojure script, and how they use the "satisfies?" method to determine if an object conforms to a protocol. The clojure script developers have implemented satisfies using bitmasking, because bitwise operations in javascript are extremely fast. I hadn't used clojure script at all before this talk, but am definitely inspired to check it out.

Next up was Kovas Boguta, talking about the future of the REPL. Long story short, Kovas has built an extremely cool web based REPL that works with both clojure and clojure script. He demonstrated the mathematica "REPL", an extremely sophisticated environment that's built from a very simple concept: the symbolic representation of an expression doesn't need to be the same as the display, and in fact separating the two can lead to a considerably more natural programming environment. The closest analogy in the traditional coding world I can think to this concept is interface builders in xcode and visual studio, that show you a graphical representation of a UI element, but it's backed by C#/objective-C code all the same. Kovas mentioned how crucial tag literals were to this kind of implementation, something I haven't really grokked yet and need to explore further.

The final talk of the evening was the author of clojure, Rich Hickey, talking about the new reducers library. Rich noted that it used to be that the easiest way to make your code faster was to wait 18 months and buy yourself some new hardware. This is an old joke, but his point was this is no longer true, we are adding cores now, not clock cycles. The inherent sequential nature of programs, even in functional programming, does us no favors. The idea behind reducers is to decouple a lot of the "how" aspects of higher order functional manipulation: map, filter, fold, functions that are fundamentally using reductions in some way. Rich has blogged about reducers extensively, and does a far better job than me of explaining, so I won't rehash what he talked about. He did come up with a very cool analogy to illustrate how order is often unneeded, using a bag of apples. A lot of times, you just want to filter out all the rotten apples (filter), or take all the stickers off the apples (map), you don't care a thing about order in this case. Yet, map and filter give you order, like it or not. If you're baking a pie, you might not even care about the full bag of apples, just the ones you need, but you're going to get the full bag anyways. Anyway, I am going to do a poor job of rehashing Rich's talk if I go any further, I hope it's posted online so we can re-watch and try to understand a bit more. The endgame of his lecture was a paralellized fold, that was very cool to see.

I'll definitely be going to these meetups in the future, the speakers were all very impressive, and it's really interesting to talk to folks about what they are working on.

Categories: Technology, Clojure

clojure: multimethods with multiple arguments

by paul, on 05.08.2012

I've gotta say, the clojure community is pretty awesome. Tons of helpful blog posts, a lot of great advice on stackoverflow, and I hear great stuff about #clojure. With so much great information, I was a little surprised not to find much on a problem I ran across while using multimethods for the first time the other day, so I thought I would post something about it, so that other folks new to clojure can perhaps benefit.

The Problem: You want to define a multimethod with multiple arguments, and you want to select the implementation based on one or more of the arguments to the multimethod.
In my case, I am working on a music application, and I have a transposer, and I want the transposer to be able to transpose things by degree or by keyword. So, in a chord like [:C :E :G], I want to be able to transpose by :G as well as 2.

One Approach: defmulti takes a dispatch function, pass in a function with deconstructed arguments. This is obvious to any experienced clojure programmer, but for those of us new to the language, it's easy to forget we have destructuring available to us. My defmulti looks like this:

(defmulti transposer (fn [_ thing] (class thing)))
My implementations then define the name, class name, followed by the rest of the arguments:
(defmethod transposer
    Long [scale degree]
(defmethod transposer 
    clojure.lang.Keyword [scale note]

Voila! That's a really easy way to handle multimethods that have multiple arguments, just pass a dispatch function that uses argument destructuring.

Categories: Clojure

April Listening Notes

by paul, on 05.02.2012

Orrin Evans and the Captain Black Big Band at the Jazz Gallery

Orrin Evans' incredible big band, featuring Stacey Dillard, Marcus Strickland, and a ton of other heavyweights played at the Jazz Gallery in early April. They played a lot of great music, including a lot of selections from their fantastic new CD. Todd Bayshore, a NC native, did a bunch of the arrangements. Orrin is a force of nature on piano. Sadly, the jazz gallery is losing their lease at the end of the year, and my favorite jazz club in NYC will need to find a new home.

French Quarter Festival, New Orleans

For the past three years, I've gone to the French Quarter Festival for a long weekend of music and food. Sarah couldn't come this year, so I stayed in a cheap single room in the Marigny, wrote a song every day, ate like a king, and saw more live music than you would believe. Some highlights:

  • Steve Masakowski at the royal sonesta - The UNO band, Steve is a fantastic player and I need to get some of his albums. Wonderful touch and sound, very creative and swinging
  • Kermit Ruffins @ Vaughan's - Errol and I went thursday and had a blast. This is an all out party, with red beans and rice served at midnight. not to be missed!
  • Lyric String Quartet - 2nd movement of the Ravel String Quartet was magical.
  • Rebirth Brass Band - Finally got to see them, well worth the wait. Quite possibly the best brass band I've ever seen.
  • Little Freddie King - Classic blues guitarist from Louisiana.
  • Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra - great set
  • Carl LeBlanc group - Fantastically underrated guitarist. Also plays banjo at preservation hall. A fine, fine musician.

I ate pretty damn well, also. Boudin and eggs at Stanley, Banana Cream Pie at Emeril's, Pork Belly sandwich at Cochon butcher, Shrimp Po' Boy at Parkway Bakery, Gelato at Angelo Brocato, Oysters at Felix's, and chocolate bread pudding at Red Fish Grill. My lord, life is good sometimes. How many days 'til next year?

Categories: Music

self-help: the clojure edition

by paul, on 04.29.2012

I've been teaching myself clojure recently, and was doing a few problems on the 4clojure site, just to get more familiar solving small problems using clojure. one of the problems is to implement a function that returns the last item in a sequence. this is a pretty basic thing to write, here's my implementation:

(fn [l]
    (loop [l l previous nil]
    (if (empty? l)
        (recur (rest l) (first l)))))

One of the coolest things about clojure is that there is a lot of documentation available right at your fingertips, at a clojure REPL. There are 3 functions I've found particularly useful so far:

  • find-doc: lets you search doc strings for possible matches. (find-doc last), for example
  • doc: prints a documentation string. (doc last) prints a description of the function
  • source: allows you to view the source of a function. this is one of the coolest features of the language, all the source code is right there, unlike java. (source last) will show you the source code of the "last" function.

In jazz, you learn from the masters by listening to what they played, learning how to play it on your instrument, and using that knowledge to craft your style. Viewing the source for the language itself has got to be a great way to learn something about writing idiomatic clojure. So, with that in mind, I thought it would be interesting to compare my implementation to the "last" implementation in clojure

(source last)
 ^{:arglists '([coll])
   :doc "Return the last item in coll, in linear time"
   :added "1.0"
   :static true}
 last (fn ^:static last [s]
        (if (next s)
          (recur (next s))
          (first s))))

Interesting, there are several things I can learn from this:

  • My solution stored the previous element, because I didn't realize clojure had "next" available. In the future, I'll check the super-awesome clojure cheat sheet.
  • Seeing the "recur" without a corresponding "loop" threw me, so I read up on recur. Turns out that recur will recur to both loop as well as function, depending on arity (the number of arguments).
  • I wasn't sure what the ^:static metadata item does, stackoverflow to the rescue once again.

All pretty small stuff, but if I keep doing this, I should get much better at writing idiomatic clojure, and more importantly, using the full power of the language.

Categories: Technology, Clojure

Understanding Clojure, continued

by paul, on 04.08.2012

Had last friday off of work, and I've still been banging away at learning clojure, working on some music software that I will post about soon. Until then, I'm including some more notes.

Sequences are extremely powerful in clojure, and the seq API is very deep and has a lot of batteries included. The first thing I realized whilst coding is that it's pretty important to understand when you are dealing with a seq/list/vector, as things like the conj function will behave very differently depending on your collection type. conj will append to the tail of a vector, but to the head of a sequence (this makes sense because seqs are lazy and can easily be infinite). Laziness is an important concept, and it is very similar to generator functions in python, although it feels more baked in to the language than generators do in python. Lazy sequences have a lot of musical possibilities, as it's easy to generate an infinite series of overtones and then take the ones you need.

One thing I got confused about at first is the difference between def and defn. Luckily, stackoverflow set me straight. defn is just a macro that maps to (def name (fn ...)).

Recursion and other Functional stuff

When it comes to recursion, Clojure makes some JVM specific compromises, as it's relatively easy to blow out the stack if you're not careful. using loop+recur helps greatly, as do the aforementioned lazy sequences. Until learning clojure, I did not realize that the JVM does not guarantee tail call optimization.

In terms of other functional programming constructs, Clojure has partial application via the "partial" function, and ability to compose functions via "compose". I haven't messed around with these things too much, and don't yet fully understand the difference between currying and partial.

Categories: Technology, Clojure

Learning Clojure

by paul, on 04.04.2012

Since checking it out via Bruce Tate's book "Seven Languages in Seven Weeks", I've gotten a taste of Clojure, and want to invest more time in it. It's the nicest Lisp I've ever used, has a cool looking music project library called Overtone, and I enjoy functional programming a lot. So, I picked up Stu Halloway's book "Programming Clojure". I'm going to attempt to document what I learn in a series of posts, in the hope that I will remember it a bit better as a result of posting about it.

Chapter One

Chapter one covers the basics of using Clojure. The Read Eval Print Loop (REPL) has a few handy tricks, like references to the last 3 previous evaluated expressions with *1, *2, *3. This is handy, because unlike every unix shell since the 70s, the REPL doesn't have up-arrow history. Some of the handiest stuff I've learned in chapter one are around documentation:

  • find-doc("thing to find") - finds relevant documentation
  • (clojure.repl.source "function name") - shows the source of a function. super cool!
  • (doc thing) - shows docstring. you can document your own docstring by including a string between the function name and arguments.

Note that I've put my implementation of Djikstra's "The Sleeping Barber" problem as a Gist on Github. I'd like to get it reviewed by an experienced clojure programmer at some point, as I'm pretty sure the global defs aren't the greatest idea ever. Most of the program was straightforward to write, as it's a basic producer/consumer problem, although I did get stuck on the consumer side, until I discovered add-watch. Live and learn, I guess.

Chapter Two

I've been on a bit of a clojure bender, so I covered chapter 2 in its entirety today. I'll summarize highlights for me in my notes below.
In Clojure, as in a shell like Bash, you can sometimes get yourself into a situation where you are passing a vector to something that really wants a variable length list of arguments, like

(str (interleave "asdf" "qwer"))
In bash, you would use xargs to get around this, and in Clojure, you use apply.

User defrecord to define classes, Clojure makes creating classes easy. Once instantiated, you can treat them a little like maps. Clojure defines reader macros like ";" for comments, and # for anon functions, but you can't create your own macros, unlike most lisps.

Like python, docstrings are part of the function signature, except they go between the function name and the parameters. they are accessible from the repl via (doc ). Function overloading is really intuitive in Clojure, the defn call simply takes a list of parameter/implementation pairs. This is the kind of thing I love about functional languages, much less code duplication and much more readable.

Function bindings are lexically scoped. Another really nice feature is destructuring, which is the ability to decompose an object passed as an argument into its constituent parts in the function definition itself. So, if your function takes a Car, and all you need is the bumper, you can make that explicit in the function definition. Really very cool feature.

This chapter also covered namespaces and calling java functions. There are a bunch of conventions around calling java things directly which I find slightly non-intuitive, but whatever, being able to have that kind of interoperability is such a huge advantage it doesn't much matter.

  • division operations return a clojure Ratio object
  • 100M gives you a BigDecimal, useful for arbitrary floating point math
  • boolean stuff: nil and false are false, everything else is true (including zero!)

Categories: Technology, Clojure

March listening notes

by paul, on 03.25.2012

March isn't even done, and I've been to five concerts this month already!

Will Terrill trio at Silver Lining - 3/25

Fantastic piano trio set at a very swanky underground (literally) cocktail joint. Will is originally from Durham, and had gone off to work in Betty Carter's band when I first started playing jazz. He's got an amazing feel, and is able to play very quietly but still keep it intense.

Henry Threadgill's Zooid - 3/18

Liberty Ellman on guitar. This was intense music, and the interplay was fantastic. Bass guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Drums, Cello, Trombone, Tuba, and Henry on flute, bass flute, and alto sax. I only wish Henry would have soloed more, his screaming alto solo on the last tune was a high point in a set full of them.

Bach in the Heights - 3/18

This was a local concert at a church 2 blocks from my house on a sunday afternoon. Interestingly, they tuned all the instruments down to A404, and the winds were period instruments: Oboes, Bassoons and flutes were all wooden.

David Grisman Trio at City Winery - 3/11

David on Mandolin, his son Sam on bass, Jim Hurst on guitar. A great mix of old timey tunes, bluegrass tunes, some jazz, and some more modern stuff. I took extensive notes for some reason, but am too lazy to type them up.

Nrityagram Dance ensemble at the Joyce Theatre

Drums, Violin, Bamboo Flute, and Voice. A traditional indian ensemble that also included at times a Sri Lankan drummer.

Edit: Finished the month watching Kendra Shank at the 55 bar with my folks, featuring Jay from Maria Schneider's band on bass!

Categories: Music

Transcription: Ron Carter chorus on "Ornithology"

by paul, on 03.20.2012

I recently got an electric bass, and have been learning the instrument by learning some basslines from my favorite bass players: James Jamerson, Bootsy Collins, Paul McCartney, and of course, Ron Carter.

I haven't always been the biggest fan of a walking electric bass sound in jazz, but Ron is such a good player that I wanted to cop some of his lines. I took a walking chorus of his on "ornithology" off of a Jamey Aebersold record, to try and understand how Ron sounds when he's playing it relatively straight (he usually does anything but!).

Here is the PDF. I haven't recorded a sample because I'm lazy, and because if you're a jazz player you probably have this playalong record anyways. If not, go out and support jazz education and buy yourself a copy, it's got Ben Riley and Kenny Barron, and you really can't go wrong with that kind of rhythm section, can you?

Categories: Music

February Listening Notes

by paul, on 03.01.2012

I saw some music this month, and played some more. Here's a rundown:

Ted Brown at the Kitano

Ted Brown is one of the original students of Lennie Tristano. He's got the most unique saxophone tone I have ever heard in person, quiet but forceful, and almost at times sounding like a harmonica in the high register. Ted played the standard repotoire, listed below. I personally felt that the quality of the tunes he played are particularly high, which isn't always the case on a "standards gig". The gig itself was incredible, I could have watched Ted spin melodies all night. The rhythm section of Michael Kanan, Murray Wall, and Taro Okamoto was incredibly tight, I sat right next to Taro and could hear everything, perfectly balanced with an unmic'd bass. I was surprised to learn after the gig that Ted made his living as a programmer for 30 years! All in all, one of the best nights of pure jazz I've seen in recent memory.
The Setlist:

  • The Man I Love
  • Gee Baby, Ain't I Good To You?
  • People Will Say We're in Love
  • Stardust
  • Dig It! - Ted Brown
  • Background Music - Warne Marsh

Jazz in Charleston

Sarah and I took a little vacation to Charleston, one of the grandest southern cities, located in the South Carolina Low Country. Charleston has a reputation as a southern outpost for Jazz, and we caught a great trio at the Charleston Grill, a great venue for jazz. I didn't get their names, but they have a real piano there and the bartender serves a generous pour of whiskey. What more do you need? I didn't get the name of the trio, but they played the standard repotoire very well.

The Village Vanguard Orchestra

The Vanguard Orchestra has played monday nights at the Village Vanguard for almost 50 years. I have lived in NYC for twelve, and never seen them once. This month, my friend Dave and I fixed that, by heading up to the Vanguard. The band remembered Bob Brookmeyer by playing several pieces of Bob's from different eras. The "early Bob" piece, a blues, knocked me out! In a way, it was even more experimental than his later work. The later work, which will be on a forthcoming album of Bob's music by the orchestra, featured Rich Perry on tenor, and was simply titled "Rich". A wonderful night of music, I'll definitely be back.

Gig with Ratzo Harris

I got to spend a wonderful evening playing a gig with the great Ratzo Harris on bass. Ratzo played his electric upright 6 string, which sounded like a dream, unlike other electric basses I have heard. This was the kind of gig where I listened so hard that by the end of the night I was mentally worn out, following the harmonic tricks and turns took all my energy. Like all great players, Ratzo has huge ears and was constantly acknoweledging and adapting to what I was doing as well.

I plan on seeing even more music over the next month, really trying to take advantage of being in NYC. Also this month, I got a p-bass and started playing bass again, and took a lesson with the composer Darcy James Argue, so it was a good month for me, musically speaking.

Categories: Music

My First Fight

by paul, on 02.19.2012

Surely, on the night before my first fight, I got the best night of sleep any amateur boxer has ever gotten, as I was sure it was cancelled. My first amateur bout was supposed to be on Saturday, February eighteenth. When I got into bed on friday, after months of preparation, my bout had been cancelled. My opponent had signed up to fight at 165 pounds, but had called 2 days before the fight to say he weighed 182. Even in our Master's division, for fighters 35 years or older, where there is no national level competition and the rules are a bit more relaxed, my opponent was way too heavy. Them's the rules: Master's boxers must be no more than 8 pounds apart in weight, and no more than 10 years apart in age. So, disappointed as I was, I slept easy the night before.

When I got the call from Gleason's saturday afternoon to say a last minute match had been made, that they had a 36 year old fighter with a 0/1 record who needed an opponent, I had just finished lunch with my wife. I had gone down to the gym in the morning to do my bag work, as is my saturday morning ritual, and Sarah and I were out wandering around manhattan. I immediately called my trainer, Dorrius, to see if he could make it on short notice, and after a few hours of uncertainty, the fight was on. Weigh in at 4pm, the fights start at 6pm. I called a few friends who had wanted to come and told them it was back on, we went home and I packed up all my boxing gear and headed down to weigh in.

In amateur boxing, you weigh in on the day of the fight, then you see a doctor who makes sure you're able to compete. Weigh in is quick and to the point, you strip down, step on the scale, and your official weight is recorded in your amateur book. Your book is the passport of boxing, both your license to fight and a record of your wins and losses. Even after all that fried chicken for lunch, I weighed in at 163 pounds, two under the limit. The doctor declared me fit to box, and the waiting game began. I would not meet or even see my opponent until we stepped into the ring.

The next step was to get dressed to box, wrap my hands, and warm up. Sarah got me silk blue boxing trunks for valentine's day, and I would fight in those, a Ramones t-shirt, and the standard amateur protective gear: Headgear, Mouthpiece, Cup and Kidney protector. Meanwhile, the bouts have begun. I am bout number 8, and in amateur shows they come one right after another. At this point I start to get nervous again, and Rondell, a longtime sparring partner, friend and coach, reminds me to Breathe. Just Breathe.

Dorrius wrapped my hands with the long, cotton wraps that fighters use to protect our hands. and we went over last minute rules and strategy. Keep hands up at all times after the bell, even when the referee separates us. Make sure to use my jab and stay out of the corners and off the ropes; I am tall for my weight and I need to keep the fight in the center of the ring to take advantage of my reach. If I hurt the guy and there's a count, it won't begin until I get to a neutral corner. Dorrius and I work a little on defense, and I put my gloves, headgear and mouthpiece on. I feel like I have a lump in the pit of my stomach, and wonder to myself what I am doing. Am I really ready for this? The ref comes over and tells me I can't fight in my t-shirt, I need one with no sleeves. This heightens my nervousness, they are on bout 5 already! We need to cut the sleeves off my short. Rondell sets off to find a pair of scissors, while I contemplate the horrifying prospect of a sleeved shirt preventing my first fight. Fortunately, Rondell comes, scissors in hand, and we cut the sleeves off my beloved Ramones t-shirt. I head over to the ring as soon as bout 6 is over, to watch bout 7 before it's my turn in the ring.

As soon as I get over to the ring, the referee announces that bout 7 is scratched, and we are moving directly to bout 8! It feels slightly surreal as the announcer introduces us, I am fighting out of the red corner, my opponent the blue. Dorrius and Rondell are in my corner, a few last words from them, then the referee has us touch gloves, and before I can even think, the bell rings.

The Fight

Round one. I start out jabbing and my opponent keeps his distance. He's shorter than me, and moves quick. He moves in and out, comes in with a straight right hand, an extremely hard puncher. I parry the first of many punches, and fire back with my own left cross. He's not throwing a lot of punches and definitely keeping his distance, someone from outside the ring yells that he needs to throw more punches. When he does come at me, he comes in for the kill, he's clearly trying to knock me out with a well placed shot. He's able to land a few shots, but doesn't have good defense, and I was able to counter effectively. One shot which leaves him particularly exposed gives me an opportunity to nail him with a left cross, my best punch. It was a clean shot, landed strong and hard. Unlike everyone else I have ever sparred with, a shot like this didn't faze him at all, and he kept coming at me. We move around the ring, he drops his hands and I land a flurry of jabs. The bell rings and we're back in the corner.

I am tired, and breathing heavy. After a single 2 minute round of sparring. I am in very good physical condition and it's not uncommon for me to spar 20 rounds on a sunday, I should not be tired. I am not breathing. The lights, the moment, and most of all the tension and nervousness in me, is wearing me down in record time. Dorrius and Rondell give me water, and remind me to jab. It was a good round for me; were amatuer boxing scored on a per-round basis, I probably would have won that one. But man, does this guy punch hard.

Round two. I come out jabbing again, my opponent comes straight at me. No more staying back and in and out for him, he's just coming at me. He lands a flurry of punches and I counter and land some strong shots also, but they don't seem to faze him, he just keeps coming. I forget to breathe. Halfway through the round he lands a body shot that almost knocks the wind out of me, I am moving back and he is coming forward and we are really going at it, trading hard shots. Problem is, trading hard shots is not what I need to be doing against this guy. I need to box, out-think him, throw him for a loop. I am not thinking. I am not breathing. He lands a good jab cross uppercut combination and the ref separates us, I get an eight count. We continue. It doesn't get better for me. Again the bell.

In the corner, I am exhausted, my usually boundless energy is gone. Normally, I can spar 20 rounds on a sunday, and after only four minutes, I am out of breath. Dorrius is telling me I need to win the third round, Rondell is telling me I need to jab. They are both right. I am telling myself I just need to get through the third round. Fight, survive. It's an old boxing saying that the only thing that stops a guy from punching, is punches coming back at him; I need to punch. And Breathe. I am breathing now, but heavy, which makes me more tense. Why am I so tired, when I have sparred so much longer than this? Then the bell, again.

Round three. My opponent keeps the same strategy from round two, coming straight at me, punching hard. He doesn't much care if he gets hit back, and he does, because he's getting the better of the exchanges. I drop my hands after an exchange, a cardinal sin of boxing technique. The corner, and a standing eight count for me. Back in action, it's more of the same. He's been doing the same thing for the whole fight, and I am responding to it worse and worse as the fight goes on. Boxing, like jazz, is all about interaction and adaptation; you have to adjust and respond in the moment. More punches, more going on the rops, and a second standing eight count for me, and all of a sudden, it's over, one minute and eighteen seconds into the 3rd round.

My goal was to box 3 good rounds. I don't mind that the fight was stopped in the 3rd round, I was taking a lot of shots and I'm sure it was the right call by the referee. I made a lot of mistakes I shouldn't have, backing up instead of slipping, not jabbing enough and controlling the fight to the center, all kinds of things. But, I have to keep perspective. I have only boxed 2 years. I have played music for more than 20, and still make mistakes. Life does go on, and I think having a fight like that changed the way I think about boxing. Before last night, I never knew what it was like to be in the ring with someone and go all out, both of us doing whatever we can to score, or knock the other guy out. I think I will take something from that experience with me for the rest of my life, and experiences like that don't come along every day.

After the fight I was surrounded by my wife, and friends who had come out to show support. I can't think of a better way to celebrate having gotten in the ring and put up my hands, than with such great people. Special thanks to Sarah, Dan, Asta, Will, Alec, Deb, Sameer, Kurt, Steve, Chris, Jess, Dharma, Moe and Mathieu for coming to watch some crazy 35 year old guy who writes code for a living, get in the ring and box. I will never forget it. Had a pretty good night's sleep, too.

Epilogue: I went back and forth on whether or not to post the video of my match, but in the end, I decided it would good. Participating in an amateur fight has made me a better, more confident boxer, in a way that no amount of sparring could have. I am still uncertain if I will take another fight, but I have no regrets, and am proud of myself. It wasn't easy, but nothing good ever is.

Categories: Fitness

Written solo on "Daahoud"

by paul, on 02.12.2012

I just wrote out a guitar solo on the Clifford Brown tune, "Daahoud", an old favorite that I've always found a bit challenging to play. I was working on this tune recently and instead of re-learning Clifford's solo, which I transcribed years ago but have forgotten, I decided to write out a well structured guitar solo.

Here is a PDF of the solo. I haven't done a lot of this kind of composition before, but haven't really felt like my jazz solos have really been developing much over the past year or so, so I thought I would try something new.

Categories: Music

january listening notes

by paul, on 02.02.2012

Trying to make it out to see more live music this year, and also blog a bit more about it. I saw 3 great shows this month: Darcy James Argue's Secret Society at the Jazz Gallery, Barry Harris at the Village Vanguard, and the NYC Guitar Festival Marathon at the 92nd St Y.

The Secret Society gig at the Jazz Gallery was an amazing show and we barely got in, it was packed. Wonderful, timely, current music, played by an amazing group of musicians. I'm taking a lesson with Darcy this month and really looking forward to it.

I have seen Barry Harris play countless times, as when I first moved to NYC I went to his workshops at the Y near lincoln center every week. Barry is a traditionalist, so I was floored by his opening number, Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely?": This was truly a Jazz Twilight Zone moment, especially if you know Barry's feelings about most modern music. The rest of the set was great, and Barry played quite a lot of Bud Powell inspired tunes, including a beautiful rendition of "Sweet Georgia Brown". Barry is consistently great, and I'm glad I came out to this.

I'll definitely be going back to the 92nd st Y, as it's a wonderful venue, and particularly the guitar festival. I saw close to 3 incredible hours of music. Highlights for me were Nigel North's wonderful rendition of PICCININI's toccata, played on theorbo, Gyan Reilly's virtuosic rendition of "2 songs in lydian", and Pino Forastiere's awesome 6 string electro-acoustic adventures.

Categories: Music

new peter bernstein transcription

by paul, on 01.14.2012

From looking at the transcriptions on this site, it's pretty apparent that peter bernstein has always been my favorite jazz guitarist. I was lucky enough to meet peter and get a lesson from him when I first moved to NYC years ago, and have caught many gigs since. I've done a lot of transcriptions of his over the years to understand how he approaches tunes and phrasing. Even though I learn to play solos directly from recordings and don't use sheet music, I started to notate my transcriptions a few years ago because I found I would forget solos, and it's nice to have a reminder, and also I hope it's helpful to other musicians.

Here is my transcription, and here is a clip of the solo. This tune is the same changes to "Doxy", and Peter's pacing and phrasing are wonderful as always. Harmonically, he sticks pretty close to the changes throughout, but he builds intensity both through dynamics and also register, like the high Ab in bar 20. I often don't notate articulations much, but for this solo I've tried to get the slurs as close as possible to the original. Note that he picks the diminished run in bar 38, on a faster tempo he would slur the half steps.

As always, I ask that you buy a copy of the recording, Eric Alexander's "Full Range", if you like this solo. It's an awesome record and a great way to support this wonderful music.

Categories: Music

2011 compositions

by paul, on 01.01.2012

Compositionally, 2011 was a good year and I got the opportunity to write wedding music for 2 different sets of friends, which I very much enjoy doing. For the other stuff, I focused more on writing through composed pieces, as opposed to vehicles for improvisation. I finished about 8 pieces, which isn't bad for me. Looking back, there's quite a few things I've left unfinished, so I've got a good start into 2012. Mostly for my own benefit, I'm going to do a quick compositional recap.

  • For Evan and Diana - A piece for Evan and Diana's wedding that I blogged about extensively.
  • For Sarah and Ben - A piece for Sarah and Ben's wedding. I had to write this so that it could be easily played by Andrew on guitar.
  • La Belle Epoque - This piece reminds me of some salon music in a paris cafe or something. I could, and probably will, extend this out more.
  • Travelling Light - I wrote this after getting some ideas from a Ralph Towner book on acoustic guitar, and taking some harmonies and writing a melody on top. I think this turned out quite well.
  • Five Ways - Just a lead sheet I wrote for playing on. This was written as a vehicle for improvisation.
  • Rainy Tune - A kind of melancholy, straight 8ths type feel tune. I like the way the melody came out on this one.
  • All Twelve - A short, atonal piece.
  • Empty House - I wrote this while Sarah was out one day, for the band I play with on fridays downtown, which is a quartet. I don't know whether or not I really like this tune yet, need to play it more.
  • Before The Rain - A lead sheet for a longer form piece I am working on. I often write music when it is raining out, so my titles tend to contain the word "rain" quite a lot.

Hopefully 2012 will be as good or better for me compositionally, and will be the year I finally make an album of my music. I always feel good about spending time composing; it's very satisfying to me and I think and hope that my friends and family also enjoy hearing my music and that it adds a little beauty to the world.

Categories: Music

new short composition

by paul, on 12.09.2011

I haven't been blogging much lately, but I'm trying to compose a lot more, and here is a PDF and a MIDI MP3 of a short piece I wrote for violin and cello.

The piece is called "all twelve" because, unlike a lot of music I write, it uses all twelve notes in equal weight and doesn't really have a key center.

Categories: Music

Fats Navarro solo on "Wail"

by paul, on 10.23.2011

Picture of Fats Navarro

My transcription of Fats Navarro's solo on "Wail".
Listen to the solo.

Ethan Iverson's wonderfully written anthology on Bud Powell inspired me to go back and listen to Bud's early stuff, which features some great playing by Sonny Rollins and Fats Navarro.

I studied with an amazing pianist named Ed Paolantonio, who in turn had studied with Lennie Tristano. Lennie's thing, which Ed taught me, was that you picked a soloist, learned to sing 10 or so of their solos with the record, then without, then you learned them on your instrument.

You picked either Lester Young or Charlie Christian for your first round of this, and then for your second, you could pick Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, or Fats Navarro. I picked Charlie Christian and then Charlie Parker, and I can still play and sing all those solos. Nevertheless, I always meant to go back and check out Fats Navarro, given that Lennie obviously thought so highly of him.

Here is a PDF ( listen MP3) of Fats' great solo on the Bud Powell tune "Wail", a rhythm changes tune in Eb. The solo mixes really melodic, almost sing song phrases with some wicked bebop. Check out that bridge! It's pretty much a continuous thought from the start through to the last 8, a wonderfully spun phrase, which is especially unbelievable given the tempo. The articulations are approximate and are meant to mark how I hear Fats play the phrases, as I'm not a trumpeter, they aren't meant to suggest tonguings or anything like that.

I hope you enjoy discovering this wonderful solo as much as I did!

Categories: Music

Wes Montgomery's Solo on "Ecaroh"

by paul, on 08.28.2011

Here is my transcription (mp3) of Wes Montgomery's wonderful solo on the Horace Silver tune "Ecaroh". I did a particularly bad job of soloing on this tune on a gig recently, and so I learned Wes' solo in an effort to improve on negotiating the changes. As always, hearing a masterful solo like this makes the changes seem much simpler than when you're reading down the tune for the first time.

Since Wes was incapable of playing a bad note, this is obviously a great solo. I love how he mixes some bluesier phrases in with some very pretty lines that really get into the harmony of the tune. Wes is definitely not one to glide over the changes. The second A is kind of interesting, it's hard for me to hear what Melvin Rhyne is doing in the harmony but the repetition Wes does over it clearly works.

Categories: Music

blog now using SQLAlchemy

by paul, on 07.25.2011

I refactored my blog to use SQLAlchemy as an object relational mapper. I initially implemented my blog just using straight SQL, and planned to switch over to SQLAlchemy as kind of an exercise to remind myself what an ORM really buys me. It's great, I was able to delete lots of messy code and make things much cleaner in general. I've spent a fair amount of time wrestling with ORMs, and it's nice to remind myself how great they can be in comparison to the Bad Old Days.

Categories: Technology

Bird's Solo on "Groovin' High"

by paul, on 07.12.2011

I just did a transcription of Charlie Parker's half-chorus on "Groovin' High". Here is a PDF and you can listen here.

Bird sticks pretty close to the changes on this solo, to me, the genius of this solo is in his inventive phrasing. The last phrase in the solo is particularly surprising, and I smile every time I hear it! Even on bars 14-15, he takes the end of his line in a new direction, providing a kind of climax both in pitch and in drama.

Categories: Music

Weekend gigs

by paul, on 04.28.2011

I'm playing friday night at the Capital Grille on wall st with the Rich Russo quartet. This is a great place to see music, and the band is always good.

On saturday, I am playing at Amiya with the incomparable elizabeth!. We are playing at Amiya, 160 greene street in Jersey City, a short PATH ride away from Manhattan. Elizabeth is moving to LA, so this is your last chance to catch her while she's still a new yorker! Elizabeth and I have played together pretty much since I've lived in NYC, more than 10 years. This should be a fun gig.


by paul, on 04.27.2011

Here is a recording of my orchestration of Messiaen's "La Colombe", originally written for piano, re-imagined for orchestra. If you're interested, you can follow along with my score.

The reading went pretty well and I was happy with the results. After it was over, I wondered if I shouldn't have picked something a bit more dramatic, like with my shostakovich orchestration, but ultimately I think this is a beautiful, somewhat quiet piece and I hope I did it justice.

Categories: Music

new orleans par deux!

by paul, on 04.15.2011

We stayed in a really funky, almost too funky, B&B in the Marigny, it was pretty much like staying in someone's house. Location was great, but probably wouldn't stay there again. here's a picture

our place For Thursday night, where we left off, we stopped in the bar in Arnaud's for a cocktail. The Bartender there, Chris Hanna, had been recommended to us by a bartender in brooklyn, and since I enjoy a Sazerac, we gave it a try. Chris Hanna pours the best Sazerac in New Orleans, or for that matter, anywhere else I've tried.

We got a book on dining in new orleans that only included about a dozen places, the first 2 chapters of the book are all on one restaurant: Galatoire's. Lunch is a tradition at Galatoire's, but knowing that there are long lines for lunch, we had made reservations for dinner. Having eaten at Commander's Palace on our last trip, we had high expectations. Unfortunately, although the food was quite tasty, service wasn't great and our meal felt rushed. We had a seafood appetizer with crawfish, shrimp remoulade, and some fried oysters. I had the crawfish etouffe for dinner, Sarah had fried soft shell crabs. Everything was good, but we had high expectations, and as I mentioned everything felt a bit rushed. Maybe we just had a bad experience, but given the number of amazing restaurants in new orleans, I probably wouldn't go back.

We ended the night at the spotted cat, an awesome club on frenchman street, watching the moonshiners tear it up with 500,000,000 other enthusiastic music fans. I'll say it again; Frenchman street is the best place to see tons of great music, there is always great stuff happening. DBA, The Spotted Cat, The Three Muses, Blue Nile, Snug Harbor, all have great music happening all night long, and they're all on the same block!

The next day, we decided to rent bikes at michael's bicycles on frenchman to explore some parts of the city we weren't familiar with. We biked up to the new orleans botanic gardens and saw some of the most beautiful roses I've ever seen

roses! after a morning around the botanic garden and city park, we decided to head to the french quarter festival. we stopped by the green goddess for lunch on complete accident, but they had wonderful food and I had a salad with stawberries, blueberries, red onion, goat cheese and pecans which was incredible: sarah also had some kind of salad which looked amazing. After this, we biked down to the festival and checked out Leroy Jones and the Hurricane Brass Band, and some cajun/zydeco music, and finally met up with my friend Sunny, who is a super interesting guy and kind of similar to me in that he is a jazz guitarist who plays poker. only I mostly stopped playing cards and sunny actually writes books about poker and is going to be in a movie soon.

Brass band music, which is usually trumpet, tuba, trombone, sax, bass and snare drum, is culturally unique to new orleans. they seem to be a part of everyday musical life in new orleans, and I haven't seen this music performed regularly anywhere else I've been or played. Leroy's band played a pretty traditional mix of funk tunes like chameleon, with a solid amount of older standards like basin street blues mixed in.

I have limited experience with cajun and zydeco, I generally like the more energetic stuff and don't get into the slower waltzes and things like that.

Friday ended with dinner at Brigtsen's, another place we had read about in our book. Brigtsen's is located way uptown, in a sleepy section of the city right across the street from another excellent restaurant, Dante's. We had read about this in our book and couldn't wait to try it, and we weren't disappointed. Sarah started with the crawfish gratin and I had a green salad, Sarah continued the softshell crab marathon as her main course, while I had duck with a pecan balsamic reduction. both of our meals were excellent, and came with french whipped potatoes, the kind that are gluey in texture and delicious. Cook's illustrated had a recipe for this style of mashed potatoes a while back, I never tried it but will have to give it a go next time we have company. Anyways, I would recommend Brigtsen's to anyone visiting the city. If you take a cab, take the slow way up St. Charles and stay off the highway, it's a prettier ride and probably safer.

Afterwards, we went to DBA for a drink and caught a few tunes from an organ trio. good way to cap off a long day!

to be continued....

new orleans trip report!

by paul, on 04.13.2011

This past week, we took a vacation to my second favorite city in the world. We went for the french quarter festival, which is a great, free, mostly local festival that is carried out on free stages all around the french quarter.

On our first trip last year, we mostly stayed out of the quarter; partly because it seemed too touristy to be interesting, partly because we love to walk all over cities and the quarter is a small part of New Orleans, and partly because we stayed in the Treme, which was a hike from the Quarter.

This year, we stayed in the Marigny, just a few blocks away from the best street in new orleans for live music, and nightlife in general: Frenchman Street. We got in on a wednesday evening, got settled and headed over to D.B.A to check out the Tin Men, a trio featuring Sousaphone, Washboard Chaz and Guitar. Everyone in the band is an excellent musician and I feel lucky to have seen Washboard Chaz play live, a truly unique musician. The Tin Men We were also lucky enough to meet Errol for the show and a drink. Afterwards, we headed to Cochon for dinner, which was the only place we decided to eat at again from our last trip. This time, we had broiled oysters, ribs with watermelon pickle, fried green tomatoes with shrimp remoulade, and rabbit and dumplings. Everything was amazing except for the fried green tomatoes, which were merely very good. We had enough room to share a Banana Cream Pie with chocolate cream for dessert, which was fantastic. Cochon is a great restaurant, and I'd recommend it to anyone visiting New Orleans.

The next day we started the day with breakfast from Stanley, which is right on Jackson Square. The NYer in me mistrusts anyplace in or around the quarter, as I generally assumed the food would be priced for tourists and mediocre. Boy, does Stanley prove me wrong. We shared the bananas foster french toast and the eggs and oysters. breakfast breakfast The french toast was quite sweet and I couldn't have dealt with a full order, but it's perfect for sharing and it came with lots of walnuts which was excellent. I am not big on fried oysters or hollandaise, but the eggs were perfectly done and quite tasty. Stanley is a great breakfast/lunch spot in the quarter.

We then proceeded to take a streetcar over to audobon park, and walked the park followed by the entire length of magazine street, about 6 or 7 miles. At Errol's recommendation, we stopped at Mahoney's for po' boys. The soft shell crab po' boy on Leidenheimer's bread was worth the wait.

mahoney's On the way back, I got a sweet derby from Meyer the Hatter, a cool hat store. I look stupid in ball caps, so this is the first hat I've ever really owned.

To be continued!

Notes on Ravel's "Valses Nobles et Sentimentales: II Assez"

by paul, on 03.27.2011

For orchestration class I have to give a presentation on Ravel's orchestration of the second movement of his piano work, "Valses Nobles et Sentimentales". figured I might as well blog my notes so I have a semi-permanent record.

First, let's take a look at the piano music. The piece, a waltz, has kind of an 8 bar intro, followed by the "A section", a theme in tempo. He then revisits the rhythmic material of the intro, but with new harmony, and segues into what I'll call the "B section", another more rhythmic theme, ending with the "intro" rhythmic material, again with different harmonies. The "A section" is played a second time, but this time with accompaniment above the melody, and brings us to the dynamic climax of the piece, about 3/4 of the way through. The "B section" phrases are now also played in the middle register, and the piece then concludes.

The orchestral version is really written to feature the flute. The "A section" theme (12) is played by solo flute in a relatively low register, and then doubled on the english horn. Strings and Harp provide accompaniment, with some pizzicato in the bass notes. After the "A section", the intro material (13) is played by the woodwind choir plus second violins and cellos up high. This provides a lot of contrast to the "B section" (14), which is again flute supported by strings and harp. (15) The "intro material" at rehearsal 15 is the only time the strings really have the melody, they give it back to the flute at 16 with 2 harps plus celeste(!), and strings "sur la touche". Rehearsal 17 brings the climax of the piece with the full woodwind choir plus strings, before giving it back to flute, strings and harp at rehearsal 18 to take the piece out. trumpets only play a little accompaniment twice, there are no trombones at all. The horns are also used mostly as accompaniment.

From an orchestration perspective, he really builds the piece nicely and provides quite a lot of contrast by alternating the "theme" sections with more coloristic sections using the woodwind choir. There are a lot of small things he does like harmonics in the strings that are hard to pick out, but assuredly contribute a lot to the overall effect. The piece has a fairly large range, but Ravel never lets the range of the piece dictate his instrumentation.

wedding song for evan and diana

by paul, on 02.26.2011

When people find out I'm a composer, their reaction is usually something along the lines of "I could never do that", or similar. Writing music is one of the very, very few things that comes pretty naturally for me, but I understand the "I could never do that in a million years" feeling, because I am incapable of drawing even the most basic pictures.

I thought I'd write up a post on how I generally write music, both because I think every composer is a bit different, and as a way of de-mystifying the process a bit for anyone reading that isn't a musician.

My friends Evan and Diana asked me to write and play some music for the candle lighting ceremony for their wedding. This provided me with the first, most important thing I need in order to compose anything: A Deadline. there are many areas of life where I am very self motivated and productive: practicing guitar 3+ hours per day no matter what, waking up at ungodly hours of the morning to go boxing, shipping software at work, etc. Unfortunately, and maybe because it comes somewhat naturally, I am not very disciplined about composing and pretty much need some kind of deadline in order to get anything done. Once I have a deadline, I think about the piece and generally procrastinate until I reach the point where I must get it done, which, for the purposes of Evan and Diana's wedding, puts us at two saturdays ago, a week before the wedding. I have committed to playing, but haven't written a note.

First thing I do is fire up Sibelius, which is like a word processor for music. I used to write with a pencil and paper on score paper, but I stopped doing that years ago and usually write directly in Sibelius these days. Next, I decide what instruments I am going to use in my score. I am a guitarist, it is going to be just me playing at the wedding, why would I need to make this decision, shouldn't I write a score for guitar? For plenty of composers, I'm sure the answer is yes. But for me, I want to write something beautiful, majestic and stately, and when I think of those things, I think string quartet. I'll write something for string quartet, and figure out how to play it on guitar later.

I start with a blank score for 2 violins, viola, and cello. I decide on a waltz, and set the key to G. For me, the process of composing is a pushing and pulling of the melody and the harmony. in a string quartet, I generally start my sketch with the outer voices: a bass line, and a melody line. Sometimes, the bass line will suggest a melody line, and other times, the melody will suggest a harmony to go against it. One of the more interesting decisions you can make when composing is when to go against what first "suggests" itself in the other voice, my melody note may be D, and I may initially hear a G under it, but what if I decide to avoid that, and rather go for a Bb in the bass. It will mean I will have to re-write some parts from before, but that's ok. Sometimes, this decision will ripple all the way back through the piece to the very beginning, and end up changing the character.

For Evan and Diana's piece, I actually wrote the first 4 bars of the bassline first, and decided to borrow an F chord instead of staying in G the whole time. I find it extra easy to write very nice tonal music and sometimes need to make a conscious effort to go outside the key a bit. my score now looks like this: I keep going with the violin and cello, but if I hear any inner lines, I go ahead and write them in. the ideas I have for those may take over the main melody, or suggest a harmony also. an example of that is the viola line in my sketch

this process is essentially how I get from 2 instruments to 4, once I start a line, I'll keep it going until there is a natural musical ending for it or the piece ends. lots of times, I know where I want the piece to end, so when I get close to that, I'll write the ending and work backwards: That's pretty much it. I don't generally write using any kind of instrument, such as guitar or piano, although I do use Sibelius playback a fair amount to hear the overall structure and arc. This piece was easy to write, I needed it to be short enough so that I could repeat it and stop as soon as they were done lighting the candles.

Here is a PDF of the finished sketch, you can listen to a cheesy MIDI playback here.

The last thing I need to do is adapt it to guitar and learn to play it, which for this was relatively easy as it's a simple melody and harmonic background. I've recorded a version of me playing it which you can listen to on soundcloud.

One final thing I'd like to add is that after writing a piece, I have to learn it like everyone else does. I have never had a piece memorized after writing it, and I will forget them unless I practice it regularly. The act of writing a piece does not burn it into my mind forever, many people, even musicians, seem to think this is the case. If a piece takes me a really long time to write, then I will usually have it memorized by the end, just by virtue of having heard it a zillion times, but most of the music I write, and without exception the best of the music I have written, has been written down start to finish with very little editing. This is one area where I think everyone is a little different, some of the greatest composers who ever lived have toiled over 4 bars for hours. I might be a better composer if I did this, but it's just not my way and hasn't really proved very productive for me in the past.

This is probably my longest blog post ever, but I have found it pretty useful to describe a bit about what the composition process is currently like for me.

february gigs

by paul, on 02.06.2011

this wednesday, Feb 9th, I'm playing at Tagine, which is on 9th ave at 40th st, from 8-10pm. It's great moroccan food and should be a lot of fun. It will be a trio with myself on guitar, Rich Russo on bass, and Maya on vocals.

On Friday, Feb 11th, I'm playing at the capital grille on wall st with the incomparable Elizabeth! on vocals + trombone. I'm really looking forward to this, as it's been a minute since Elizabeth and I have played together and this is always a really fun gig.

If you're in NYC, we'd love to see you sometime this week!

peter bernstein's solo on "my ideal"

by paul, on 01.19.2011

I've been working on the tune "My Ideal", so I decided to transcribe a chorus of Pete's from Ralph Bowen's album "Soul Proprietor", which features some brilliant, soulful playing throughout.

Here is a PDF of my transcription, you can listen to an MP3 clip here. As always, I encourage you to buy the record and support this wonderful music with your hard earned scrilla.

Some notes: One reason I wanted to learn this was it's a great illustration of how well Peter contours his lines and uses the full range of the instrument, waterfalls like in measure 21, as well as surprising augmented climbs like in measure 29. Peter goes quite high on the neck here, but keeps a full, rich tone, and makes every note count as always.

Transcription is a strange thing, sometimes I find things that are trivially easy to play very difficult to notate, to this end, I think I may have a mistake in bars 18-19, but it's easy to hear the phrase on the recording, which is the primary source, as always.

january gigs

by paul, on 01.11.2011

I'm playing this thursday, January 13th, at swing 46 with the Blue Saracens. This is our final gig for a while, as our fearless leader Jim is moving to the frozen north upstate. Jim is a great drummer and I hope I get the chance to play with him again someday.

Also, I'm playing friday, January 21st with the Rich Russo quartet at the capital grille, on wall street. This is really a fun hang, it's a spacious restaurant, a rarity in NYC, with very good food and a nice bar to have a drink at.

hope you can make it out!

Carmen at the Met

by paul, on 01.09.2011

One of my goals for last year was to go see more live music. As a working musician myself, whose primary musical outlet is playing gigs, supporting live music is really important to me and I didn't feel like I took full advantage of all the great stuff NYC has going on all the time in '09. So last year I went to a lot more shows: Maria Schneider at Birdland, Tyshawn Sorey at the Stone, Bunky Green and Jason Moran at Blue Smoke, The New York Philharmonic playing John Adams, Peter Bernstein solo at Smalls and with a quartet at Blue Smoke, Josh Roseman at Tea Lounge, and a lot more I'm leaving out.

This year, my goal is to see a lot of great stuff, but also to blog about it, hence this post. Last night we saw the Met's take on "Carmen", by Bizet. It was my first opera ever, I knew I would enjoy the musical aspect, but I didn't expect to enjoy the whole experience quite as much as I did. The sets were magnificent, acoustics were amazing, and the costumes and cast and everything was just excellent. Highlights for me were the Habanera, and the instrumental prelude to the final act, although the Met orchestra is fantastic, and I believe they played almost un-amplified. The play's setting had been updated to spain in the 1930s.

The whole experience of going to the Met for an evening is fantastic, walking up to the opera house through the square with the fountain is very cool, even when it's snowing. It's a very elegant experience and I think we'll try to go once a year or so as a special occasion evening.


by paul, on 01.02.2011

Most every sunday this year, I have headed down to gleason's for an afternoon of sparring. Mostly, it's the same group of people, every now and then someone coming or going. A couple sundays ago, after we had finished with our day's work, my trainer Dorrius asked me how many rounds I had done. I said I wasn't sure, because it's hard to keep count, but I think it was at least 20, because it was almost 2 in the afternoon and I had gotten there at 11, and hadn't taken but a couple rounds off.

Dorrius said that the key to going a lot of rounds is to stay relaxed, which is easier said than done in a boxing ring. Later that week, on a gig, I noticed while I was playing that my shoulders were tense, and I had to tell myself to relax. I played better, and felt better, for the rest of the gig. One of the things I love about having multiple vocations is finding similarities between them, learning something in one discipline and then applying it successfully to another. Lessons learned through this kind of experience stay with me; I didn't play much poker in 2010, but not a day goes by that I don't use something I learned at the poker table.

2010 was an interesting year for me. Musically, I studied orchestration and conducting at juilliard, got my first freelance arranging job, and was lucky enough to gig regularly with musicians who are better than me, the best way to learn and improve. I also played my first bluegrass guitar gig, and started playing classical guitar again after taking a multi-year break.

Professionally, I had a very busy year at work. My job and role changed quite a bit, and it's been challenging to adapt to that. I also started several coding projects outside of my regular day job, which I hadn't really done previously. Both projects are in new languages for me; Python and Objective-C. I read more technical books in the past year than I read in the 10 years before that.

Physically, I started boxing again, and stopped doing crossfit. Boxing was something I loved almost instantly after I started several years ago, and even though I took several years off due to an injured hand, I love the sport and am glad and fortunate to train at a great gym on a regular basis. I really do miss the crossfit south brooklyn crew, and sharing that experience with Sarah, though. Also, I lost 15 pounds this past year, which kind of freaked me out, as I didn't really need to lose any weight, but I feel fine and look ok, so I guess it is what it is.

The one thing I didn't do enough of, is spend time with all the people I love. I accomplished quite a lot this past year, but didn't always make time for everyone in my life that I care about. When I look back on 2011, I hope my first thought will be of time spent with friends, family, and loved ones. Work is important, music is important, personal goals and achievements are all really important. But nothing is more important than the people you love, and the people that love you. This year I'm going to make sure that all the people I love know that. For 2011, that's my new year's resolution.

holiday music + gig

by paul, on 12.13.2010

I'm playing this friday, december 17th at the capital grille on wall st as part of the rich russo quintet. it's a nice band, and a nice space to hear music, so come on out!

here's an mp3 of me playing "white christmas", one of the first christmas tunes I ever learned. hope you enjoy!

capital grille friday 11/19

by paul, on 11.16.2010

I'm playing this friday, 11/19, at the capital grille on wall st from 6:30 - 10 with the rich russo quintet. it's a nice place to have a drink, and there's no cover. come on out!

listening notes: live at the plugged nickel

by paul, on 11.09.2010

miles boxed set For all its half truths and stories, Miles Davis' autobiography was a fantastic read for me as a young musician just starting to get into jazz. His constant praise of the young dynamo tony williams, who joined his quintet at 18, was enough to send me and my hard earned money to schoolkids records to pick up the first record with tony williams on it I could find.

as fate would have it, I got "in a silent way" and rushed home to hear tony beat straight time on the high hat for 20 minutes; hardly the transcendent experience I was after. This experience made hearing "so what" from the "four and more" album all the more like an uppercut flush on the chin, I had never heard anything like tony's explosive drumming, and still haven't. his chattering ride swings out a beat without ever repeating himself, the rest of his kit he uses to drop thundering cannonballs behind miles, george coleman, and finally herbie.

later that year, my freshman year of college, my folks asked me what I wanted for christmas, and I asked for the boxed set that documented every note the miles davis quintet played at the plugged nickel, a club in chicago, right before the christmas of 1965. I've enjoyed the music for years, but never listened to the whole thing from start to finish until this week.

Some notes on the music: it's surprising how often they play the same tunes from set to set, I'm not sure what kind of record miles is going for with "I fall in love too easily", but they certainly played it enough in 2 nights work. The music doesn't have the raw punk rock energy of that famous 1964 concert, but it does have Wayne Shorter on tenor, who manages to steal most of the show throughout. His solo on "Four" is one of the most furious things on the set, and his honking call and response on "All Blues" juxtaposes a honking motif with an onslaught of thinking man's blues all at once.

The interplay between bandmates is frequently astonishing, herbie grinds down the tempo to a slow blues on the second reading of "no blues" and tony is with him the whole way, things get picked back up to pace (and then some) by the time miles re-enters. My favorite herbie solo is on the first rendition of "milestones", although his comping is genius throughout, particularly his and wayne shorter's interplay during the second "agitation". My favorite Miles solo on this is probably the second "If I were a bell", his horn is strong and clear, although his melodies are always direct, particularly on ballads; "when I fall in love" is also a favorite.

I've noticed referencing the second rendition of many of these tunes over a two night span, this band liked to play a lot of the same tunes over and over, and things heated up considerably over those two days.

The music in this set is wonderful, and listening to it straight through was an interesting way to really try and get inside what they did at the plugged nickel that week. this music is cerebral, raw and gutsy, and also a little hard to understand, but, as always, listening deeply gets you closer to understanding the truth of it.

quality rounds

by paul, on 10.31.2010

Last week I sparred a bit with an irish boxer who made his amateur debut last night, he asked me to come at him very hard to help him prepare for his fight. We boxed at a completely different level of intensity than I am used to, and I was winded after the first round. I haven't gotten winded after one round of sparring since I was a beginner.

The next day, I was shadowboxing and decided to try and go with that same intensity, and again, it was much harder than usual and I also realized that this intensity, that's what's going to help me get to the next level.

Once you've acquired a certain level of proficiency in something, it's easy to go through the motions. I can play the bach cello suites all afternoon, but unless I focus on the music and what it needs, I won't play it any better than I did last week. I can show up at the gym every morning, shadowbox and do my bag work and even though that's gotten me where I am, it doesn't mean it will get me where I need to go.

I have to remember that I need to put in quality rounds, in everything that I do. some days, it's enough to pick up the guitar and play and entertain myself, but it doesn't mean it's going to make me a better player. to improve requires effort, and the hard thing is the kind of effort it requires changes over time. when I was in my teens, acquiring the raw motor skills to play the instrument was my priority, now that I understand that process, getting better is a lot more about the mind and the ear, than muscle memory.

I spend most of my time playing or writing music, programming, and boxing. and it continually amaze me how much of things I learn in one discipline carry over into the other two.

more sparring movies

by paul, on 10.17.2010

Sarah came by gleason's today and filmed 5 or so rounds of me sparring. here's one against a good, tricky opponent: my hand speed and footwork are both improving quite a bit, that said, I make a few basic mistakes at various points. I still am blocking with both hands at times, and I let him out of the corner when I should have continued to apply pressure. still, my combinations are tighter, movement is quicker, and I feel I handled myself pretty well against a tricky opponent who is much better and faster than me. my trainer commented afterwards it was one of my best rounds against this guy.

maine trip report!

by paul, on 10.13.2010

We just spent 4 days on Mount Desert Island in Maine with my parents. It was a great trip, thanks in part to James Kaiser's wonderful guide book, Acadia, which might be the best guide book I've ever come across.

We stayed in Southwest Harbor, which was a great choice, as Bar Harbor seemed a bit too touristy, and Northwest Harbor was pretty dead this time of year. We got in on a friday evening, and I had the best crab cakes ever at red sky, a really nice local restaurant

IMG_0084 We spent most of our days hiking in Acadia national park. On saturday, after an excellent breakfast of blueberry pancakes at 2 Cats in bar harbor, we hiked a coastal trail from sand beach to otter ridge and back. hiking along the rocks was a ton of fun, and made me feel like a kid again.

IMG_0085 Later in the day we drove out to Thurston's, which several locals told us was the best lobster shack on the island. well worth the drive, it was definitely the best lobster I've eaten.

IMG_0088 Dinner was at Maggie's in Bar Harbor, Sarah and I shared the crab au gratin and seafood provencal, both were excellent. I also tried an atlantic brewing company "coal porter" with dinner, it was a really nice porter, not too sweet.

The next day we had breakfast at grumpy's in southwest harbor, they make their own corned beef hash and bread, and it was pretty good. We spent the afternoon hiking up Acadia mountain: IMG_0093 The views were spectactular, and the hike was surprisingly challenging given the elevation change was only 500 feet. That night we ate at another local southwest harbor place, the fiddler's green. again, excellent food and drink, I highly recommend the smoked mussels, which are smoked on the premises, and the allagash black, which I didn't know was a maine beer.

our last full day we started with breakfast at 2 Cats for a second time, this was even more awesome than the first time because I got the lobster omlette with smoked gouda and a biscuit, both were exceptional. We then hiked to the top of champlain mountain, my folks took a relatively tame trail and sarah and I took the precipice, which was a few steps away from out and out rock climbing. this was really fun and I highly recommend it, if you don't mind heights: IMG_0108 Our final day there, yesterday, we drove down to seawall and hiked the wonderland trail, an easy coastal walk, before heading out of town. lots of cool tide pools

IMG_0119 followed by a stop in somesville, and an excellent lunch at mother's sandwich shack. Mount Desert Island was great and I'm looking forward to going back, although we wouldn't have wanted to go any later in the year, as most shops and restaurants close up for the season. I'm guessing the sweet spot is right after school starts but before columbus day.

all in all, a great, very active but relaxing trip!

pulled pork!

by paul, on 09.15.2010

This sunday I decided to try the "indoor pulled pork" recipe from cook's illustrated. Ever since I started eating meat, I have enjoyed bbq more than anything else, and the prospect of making it at home was too good to pass up. I started by going to Staubitz, the best butcher in NYC if not the world, and getting 6lbs of bone in shoulder, for only $18!

I then brined the meat in salt, sugar and liquid smoke for 2 hours. After it was done brining, I painted it with a wet rub of mustard and liquid smoke, then coated it with a dry rub of salt, sugar, smoked paprika, and cayenne.

before cooking After this, I cooked it at 325 for 3 hours on a wire rack, covered in foil. The whole apartment smelled like a bbq joint, which was pretty awesome.

after initial roasting At this point, it was lunchtime, and I was pretty hungry, having boxed in the morning. Unfortunately, the pork still has to cook uncovered for an hour and a half! I decided to not have lunch and hold out. This turned out to be an awesome idea, as an hour and a half later, the pork had browned beautifully and developed a wonderful crust

after browning The only thing left to do was pull and eat! I made the vinegar sauce in cook's illustrated, which is really just 1 part ketchup and 2 parts vinegar. it was alright, but too sweet and I wasn't really a fan. I much prefer salt, pepper and hot sauce on my bbq so you can taste the flavor of the meat as opposed to the sauce. Here's the finished product: finito! All in all, this is one of the most successful cook's illustrated recipes I've tried, and the pulled pork is better than any I've had in NYC. Of course, it's no substitute for my favorite bbq joint, Backyard BBQ in Durham, NC, but then again, what is?

wonderful quote from evan evans

by paul, on 08.29.2010

I have a cd of bill evans practicing. I bought it back in the day, when I used to actually buy physical CDs. it's a good thing I bought it then, because the thing I enjoy most about buying physical CDs is the excellent liner notes, a jazz tradition that has been lost in the digital age. There is a quote in my CD from bill's son, evan evans, which has been a source of inspiration for me for many years: "My father practiced an average of eight hours a day in his later years. That his music was so pwerful can only be a testament to the importance and perserverance, dedication, and above all, as he and I agree, discipline. I hope that you, the listener, are inspired by this recording to always work diligently at what it is that makes you and those around you happy and rich in the heart" -- evan evans


by paul, on 08.22.2010

Sarah came by gleason's today and shot some videos of me sparring. It's very instructive to watch myself for 3 or 4 rounds, as I'm able to see a lot of mistakes I'm making as well as get an idea of what is working.

The videos confirm that my current biggest problem is footwork; I tend to want to stand flat footed and punch it out, and have a really hard time both closing distance and backing up while keeping the pressure on. my slipping and defense in general is miles better than it used to be, but right now, I tend to either be on defense and offense, and I need to combine the two and work on counterpunching more. I don't have fast reflexes, but I do have good timing, and can counterpunch effectively when I try. so footwork and counterpunching are the main things I'm going to focus on over the next few months.

a few things I thought I did well here are blocking, using my left hook when inside, and using my long reach and double jab to score a bit from outside.

gil evans voicing

by paul, on 08.21.2010

I'm analyzing gil evans' arrangement of "new rhumba", and his voicings are very guitaristic. not sure if this is because he orchestrated the parts from ahmad jamal's recording (which has ray crawford on guitar) or if it is just his style, but all the voicings are surprisingly playable. the main riff is a C13 - Gm, where the C13 is spelled (low to high) C Bb D E A, and the Gm (G F Bb D G). another nice ii-V he uses is G-7 (Bb D F A) - C7 (Bb Db E A) - F (A C E G).

the best books I have read this year

by paul, on 08.04.2010

I have read quite a few great books this year. since almost everything I read is based on recommendations from friends, family, or people on the internet, I thought I would share my current favorite books.

Too Big To Fail - A great insider's account of the events leading up to the lehman failure. It's a real page turner, I found it hard to put down and there are lots of great anecdotes. This is the best business book I've read since "A Conspiracy of Fools".

Mastering Regular Expressions - I read this on the recommendation of the guys who developed django, the python web framework. It's a great technical book which unravels the mysteries of regular expressions in a clear, systematic way. I'd recommend this book to any programmer, regardless of language or technology you work in. I get more stuff done faster because of this book.

Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original - A wonderful biography of one of the greatest musicians ever. It's very detailed, and really gives a great picture of Monk's world and what his life was like. Dispels a lot of rumors, and offers the best explanation of Monk's later years than anything else I've read.

The Arabian Nights - Fantastic, classic stories. I haven't finished this book yet, but the stories are short and it's easy to read just a few.

Still on my list to read this year is Godel, Escher, Bach: The Eternal Golden Braid. Apparently this is a tough read, but I can't wait.

bike ride to the cloisters!

by paul, on 07.25.2010

yesterday we biked uptown along the hudson river to the topmost neighborhood in manhattan, inwood, to visit the cloisters.

hudson river view it was quite hot out, but the ride was beautiful and thanks to the awesome parks system, uninterrupted by traffic, because the hudson river park runs all the way up the west side of manhattan. the cloisters was very cool, and featured a lovely outdoor garden

garden as well as some really cool stained glass, which I am a huge fan of in general: stained glass afterwards, we stopped at dinosaur bbq for lunch. I had heard this place was awesome, and it was good, but I wasn't a big fan of the brisket, and prefer both hill country and pete's waterfront ale house for nyc bbq. here is all the pictures we took.

zt lunchbox

by paul, on 07.22.2010

just got a super cool "backup" amp, as my main amp is on the fritz. it's really small, and means that for the first time ever, I won't have to take a luggage cart to a gig!

ZT Lunchbox! it is surprisingly loud, pretty excited to try this out on my gig tomorrow!

friday night gig

by paul, on 07.20.2010

I'm playing at the capital grille this friday, july 23rd, with the rich russo quartet. No cover or minimum, so stop by and have a drink! We play from 6:30-10pm.

couple new arrangements

by paul, on 06.26.2010

I've been working with the Blue Saracens quite a bit recently at swing 46, so I decided to write a few charts for the band. The first tune is one that I wrote recently, and instead of writing a melody and then arranging it for five horns, I composed the whole thing at once.

Listen to "Spring Again" (PDF of score) The second tune is an arrangement of a tune I wrote more than 10 years ago, when I was in college. I had come home from a classical guitar lesson, it was a perfect 73 degrees outside, and I had no classes that afternoon, so I wrote this tune, entitled "73 degrees". It's fairly tricky to play, especially the bridge.

Listen to "Seventy Three" (PDF of score) Hope you enjoy these new tunes and arrangements. Both recordings are from gigs at Swing 46, recorded using a Zoom H2 recorder, so the sound quality is not the best.

amazing grace on fretless guitar

by paul, on 06.05.2010

this morning I recorded a version of the tune "amazing grace" on my 11 string fretless guitar. you can listen here.

playing fretless is definitely a work in progress, although I wasn't as hard as I initially thought it would be to play kind of in tune. the guitar has 5 doubled strings and a low drone string similar to an oud, I tune the drone string to C and the rest of the strings are tuned in just intonation relative to that C.


by paul, on 05.31.2010

As is our tradition, we did "murph" today at crossfit south brooklyn. it's a workout named after Michael Murphy, who was killed serving our country in Afghanistan.

The workout is as follows: run 1 mile

100 pullups, 200 pushups, 300 squats

run 1 miles

The first time I did this was my first workout at crossfit south brooklyn, recently after I stopped boxing due to a hand injury. my time was 45:36. last year, my time was 44:10. this year, I managed to eek out 41:58, which I was pretty happy with, considering I am a year older, and haven't crossfitted in 2 months as I've gone back to boxing.

it was a great day and really fun being back at crossfit south brooklyn, which is an awesome community of people. I've missed going to crossfit, but I really love boxing and I am sparring alot now and learning a ton so I'm going to stick with that for the time being, and drop by crossfit when I can.

memorial day reminds me of how lucky I am to live in such a great country, and thankful for the enormous sacrifices so many service people have made on our behalf.

upcoming gigs!

by paul, on 05.26.2010

I'm playing quite a bit over the next month with the Blue Saracens at Swing 46, a great swing dance club in midtown manhattan. If you are in the neighborhood, I'm playing next saturday the 26th, and am there every thursday night in June, from 8:30-11:30.

There is a free swing dance lesson, food and drinks, and atmosphere is great. Come on by!

lentils with chard, coconut and squash

by paul, on 05.23.2010

I was going to include a picture, but a picture of a pot of lentils does not do justice to this dish.

Dice one spanish onion and the stems of a bunch of swiss chard, carmelize with 1 teaspoon of sugar and 2 tablespoons of neutral oil, such as grapeseed. After the onions and stems have browned, add one and a half cups lentils; I used half beluga and half split yellow lentils. Sweat the lentils for a few minutes, and add enough stock to cover, bring to a simmer. Add 2 teaspoons of salt, 1 box of frozen cooked winter squash and some tomato paste if desired.

While the lentils are cooking, heat a cast iron skillet and toast 1 tablespoon apiece of: yellow lentils, beluga lentils, cumin seed, coriander seed. add a teaspoon of yellow mustard seeds and a teaspoon of fenugreek seeds, 8 dried curry leaves, 4 dried red chiles and 2 bay leaves. toast the spices until almost black, then transfer to a spice grinder and add 1 teaspoon of turmeric. grind the spices, put 2 teaspoons into the lentils and save the rest to eat with eggs and sauteed vegetables.

I clean my spice grinder by grinding a small amount of white rice in it, I did this, and then added the ground rice to the lentils as well, to act as a thickener.

once the lentils are tender, about an hour, pour in a can of coconut milk, the leaves of the chard, and bring to a boil. simmer for 10 minutes or just take it off the heat and leave it covered for an hour.

eat them however you like, I had some with a fried egg and brown butter, and washed it down with a dogfish head brown ale.


by paul, on 05.23.2010

[caption id="attachment_162" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="my pedalboard"]my pedalboard[/caption] For the past 10 years, I haven't used any effects save a rat distortion pedal when I was on the road with dem brooklyn bums. my amp doesn't have reverb, and I always meant to get a reverb pedal, but I never pulled the trigger. A few years back, I got a looping pedal, which is one of the most useful practice tools I know of, and after needing overdrive on some gigs recently, I decided to spring for a pedalboard.

sonic research turbo tuner - ridiculously accurate tuner. I have shied away from using tuners in the past, preferring to tune to the piano or bass on a gig, but I've been doing more big band gigs recently and it's really nice to be able to check tuning silently and quickly.

fulltone fulldrive 2 - I borrowed one of these from my friend Dan for a gig recently, and it's the best sounding overdrive pedal I've tried for an archtop and solid state amp combo. I tried a few of the other fulltone models, but nothing sounded as good as this for my setup.

digitech rv-3 reverb - pretty standard reverb pedal, sounds great and I don't have any complaints.

electro harmonix POG2 - I have always liked octave pedals and this really takes it to the next level. you can create some really cool, organ like sounds with this.

digitech jamman - standard looping pedal, really great for practicing. I frequently record a bassline with the POG2 and loop that.

The power supply is a voodoo labs pp2+. this was expensive, but really worth it, as it has an AC outlet, which the jamman needs, in addition to lots of other power slots for the other pedals. I questioned getting this at first, but I'm really glad I did.

the board itself is a pedaltrain board, which is designed to work with the voodoo labs power supply, in that it mounts comfortably underneath.

shostakovich orchestration!

by paul, on 04.30.2010

Here is an mp3 of my orchestration of Dmitri Shostakovich's 4th String Quartet, 3rd movement. Here is a link to my score. It was originally scored for 2 violins, viola and cello, in my orchestration, the instrumentation is:

  • 2 flutes
  • 2 oboes
  • 2 clarinets
  • 2 bassoons
  • 2 trumpets
  • 2 trombones
  • tuba
  • timpani
  • snare
  • marimba
the recording is from a juilliard orchestra who sightread the piece twice, the recording is actually their second time through. I was happy with the results and definitely learned a lot, there are some things I thought worked very very well, like the solo clarinet part, and some things that I would have changed, such as backing up the flutes more with the oboes, especially in fast passages.because this is my blog and I'm allowed, I will add a personal note. I did this orchestration at a time when I was working 12-15 hour days at work, and much of it was done when I was very, very tired. I would have liked to have taken a day off to work on this and had uninterrupted time to write, but life isn't like that. It's my belief that we create despite our circumstances, rather than because of them. I will remember this the next time I think to myself I don't have time for something important to me.

google code talks: java memory model

by paul, on 04.02.2010

Here's my notes on the google talk on the java memory model, given by Jeremy Manson.

- Don't try to avoid using synchronized, and other java concurrency abstractions. it's very difficult to get right, and usually doesn't buy you very much to try. even Doug Lea gets this stuff wrong.

problem: example:x=y=0

Thread 1: x=1; j=y

Thread 2: i=x; y=1

how can i=0 and j=0? this is obviously not intuitive, as it appears from the order of the statements that both i and j could never both be 0. however, the compiler/jvm/processor could analyze the assignments as independent events and reverse the order of the statements in the threads (e.g Thread 2: y=1; i=x), leaving us with the possibility that both i and j can end up as 0. the takeaway here is that there are very few assumptions you can make about thread interaction without explicit synchronization.

- don't rely on locks flushing stuff. releasing a lock only matters if there is a subsequent acquire.

- if a field can be accessed by multiple threads, and at least one of those accesses is a write, you should either use locking to prevent simultaneous accesses, or make the field volatile. synchronization is hard to get right, volatile is a bit harder to get right, try to use any other technique to prevent a "data race", and you will NOT get it right.

properties of volatile: - reads and writes go directly to memory

- volatile logs and doubles are atomic

- volatile reads and writes cannot be reordered

- reads and writes become acquire/release pairs.. volatile write happens-before all following reads of the same variable. a volatile write is similar to unlock, a volatile read is similar to a lock.

the danger of not using volatile, is that a non-volatile variable can be optimized by the compiler to be kept in a register instead of written to global memory. this is because compiler optimizations and transformations are performed on single threaded code.

initializing singletons. this code doesn't work: Helper helper; Helper getHelper() { if (helper == null) synchronized(this) { if (helper==null) helper = new Helper(); } } return helper; } this is common code, but actually broken. the problem with this code is that there is locking on the side of the writer of helper, but not on the side of the reader. it's possible for someone to come along and read that helper!=null, but get a junk value for helper. the fix is to add a volatile modifier to the declaration of Helper: private volatile Helper; even better solution is to use the effective java pattern "Initialization on Demand Holder Idiom" in effective java.

immutable objects are obviously great for thread safety. final fields don't allow other threads to see an object until construction is complete.

even if you are using a ConcurrentHashMap, if you are doing a get, some stuff, then a put, even though get and put are thread safe, you still need to lock on the "some stuff" section of your code. people who write the JDK even make this mistake, so watch for it.

use @ThreadSafe, @NotThreadSafe, @GuardedBy, @immutable annotations to document your code. some of these are checked by FindBugs.

make code correct, then worry about making it fast. fast concurrent code amounts to reducing sync costs, use java.util.concurrent and java.nio classes, and reducing lock scope.

read Java Concurrency in Practice!!!!

playing 3/23 @ swing 46

by paul, on 03.22.2010

I'm playing guitar with the Blue Saracens at Swing 46 tomorrow evening, from 8:30 til midnight. if you're in the neighborhood, come on by!

Charles McPherson at the jazz standard

by paul, on 03.14.2010

After reading Ethan Iverson's great post on Charles McPherson, I made it a point to make it down to a set this week. The quintet featured Tom Harrell on trumpet and fluegelhorn, and it was a unique chance to hear Tom blowing in such a straight ahead setting. The rhythm section was Willie Brown III on the drums, Ray Drummond on the bass and Jeb Patton at the piano.

They kicked off the set with "Budlike", a medium uptempo blues written by Charles. From the first notes of the melody, right away I noticed Charles' tremendous sound, even when he was playing off mic, his authoritative sound filled the club. Tom took the first solo and played his fluegelhorn beautifully, with his distinctive muted tone and uncommonly clear ideas. I was surprised to see him switch to trumpet for the remainder of the set, as I have mostly seen him perform exclusively on fluegelhorn in recent years. Interestingly, he gets a very similar muted sound on trumpet, I was sitting directly in front of him the whole set and didn't hear any of the bright, almost cutting sound you hear when directly in front of a trumpet. Ray and Willie traded choruses for a collective bass/drums solo, that kind of conversation is something I wish I heard more often.

The next tune was an uptempo version of "The Song Is You", followed by a Tom Harrell feature on his tune "Suspended Motion", a straight 8ths piece with sometimes ambiguous harmonies. I know this tune, and it was really interesting to hear a player of Charles' generation navigate a tune like this. Of course he sounded great, and perhaps a bit more thoughtful than on the earlier tunes.

They followed up with an uptempo version of "Spring Is Here", followed by another Harrell composition, "Blues In Six", a loping, "not-quite a blues" blues. Jeb Patton took a great solo on this one, channeling McCoy Tyner and then getting into some stacatto chords that sounded really fresh in this context. The final tune was "Tenor Madness", with Willie Jones, who swung his ass off and played great the whole, building into a fiery solo. Charles and Tom traded over choruses, then fours, and finally twos before taking it out.

This was some of the best straightahead jazz gigs I've been to in a while, and I'll definitely make it a point to listen to more charles.

Transcription: Red Garland & Paul Chambers

by paul, on 03.07.2010

Here's a PDF (MP3) of the first chorus of Red Garland's solo on the gershwin tune, "A Foggy Day". I decided to transcribe Paul Chambers' bassline because, well, he's Paul Chambers, and also because it's remarkably clear on the recording, as Art Taylor uses brushes throughout.

As always, this transcription is more of a guide than an attempt to be 100% accurate. Red plays some great, long classic bebop lines on this. He likes to accent the highest note of the phrase, which he often places on a strong beat. I've put a marcato where he gives a pronounced accent.

Paul plays some very interesting lines in this and always picks interesting notes, check out the Eb - D - C line he plays starting in bar 11. Also, check out his super high line (which I have in treble clef) starting in bar 13! he really uses the full range of the bass, and this really adds a lot of intensity to the music. I have yet to notate red's always great chord puncutations, which are such an integral part of his style. The chord symbols I've put above the staff reflect the changes of the tune in general, but aren't always exactly what they play in a given spot. when in doubt, the recording obviously speaks the truth.

peter bernstein's intro on "you are too beautiful"

by paul, on 02.09.2010

Here is a very short transcription of Peter Bernstein's intro to "You are too beautiful", by the Ralph Lalama quartetpicit's a nice intro with a strong monkish flavor. the major seconds in the second bar are very cool, as is the descending dominant chords leading into the first chord of the tune, which is a Bb-7.

wildwood flower

by paul, on 01.27.2010

Here is a version of Wildwood Flower I recorded this evening, arranged by Russ Barenberg. Russ plays this arrangement much faster and with a swing feel, I slowed it down a lot and played it straighter as it sounds prettier to me at a slightly slower tempo. the recording is not perfect, but I feel pretty good about it.

gig saturday night!

by paul, on 01.25.2010

I'm playing with the Blue Saracens @ Swing 46 saturday night, 9:30pm til late. I really like playing with this band, and there are some great swing dancers at Swing 46 so it's usually fun. come on out!

another bach study

by paul, on 01.25.2010

here is the PDF score and a MIDI recording (I wish I could play harpsichord) of a study I just wrote. the top melody in the second eight bars came really fast, I pretty much sang the whole thing to myself and then just wrote it out. I love it when melodies come that easy, it's a great feeling. as composers, we spend so much time struggling over one or two bars and revisiting things, it's so great when it just flows out of you exactly the way you want.

further notes on the bach style

by paul, on 01.20.2010

being relatively inexperienced in the bach style, my general tendency is to avoid dissonances like perfect 4ths or 7ths on any downbeat. I was a little surprised to discover that bach actually does this kind of thing all the time, but he resolves these dissonances into imperfect consonances (6ths or 3rds). so for example if he has a D quarter note in the bass, and a C eighth note melody, he'll move that note to Bb in the next eighth. this opens up a lot more possibilities in terms of writing, as these dissonances are often a pain to avoid, especially in cadences.

another "rule" in the way bach resolves dissonance is that if he uses a dissonance, any note that can be resolved by a half step, should be. this means that in two voice writing, if you have C and F, the F should be resolved to E. for B and F, B goes to C and F to E. always resolve by half step if possible.

counterpoint study

by paul, on 01.18.2010

I rarely compose imitative pieces, but I got a book from the juilliard library on writing counterpoint in the style of Bach, so I spent a good chunk of today writing a 2 voice harpsichord piece which attempts to do that. The mp3 is here and the score is here. the mp3 is just sibelius playback, which actually isn't terrible for pieces like this.

this was pretty interesting to write in that I had to make a lot of choices I would not have usually made to try and stay with the style of the piece. the modulation from C major to G major strikes me as very baroque, it's the first time I have written a tune with a modulation of a fifth like that. there is also a brief foray into A minor in the first half of the tune. once I was in G, I found it trickier than I thought to get back to C.

cool chord voicings

by paul, on 01.03.2010

all voicings are spelled low to high: Dm7 - F E G A

G7 - F Eb Ab B

C - E D G A

ran across this because I was practicing moving 6th chords voiced root 6th 3rd 5th with a barry harris style sixth diminished scale. I use that voice with the bass note on the low E string all the time, but never with the bass note on the A string, which can sound really nice and doesn't get in the bass player's way either. going to have to practice these some more.

peter bernstein's solo on "jeannine"

by paul, on 01.01.2010

here's a transcription (listen here) of Peter Bernstein's solo on "Jeannine", off of Melvin Rhyne's wonderful CD "Boss Organ". This solo is interesting, Pete lands on a D natural over the Am7 almost every time he plays over that section. The diminished scale in bar 34 is a classic Pete lick, he does it quite a bit over dominant chords and it was one of the first of his "licks" that I learned. you can start from anywhere in the diminished chord and resolve it all sorts of ways.

I can't make heads or tails of measures 38-39, it sounds good and I'm pretty sure the notes are correct, but I can't figure out the logic behind this pitch collection. it doesn't seem to sit well on guitar, either, maybe I am fingering it wrong or something.

anyways, hope you enjoy!

finding duplicates file references in iTunes with python

by paul, on 12.28.2009

my father in law was having some iTunes issues over christmas, so I wrote a quick python script that will find duplicate references to files in iTunes. you need python to run it. from the docstring: Prints the number of duplicate songs in itunes, then prints a list of duplicated songs. A "duplicate song" means multiple references to the same sound file in iTunes.

USAGE: python duplicates.txt the argument is your iTunes music library XML file. typically, this is where ever you have iTunes installed. for example, mine is: /Users//Music/iTunes/iTunes Music Library.xml

Peter Bernstein's solo on "Lady Bird"

by paul, on 11.01.2009

Here is a PDF of Peter Bernstein's solo on "Lady Bird", as recorded on Melvin Rhyne's CD "Stick to the Kick". You can listen to the solo here.

A couple of notes: - Peter loves to play Ab minor over a G dominant when resolving to C. I've marked where he does this in this solo, but he does it a lot in general. - He also plays a lot of really nice big arpeggios leading into more scalar melodic stuff, like in measures 12, 27, 55 and 60. I think these types of lines sound great and are a real hallmark of his style.

- He plays the same triplet arpeggio line over C major in measures 17 and 21 but gets out of it in two different ways.

- Measures 43-44, where he plays the 9th and 13th of the ii and V chords strike me as another signature phrase.

breaks: phil woods on "Webb City"

by paul, on 10.20.2009

I suck at taking solo breaks, always have. In order to work on this, I'm going to work on transcribing and obviously playing some great solo breaks. Phil Woods' great break on Bud Powell's "Webb City" caught my ear over the weekend, here's the mp3.

phil After practicing this break and similar phrases, a few observations: - phil delays the resolution by a beat by landing on the A - C - Bb for the first three eighth notes. this sounds really nice.

- it also sounds pretty good to just lay out the first measure, and play something leading in to the I chord. starting on any note in a Cm chord on the first beat of the second measure will land you on some Bb chord tone on the first beat. practicing singing resolutions like that is pretty useful. also, once you have that first note of the second measure in your ear, it's easy to start your line in the first measure, essentially working backwards.

Peter Bernstein's solo on "Chant"

by paul, on 10.02.2009

Here is my transcription of Pete Bernstein's excellent solo on "Chant", from his Criss Cross album "Brain Dance". You can listen here. The usual lazy jazz musician transcription rules apply, I don't mark any slurs or accents or anything, that stuff is best gotten directly from the source. These transcriptions really serve as more of a reminder of the harmonic and rhythmic material Peter uses over these types of tunes.

The CD this is taken from, "Brain Dance", was the first jazz guitar CD I heard that made me really excited about jazz guitar. I got it when I was in college, about 19 or 20. I was fairly serious about learning jazz, but had focused my listening on Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and the other traditional jazz heavyweights. I didn't listen to too many guitar players and when I did, I honestly didn't really hear many recordings where the guitarist was just part of the band, but had equal footing as a melodic and harmonic voice. So this CD really woke me up to the possibilities of the guitar in a jazz ensemble. The other immediate reaction I had was: "Wow, I want to sound like THAT". I think every musician I know has had kind of a role model, and Peter was definitely a model for me in that way.

I have been lucky enough to hear Peter play a lot since then, take a lesson, and also to make his acquaintance over the years. A few thoughts on his general technique: - Peter mostly uses 3 fingers, only occasionally shifting to the pinky in his lines.

- he plays up and down the neck quite a bit, as opposed to moving across the strings while playing lines. he shifts positions really quickly.

- he uses a very subtle and distinctive vibrato quite frequently on long notes.

This solo shows Peter's strong Grant Green influence and has a lot of great lines, and more importantly, showcases his awesome, laid back feel. Notice the flurries of 16ths in his second chorus. A lot of people say Peter doesn't play many notes, but he does bust out the double time really effectively, especially in medium and slow tempos like this.

Please let me know if you catch any mistakes, as I'm sure I made a few.

Woody Shaw's Solo on "Have You Met Miss Jones"

by paul, on 09.13.2009

I've been listening to a lot of Woody recently, and transcribed this solo from Kenny Garrett's debut recording, "Introducing Kenny Garrett". it's definitely late period Woody, he was playing and recording a lot of standards and his harmonic choices are much more straightforward than his earlier sides.

Here's an MP3 of the solo and here is my transcription.

This transcription is not completely accurate, Woody loves to play odd groupings of notes over beats and his 16th note lines don't line up perfectly against the beat, and I am bad at notating such things. The double time line starting at measure 17 is a great example of this kind of displaced feeling. I can play it, but can't really notate it accurately.

This is an interesting solo in that Woody plays a lot of very conventional beboppish phrases, like the iii-vi-ii-V line at the end of the first chorus, but over the same progression in the second chorus he plays a brilliant triplet figure that is completely his own. Also interesting is the amount of variety he uses in his rhythms over two choruses. straight eights, exaggerated triplet eights, lots of triplet and 16th note lines as well as the aforementioned odd groupings. Finally, Woody's articulation sets him apart from every other jazz trumpeter I have ever heard, his use of stacatto and shortened notes seems completely unique to me.

peter bernstein's solo on "like yeah"

by paul, on 08.22.2009

Here's a PDF and MP3 of Peter Bernstein's solo on "Like Yeah", from Melvin Rhyne's CD, "Mel's Spell".

The tune is a modified rhythm changes tune, instead of going to the IV chord in the A sections, it goes down to the flat 3rd. Anyways, Peter plays great as always on this, really digging deep into the changes.


kenny garrett transcription

by paul, on 06.28.2009

This afternoon I did a quick transcription of Kenny Garrett's solo on "Solid", a blues in Bb written by Sonny Rollins. The transcription is from Woody Shaw's album of the same name, which features Kenny Garrett on alto along with Peter Leitch, Kenny Barron, Neil Swainson and Victor Jones.

 Here's a link to the PDF. The MP3 is here.

Kenny was only about 26 on this date, but he already had his own sound and conception. He has always been a master of building intensity, and this solo is no exception. The first chorus is relatively spare and he leaves lots of space between ideas. By the third chorus, he is furiously double timing. Kenny likes to lean on altered notes of the Bb7, especially at the end of each chorus. He uses a straight up F harmonic minor scale over the Bb7 going to Eb7, this isn't something I've heard often and I found it very interesting. Another interesting substitution he uses is Abm7-Db7 instead of Dm7-G7 leading into the Cm7 chord at the end. He plays a Dm7 arpeggio directly before the Am7, which makes it sound especially striking. The strangest phrase from a notation perspective was the descending blues scale starting in bar 41. He crams in 4 notes before the downbeat of 42, yet clearly doesn't start his phrase until after beat 3. Since the meter of his phrase is roughly eighth notes, I notated it a 16th note off, but in playing this phrase, I hear it as starting on beat 3 and just lay far behind the beat.
There's a few things the transcription doesn't reflect. The first is accurate chord changes; It's a Bb blues, and the chord symbols in the PDF are basically just standard jazz blues changes. Kenny Barron does some great comping throughout, none of the intricacies are reflected in my chord symbols. The second thing I don't attempt to get 100% accuracy on is rhythmic feel; Kenny is a master of laying back and pushing the beat. The way I learn rhythmic intricacies is by playing along with the soloist. While I think it can be useful to have them in the notation, you can only go so far.

Anyways, enjoy, and please let me know if you spot any mistakes.

isn't blogging just so 2007?

by paul, on 06.14.2009

I haven't really blogged in a long time, mainly because I've been really busy and I don't think anyone reads this anyways. however, I am going to try and start writing more about music, composition, and hopefully posting some transcriptions I've done recently. I am also working on some interesting non-work software stuff, which hopefully I will post about also. I am not going to blog about my workouts anymore because it is inconvenient to search my history, which is really the only reason I started doing that in the first place. so if you had subscribed to my feed and were too lazy to unsubscribe and had to read my workouts every day, I apologize. I'll try to post more interesting stuff going forward.

last couple workouts

by paul, on 02.04.2009

couple quick lunchtime workouts, going to be out of town for a few weekends so no crossfit classes for a bit.

warmup: 3 rounds of 10 pushups, 10 situps, 10 squats, 5 pullups

squats: 165x5, 185x5, 205x5, 215x3, 220x2, 220x1. went very deep on these and my hamstrings are still sore 2 days later.

today I did: 30 chinups

press: 95x5, 105x5, 115x5, 120(f), 120x3, 120x1. I failed on 120 initially from not thinking enough about form and positioning, press is one of those things where I feel that matters a lot since a small imbalance or inattention can really throw you off.

catchup log

by paul, on 01.31.2009

thursday: 21-15-9 reps of: 135 squat clean

ring dips

my time was 12:49.

friday: bench (all x3): 155, 185, 190, 195, 185

squat (all x3): 185, 195, 195, 205, 205

press: 95x5, 115x5

115 was pretty hard which was weird given I pressed 145 the other day, probably sore from ring dips the night before or something.

pressing up

by paul, on 01.28.2009

warm up: 30 situps, 15 pullups, 30 pushups.

press 5x1: 115, 125, 135, 140(pr), 145(pr) my old personal record was 135 so I felt awesome about this, really good to put up that much weight. kept good form and minimal layback to boot.

afterwards, did the newly minted crossfit southbrooklyn metcon "heidi": burpees/boxjumps/knees to elbows, 30/20/10. my time was 11:50, this pretty much sucked to do but felt pretty good about it afterwards. like most metcons I do these days, I felt like the mental part was my limiting factor. I was tired but the little "rest breaks" I take are mostly unnecessary for me anymore, but I do them out of habit or something. have to keep this in mind for next time.


by paul, on 01.27.2009

warmup: 15 pullups, 15 chinups, 30 pushups, 30 situps, 30 squats

was reading "olympic weightlifting" by greg everett last night before bed, and for squat depth he pretty much says you should go as deep as possible without reconstructive surgery :). for crossfit, hips breaking parallel with knees is generally the standard, but today I went as low as possible, which for me was quite low.

3x: 135, 185, 190, 190, 195

this was pretty tough for me and I started to lean forward on a few, which is kind of a no-no in a high bar back squat from my understanding. I'll have to ask a coach about this next time I go to crossfit.

cf saturday

by paul, on 01.24.2009

saturdays are my favorite days to go to crossfit, we start pretty early and then I usually feel great for the rest of the day.

run 4 miles, warmup was 50 squats, 30 pushups, 40 situps and 20 pullups.

press 3x5: 105, 115, 120, 125, 127.

other stuff: 4 sets of 10 weighted situps (45lbs) and 15 russian twists (35lbs).

the last rep of 127 barely went up, but the whole class was yelling at me to do it so I got it done, which felt really great. definitely one of the benefits of working out with other like-minded people, I would have failed it for sure if I was working out by myself in the gym. after the workout I tried to lift 140 but it wouldn't quite go up, my previous 1 rep max for press is 135 so I should be able to beat that easily next time we do the total.

quick lunchtime workout...

by paul, on 01.23.2009

warm up: row 500m, 30 pushups/situps/squats

deadlift: 225, 275, 305, 315, 320

bench (3 reps each): 135, 155, 185, 190

front squat

by paul, on 01.22.2009

5x3: 165, 185, 195, 210, 215. form started to break down at 215. accessory work was reverse ladder of odd numbers, 15 handstand pushups 1 L pullup, 13 hspus and 3 L pullups, and so on until they're reversed. 14:31, switched to kipping pullups to keep it under 15 minutes.


by paul, on 01.20.2009

warm up: 500m row, 2:00.

bench (x3 unless noted otherwise): 135, 155, 185, 190x2, 185, 190

row 2k, 7:54.

I tried a wider bench grip on the first 190 set and that didn't work out too well. rowing was really hard today, definitely going to try and get in some rowing workouts especially in the winter when running outside sucks.

pressing forward

by paul, on 01.19.2009

row 1k, 4:00

press 5x5: 95, 115, 120, 120x3, 120x4

Max Rounds in 15 minutes of: 6 Ring Dips

8 Pull-ups

10 Wall Ball Shots (20lbs) this was a lot of fun, I love workouts like this. 9 rounds + 1 dip. god ring dips are hard.

cauliflower apple soup

by paul, on 01.19.2009

we went to buttermilk channel last night, which is a fancy new restaurant on court st. the space is really nice and the food was great, I had cauliflower apple soup and a delicata squash tart and sarah had sweet potato ricotta croquettes and duck meatloaf with spinach. she thought meatloaf was just ok but I really liked mine quite a bit, plus they have kelso beer on tap which means we'll be going back to try one for sure.

since I had pound and a half of cauliflower in the freezer and plenty of leftover stock, I figured I'd try my hand at replicating the soup I had, which was quite good but didn't really have any apple flavor. I used mark bittman's cauliflower soup recipe as a base, but altered it slightly: in a large stockpot, saute 1 onion, 2 cloves garlic, a diced fuji apple, a bay leaf and 1 teaspoon kosher salt in 2 tablespoons oil. I used grapeseed oil we just picked up from fairway, it tastes great, is supposedly healthy and has a high smoke point. anyways, when the onion is soft add a pound and a half ofcauliflower, 3 1/4 cups of stock and 1/4 cup apple juice if you have it (if not, just use stock or water). cook until cauliflower is fall apart tender, and fish out the bay leaf. puree until the soup is smooth.

at this point the soup is fine to store in the fridge for several days. before serving, stir in a bit of cream and grate some sharp cheddar cheese, fresh black pepper and possibly a wisp of nutmeg on top.

front squat

by paul, on 01.18.2009

warmup: row 500m, 1:55. since we are doing strength all month at crossfit I am going to look into doing some full on rowing workouts in the gym.

front squats 5x5: 135,155, 165,175,185

deadlift/pushup, 10 sets with -1 rep less every set, deadlifting bodyweight (175) for time: 4:48. felt pretty good about this but probably could have done it a bit faster. pushups were very easy.

workout yesterday

by paul, on 01.18.2009

we're still doing strength work all throughout january at crossfit, just finished a cycle of power clean, back squat and weighted pullups. now we're doing front squat, mid-hang power cleans and press, yesterday was 5x5 mid-hang power cleans: 135, 145, 155, 160, 135. form got really weird @ 160 but was fine before that.

ran 4 miles, also did 24 pushup/db clean/db press complex with 40lb dumbells.

quick wod

by paul, on 01.15.2009

4 rounds for time of: 20 pullups

30 lunges w/overhead dumbell @ 30lbs



by paul, on 01.13.2009

warmup: 30 situps, 30 pushups, 30 squats, 15 strict pullups

squats (all 3 rep sets): 135, 155, 185, 195, 200, 205, 205x2

made it a point to go below paralell on everything, hence the drop in weight.

more cleans

by paul, on 01.11.2009

heavy singles today: 165, 185(f), 175, 180, 185, 190(f), 190(f).

on the bright side, at least I know what my max clean is now. the second time I tried 190 I actually got my elbows around but was leaning too far forward.

did some pullups and L-sit work afterwards.

saturday crossfit

by paul, on 01.10.2009

run 4 miles

warm up: 50 squats, 45 pushups, 15 pullups

weighted pullups 5x3: 36, 45, 55, 65x2, 65

3 rounds for time of: 15 thrusters @ 95lbs, 30 box jumps, time was 9:40.


by paul, on 01.09.2009

quick lunchtime workout, warm up: row 500m (1:55) 30 situps, 30 squats

10 chinups

bench: 135x5, 155x2, 185x5, 185x5, 185x4

50 30" box jumps

thinking of buying a weighted vest for running once it gets warm out.

evening workout

by paul, on 01.08.2009

midway through our january clean/squat/pullup strength cycle.

5x3 squats: 195, 205, 215, 225, 225(f), 185

3 rounds of: 10 turkish getups @ 30lbs (5 each side) 10 knees to elbows

workout yesterday

by paul, on 01.08.2009

30 situps, 30 pushups, 20 pullups

power cleans: 135x5, 155x5, 165x1

press: 95x5, 105x5, 115x5, 120x1

I was going to try and do 5x3 power cleans, but didn't want to bail in my gym and that prevented me from doing any serious weight. I think there is a big mental aspect to doing the olympic lifts and not having the option to bail just feels weird. should have done press/bench or something instead.

weighted chinups

by paul, on 01.05.2009

warm up: 30 situps, 30 pushups, 30 squats

weighted chinups 5x5: 20, 22.5, 22.5, 25, 25

checked out "strawberry jam" from animal collective in an effort to listen to more new rock/popular music, but I wasn't really impressed with this album at all. nothing really jumped out at me as being really interesting. will have to listen again and give it another shot.


by paul, on 01.04.2009

ran 2 miles, then another 5x5 squat: 185, 190, 195, 200, 205

205 really felt like my max here, did a lot more than I would have if I was doing this alone. afterwards did one of those pairs workouts where it was kettlebell swings + ring dips, 10 swings + 1 dip, 9 swings + 2 dips and so on until you're at 1 swing and 10 dips. this took me 7:55, mostly because the ring dips were just brutal.

more cleans

by paul, on 01.03.2009

power cleans 5x5: 135, 155, 165, 175, 180x4.

ran 2 miles, did 30 situps/15 30lb push press for time, 4:39.

new years crossfit total

by paul, on 01.01.2009

sarah and I went to crossfit today and did the total, was pretty happy with the results: squat: 245

press: 135

deadlift: 340

total: 720

deadlift is 2x my bodyweight, which has been a longtime goal!

pre nye workout

by paul, on 12.31.2008

warmup: 20 situps, 15 L-sits, 15 chin-ups

bench: 155x5, 165x5, 170x5, 170x5, 170x5

deadlift: 275, 295, 305, 315, 325

325 went up pretty smooth and is an old PR for me, 340 (2x bodyweight, a longtime goal of mine) should be in the cards for next time.


by paul, on 12.30.2008

note to self: don't plan on doing technical, explosive lifts like power cleans when you are feeling beat and worn down. tried to do 5x5 power cleans which sucked, form deteriorated rapidly so I called it a day.

warmup: row 1k, 4:00.

20 squats, 20 back extensions, 20 situps, 15 Lsits.

power clean: 135x5, 145x4, 155x3.

pressing time

by paul, on 12.29.2008

back squat, 5x5 @ 185. my squat has stagnated for a long time so I'm going to do strict 5x5 with one weight and move up every workout for a while. today felt pretty good.

at crossfit, did: 5x1 press: 95, 105, 115, 120, 125

5x3 push press: 125, 130, 135, 140, 145

5x5 push jerk: 115, 125, 135, 140, 145x3

afterwards we did: 50 squats, run 620m, 50 squats, time was 4:03

crossfit nc!

by paul, on 12.29.2008

on friday sarah and I went to crossfit nc to do a workout. the owner jason was really nice and the space is just awesome. they also have jiu-jitsu classes and they had a separate room with heavy bags and other stuff. the way they run the classes is a lot different than cfsbk, they basically run them every 1/2 hour for several hours and it's just the WOD, people warm up before class on there own. you still get good coaching during the workout, the owner spotted by squat stance being too narrow immediately and corrected me, and he briefed sarah on rowing and wall balls really quickly beforehand, but the whole class is very fast as it's basically just the WOD. the other interesting thing is crossfit is insanely popular there.

although I really enjoy a longer class as well, especially on the weekend, sometimes on the weekdays I think having a short in/out class like that could be very cool.

anyways, the wod was: row 500m

30 wall balls, pushups, pullups

row 500m

20 wall balls, pushups, pullups

row 500m

10 wall balls, pushups, pullups

I did it with a 20lb ball, 17:39.

short lifting workout

by paul, on 12.23.2008

warmup was 3 rounds of 10 squats, 10 back extensions and 10 situps.

squats: 185x5, 195x3, 205x3, 215x1, 205x3

frustrating as this should be light weight for me by now, was planning on 5x5.

press: 95x5, 105x5, 115x5, 115x3, 120x3

15 chinups, 15 L-sits. at least L-sits are getting much better.

holiday workout

by paul, on 12.21.2008

was in PA this weekend, did a workout in my inlaws enormous basement.

shadowboxing - 4 rounds (4 minute rounds, 1 minute rest) 100 pushups

tabata squats - 13

shadowboxing - 3 rounds

active shadowboxing was an awesome workout, I forgot how good it is. thinking of going back to boxing again next year, so trying to incorporate more traditional boxing training in with crossfit stuff.

quick workout

by paul, on 12.19.2008

new year's resolution: be better about logging workouts. I'm going to try logging all my workouts here, instead of posting on crossfit south brooklyn as I think it's easier for me to track progress.

squats: 135x5, 185x5, 205x3, 220x3, 220x2, 220x2

bench: 135x5, 185x5, 190x2, 190x2, 195x2

split jerk: 95x3, 95x3, 95x3. kept it light and just tried to dial in form.

10 chinups, 15 hanging L-sits

awesome poem

by paul, on 12.14.2008

shel our final composition project this semester is to write a duet for soprano and piano, using whatever text we wanted. the only other time I did this was for a chorale and I used a walt whitman poem. since I got a bunch of shel silverstein books for my birthday, sarah suggested using one of those. I narrowed it down to two, and I wanted to post the one I didn't use because it might be my favorite shel silverstein poem ever. capitals and linebreaks preserved because shel would have expected no less!


by Shel Silverstein

Listen to the MUSTN'TS, child, Listen to the Don'ts

Listen to the SHOULDN'TS


Listen to the NEVER HAVES

Then listen close to me - Anything can happen, child, ANYTHING can be.

more music from juilliard

by paul, on 11.30.2008

my composition class has been going well, here's a few more pieces.

two thirds is a trio for oboe, french horn and cello. the reading on this recording isn't perfect but for a first reading it's pretty good. the assignment was to have an event at the center of the piece, and another at the point of the golden ratio, 61.8% of the way through. this was a bit strange for me to do and I ended up writing a lot more and then hacking large chunks out to get it to come out right.

elocution is a chaconne written for solo violin. the basic structure of a chaconne is a theme developing over a short, repeating harmonic sequence, usually in triple meter. kind of an intimidating thing to write, since bach's chaconne for solo violin is considered by many to be the greatest piece of music ever written. nevertheless, I managed to bang something out. the wrinkle in this assignment was that no note can be undecorated, everything had to have some type of accent or articulation marking.


by paul, on 11.07.2008

long time, no blog. got in a quick lunchtime workout today: 30 pushups, 20 pullups, 30 back extensions, 20 dips.

squats: 135x5, 185x5, 195x4, 205x4, 205x3

press: 95x5, 105x5, 110x5, 115x3

hang power clean: 115x5, 135x4, 155x3

I switched to high bar back squats after having some problems with my shoulder in the low bar position. also had some knee tracking issues which I think I conquered by dropping down in weight and working back up. did the crossfit total a few weeks ago and got 685 (235,135,315), but was very sore from deadlifting heavy a few days prior when I pulled 325. I expect to break 700 on the next one, which I'll feel pretty good about. am also closing in on a 2x bodyweight deadlift, but the last 15lbs aren't going to be easy.

more bluegrass!

by paul, on 10.28.2008

been a while since I posted any music,here's an mp3 of "Beaumont Rag", an old Doc Watson tune. been practicing bluegrass stuff a lot lately, this is the first real crosspicking piece I've learned.

hot kitchen tip

by paul, on 10.19.2008

I haven't really been particular about grinding my own pepper in the past, but in this month's cook's illustrated, they review a bunch of peppercorns and essentially say not to bother buying preground pepper. this kind of surprised me as they are a pretty pragmatic bunch. since I am kind of a CI lemming anyways, I picked up some tellicherry peppercorns from fairway today, and tried it on roasted cauliflower and eggplants, otherwise known as lunch. holy shit! really incredible flavor, definitely the strongest and best pepper I can remember having.

in other news, this week in my composition class we're writing a trio for cello, oboe and horn, based on the golden ratio. good stuff.

composition class!

by paul, on 10.14.2008

this semester I'm taking a composition class at juilliard, our first assignment was to write a rondo for flute and cello that takes 2 themes through a bunch of different modes. last week we had a reading, here's the recording. a few mistakes, but the musicians were probably the best sightreaders I've ever seen, there were some pretty difficult pieces and they nailed almost everything straight off.

the form of this piece is ABACABA, the C section being solo cello. the rhythm is kind of funny because the cello is essentially playing in 3/4 and the flute is in 4/4.

next up, we're writing a trio for cello, oboe and french horn!

thoughts on financial meltdown

by paul, on 10.11.2008

been super busy with work this week, so haven't had time to do as much reading as I've wanted, but did check google reader enough to see a lot of advice from VCs about battening down the hatches and jim cramer about not keeping money you need anytime soon in the market. I dunno, the timing just seems wrong to me regarding most of these helpful financial meltdown tips. it's never a good idea to invest short-term reserves in equities, even when the market is going up, and it's not a new idea that small companies should try and save money where they can.

I have noticed that I am kind of emotionally immune to swings in the market like those in the past week, I suspect it's been beaten out of me after years of playing online poker, where losing 20% of my working bankroll was just another day at the office in the shorthanded NL games online. that said, I remember very well how shell-shocked I was the first time I lost a thousand bucks playing poker, at the now defunct playstation, an underground cardroom in nyc. Fortunately, I knew the games were good so I kept playing. Everything worked out just fine and poker was a great supplemental income for me for many years, but I'm pretty sure on the train ride home I told myself I should quit playing several times.

I can't help but imagine that a lot of people are going through this same kind of "holy shit I just lost a lot of money" hangover, and from experience I know it's not fun. however, as any gambler will tell you it's part of the game, and I have always viewed finance as just like any other gamble. I also know that it's only money and my strongest emotion through this whole meltdown has been to feel lucky enough to have money to lose in the markets.

one other thought. the other day, I referred to some way of thinking as being "results oriented" and the person I was talking to thought I meant it as a positive thing. completely understandable, but it was kind of a mindfuck for me since that term is kind of a putdown among poker players. if someone lays you 3:2 on a coinflip, you book it. whining about it if things don't go your way is just being results oriented. it's clearly the right decision to gamble getting those odds (as long as you can afford it) as your bet has a positive expected value, so you should welcome the action and not worry about the results. anyways, it's very easy to think in a results oriented kind of way, but usually also not a very helpful way to make decisions. all the same, I often catch myself making results oriented decisions, like switching traffic lanes, and it's easy to slip into this way of thinking.

very cool article

by paul, on 10.05.2008

cool article about our neighborhood in the times!

awesome quote

by paul, on 10.02.2008

"achilles absent, was achilles still"  -homer

eggs in hell!

by paul, on 09.28.2008

good recipe I've been making a lot recently. make or buy some tomato sauce, spoon a layer in a greased casserole dish. crack 3 eggs over top and bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes, depending on how you like your eggs. great, healthy breakfast, especially if you make your tomato sauce spicy!

don wood made a cool video of our fight gone bad workout yesterday, it's about 4 minutes. also this guy sean took a lot of pictures.

fight gone bad

by paul, on 09.27.2008

Today, at crossfit we did a charity event called "fight gone bad". basically, we raised some money and did a workout called "fight gone bad". greg glassman, the guy who started crossfit, was hired years ago to develop a workout that mimicked the metabolic demands of an MMA fight, to help train BJ Penn for an upcoming fight. after doing the workout for the first time, greg asked BJ how it was, and BJ said it was like a fight gone bad, hence the name. here's a description: In this workout you move from each of five stations after a minute. This is a five-minute round from which a one-minute break is allowed before repeating. the workout is 3 Rounds. The stations are: Wall-ball: 20/14/10 pounds 10/8 ft target. (Reps) Sumo deadlift high-pull: 75/55/45 pounds (Reps) Box Jump: 20"/15"/10" (Reps) Push-press: 75/55/45 pounds (Reps) Row: calories (Calories) here's everyone warming up: I started on the rower, which is tough because rowing takes a lot out of you and then you move directly to throwing a heavy ball high in the air, which uses a lot of the same muscles. charmel and I rowing (note the awesome pullup bar + jungle gym in the background!): wall balls with a 20lb ball. this is pretty tough, on the squat portion your knees must break paralell with your hips. there's a target on the wall that you have to hit: deadlift high pulls. this or rowing was probably my strongest exercise: push press, my last exercise in the round. in this, you basically dip slightly and then explosively extend your hips, driving the bar from your chest to above your head: me resting in between rounds. laying on your back is the most effective way to recover and everyone does it: a picture of everyone at the end: my score was 235, which is pretty good. it's very hard to get a sense of how difficult this workout is until you do it, I had only done it once before and mostly forgot how hard it was. watching how wrecked everyone in the first heat was reminded me of how demanding it is. having a lot of spectators and doing it for charity, as well as all the people videotaping, really spurred me on.

afterwards, we were all messing around on the equipment, and sarah got this very cool pic of me doing a muscle up on the rings (basically you start from a hanging position, and then get to where your arms are fully extended and holding your torso above the rings): basically from a hang, you get into this position: and then just press yourself up, fully extending your arms. I can do one, which is a pretty good accomplishment as they require some strength as well as technique, and am working on string multiple muscleups together. it's a basic gymnastics move, and really makes you realize how strong and coordinated gymnasts are.

special thanks to everyone who contributed money for this event, it goes to a great cause!

the best buttermilk biscuits in the world...

by paul, on 09.24.2008

are at lucille's in boulder, colorado. lucille's is in a small house just off pearl street in downtown boulder. you can tell from the outside it's going to be good

lucille's the specials board read "corn pancakes with coconut milk syrup" on the day we were there, but I can make some pretty good jiffy corn pancakes at home and we didn't come to boulder to fool around, so I ordered the eggs new orleans: poached eggs with hollandaise sauce served over two fried eggplant slices, with creole tomato sauce. if you are a grizzled breakfast veteran like me, you know that hollandaise sauce is a gutsy move, because it's either going to suck or be the greatest thing ever. at lucille's, it's pretty damn close to the greatest thing ever: breakfast your breakfast comes with a buttermilk biscuit and grits or potatoes. grits are damn near impossible to screw up and after all I am from the south, so I went with the grits just in case the hollandaise turned out poorly.

before you get your food, they bring you this: biscuit fluffy, light, crusty on top, unbelievable, no honey required buttermilk flavor biscuits. for me, this biscuit was as close as I get to having a religous experience. I just didn't think it was possible to get a biscuit this good in a restaurant. hell, I didn't realize biscuits this good existed at all. according to the waitress, they freeze the butter, grate it in a cheese grater, and mix it in at the last minute so the biscuits get large air pockets and stay light.

by the way, lucille's is from boulder by way of new orleans, so they serve chicory coffee with 20% chicory (less than cafe dumonde), and make their own ketchup and jellies. the coffee is top notch chicory coffee, and they had apple butter, strawberry rhubarb and pepper jelly the two times we visited. yep, it was so good we had to stop back by for lunch on the way to the airport. they serve breakfast all day. have mercy.

the eggs new orleans were pretty good the first time around, but since we were in colorado, the second time around I got the eggs ponchratrain, poached eggs with hollandaise served over pan fried trout.

eggs I got the potatoes this time because the grits were good but unremarkable and I wanted to try the homemade ketchup. potatoes were a bit overdone but excellent with ketchup all the same. the trout was the single best dish I had in colorado, and we ate pretty good. very fresh, crisp exterior and flaky on the inside. they must make the hollandaise to order, I can't see how they could get it that perfect everytime otherwise.

anyways, lucille's is my idea of a perfect restaurant. staff is cool, service is casual but good, the old house is awesome (there's a second bathroom upstairs, the glass doorknobs reminded me of my grandmothers house), and the food is damn close to divine.

quick workout

by paul, on 09.05.2008

been doing mostly crossfit since getting home from vacation. squat @ 225, deadlift @ 275 this week. today my shoulder was bothering me a bit, so did 30 reps each of: pullups


back extensions





pretty easy workout. in other news, I'm taking either composition or orchestration in juilliard's evening division! pretty excited about this, hopefully I'll be posting some new recordings soon!

puebla/cholula trip report

by paul, on 08.24.2008

last week we took a vacation to puebla, mexico. puebla is the 4th largest city in mexico, in a valley surrounded by volcanoes. not really a traditional tourist destination, but the culture and food is amazingly rich and varied. we were lucky to go during august, which is walnut harvesting season. this means the traditional pueblan dish of chiles en nogada was being served literally everywhere. sarah tried it on our first night there: chiles en nogada it's basically a poblano chile, stuffed with fruit and meat and fried, served in a cold walnut/cream sauce and topped with pomegranate seeds. I was lucky enough to find a vegetarian version. the sauce is almost sweet and the whole dish was very rich.

like in every region of mexico we've visited, mexicans love the chilaquiles for breakfast, here's a pic from the b&b we stayed at: chilaquiles in the background there's some eggs served with a house salsa, which is pretty standard also. I can't remember the name of this popular lunch item: ? but it's basically a fried tortilla with huitlacoche (corn mushroom), inside, topped with salsa and crema. these are insanely filling and about $2.

we walked over to the local market and I bought some mole from this lady, she gave me this green thing to try that was kind of like a banana but had big seeds you had to spit out. sarah didn't like this, but I thought it was ok. very sweet: banana at the same market, we went to the local (and very popular) cemita shop. a cemita is basically a sandwich made on a round, sesame seed roll. they put a sliced avocado on it, followed by a chipotle chile, then breaded and fried chicken, a whole ton of the oaxacan string cheese (called quesillo), then some sort of ham, and they top it all off with some oil. lol. this place was mobbed and they had a huge sandwich assembly line thing going that would put subway to shame: I got some awesome chiles from a chile store: I tried to buy some brown ones, but the old guy running the store steered me towards these and said they had a lot better flavor.

sarah had these chalupas for breakfast. amazing thing to note: taco bell didn't actually make up the term "gordita" as a marketing ploy! they actually exist in mexico, and various mexican ladies will cook them for you.

in cholula, which is a smaller town near puebla, we basically had lunch at the quesadilla stands every day. the guys who took us paragliding introduced us to these stands, it's basically a row of mexican ladies who will cook you a quesadilla, cooked on a hot pemex oil drum top no less, with toppings of your choice. the beautiful thing is, mostly all the options are vegetarian, so there was a lot for me to choose from. blue corn tortillas are the most popular, and they always use quesillo cheese. you can pick huitlacoche, squash flowers, mushrooms, or chicharron (fried pork bits) to go on your quesadilla. we tried everything but the chicharron

also, they have a crazy drink they have for dessert which is basically crushed cocoa beans which are mixed with water and foamed. here's our tour guides enjoying one. these guys were awesome btw, definitely knew how to eat well and enjoy life in general.

of course, without ice cream there is only darkness and death, and both me and the mexican population love us some ice cream, so we stopped by la michocan once or twice

for a random ice cream place, they had pretty insanely good ice cream. much, much better than a random ice cream place in the states. of course, one day when we were in there they were all chopping wild strawberries in the seating area, so that may have had something to do with the overall quality.

the digestif of choice in puebla is called pasita, it's a raisin liqueur served with a submerged cube of panela cheese and a raisin on a toothpick

the drink to the left is rompope, a barely alcoholic version of mexican eggnog, invented by nuns in puebla. we drank the most pasita at a very cool bar called "la pasita", which had a cool menu

and lots of cool artifacts around the bar

it looks sort of touristy from the pics, but really was just a cool place to relax and chill.

we stayed at a fancy b&b in cholula that served a 4 course breakfast everyday that was just ridiculous. yogurt with fruit and homemade bread

fruits with mexican chocolate sauce for dipping

really good, very fresh eggs

obviously, you can't eat this way 3 days in a row without feeling a little ridiculous, but it was included in the price of our stay and to have breakfast by ourselves on their lovely patio was pretty damn awesome. also, it wouldn't be mexico without some delicious molletes

I think this is a pretty good, if somewhat incomplete summary of our culinary adventures in puebla. other cool things we did which I may or may not write about include eating in one of mexico city's nicest mexican joints (with a writer from the economist no less!), eating at a few fancy places for dinner in puebla, and shopping for food to take back (mostly mole).

media for trip!

by paul, on 08.07.2008

we're going to puebla for a week, taking the following

books: "sin in the second city" - steve levitt, the author of freakonomics, recommended this highly. about prostitution in chicago

"the count of monte cristo" - this is a classic and by many accounts a real page turner. trying to read more classic works of fiction since it's an area I haven't read much in.

movies: "the italian job" - the classic 50s version, not the remake

"pirates of the carribean" - never saw it, ppl say it's good, it's a good way to kill 2.5 hours

"dial M for murder" - classic hitchcock.

I've been gravitating towards older movies since watching "the sting". it's worked out pretty well so far, I figure if it was made in the 50s or 60s, and you can get it on itunes, there must be some redeeming qualities to it. plus, so much of what comes out these days is just trash, moviewise. look who sounds over 30, eh!? :) music: too much to mention, notable stuff includes tony rice and norman blake's duo bluegrass record, miles davis and charlie parker's early quintets, sonny rollins' prestige stuff, mahler's 1st symphony, and sting's "nothing like the sun". hiram bullock, who passed away recently, played awesome on this album.


by paul, on 08.05.2008

did the wod fromcrossfit virtuosity today because it looked fun and it's a rest day on the main site. added 15 burpees/round to it because I like burpees.

3 rounds for time of: 15 Situps

15 Back Extensions

15 Knees to Elbows

15 Good Mornings

15 Burpees

the whole thing took me 12:48. also did weighted pullups, 3x5 w/30lbs, and deadlifts @ 255lbs.

crossfit metcon

by paul, on 07.31.2008

did modified "michael": 3 rounds for time of: row 800m

50 ghd situps

50 back extensions


more weights

by paul, on 07.29.2008

I skipped the crossfit total on monday, so did squats/press/deadlift today. work sets were 205, 105, and 295. squats were pretty tough, press was surprisingly easy. really amazing how fast muscles can grow and adapt, just a month ago doing 5 reps of 105 press would have been a lot tougher for me.

currently reading "good calories, bad calories", really good read so far especially considering the subject matter is pretty dry (the correlation between dietary fat and heart disease). although my diet is by no stretch of the imagination low in carbs, I have pretty much stopped eating a lot of refined carbs like bread, pasta and rice. of course, it's particularly easy to do this time of year with all the great produce in season.

I'm finally getting my act together and signing up for a composition class at juliard in the fall, very excited about doing this! been thinking more about how music and composition fits into my life, I think I have a long emo-ish post on this somewhere deep down.

double dipping

by paul, on 07.18.2008

two crossfit workouts back to back today. numero uno was 7 1rep sets of weighted pullups, I did: 25,35,40,55,60,65,65(fail). failed the last rep because I didn't give enough time between sets. immediately afterwards, pounded through: as many reps as possible in 20 minutes of: 15 pushups, 12 dips, 9 push press (I did 75lbs because shoulder was feeling a bit weird). this was a lot harder than it looked, I thought I would get at least 7 rounds, but I ended up getting 5 + 15 pushups.

I'm trying out eating a bit lower carb than usual, we'll see how that goes. also planning to read "the china study" and "good calories, bad calories", both highly recommended nutrition books. almost finished the last harry potter book last night, 1 chapter left. sarah didn't like this, but I don't think it's any better or worse than any of the others.

I'm really excited about picking up "a boy named shel" from the library on monday, it's a shel silverstein bio. I've actually searched for info on him before, and there's not a lot out there, so it will be very cool to read about his life. his books were a pretty big part of my childhood, I read "where the sidewalk ends" many many times as a kid. now that we have awesome bookcases I should pick up a hardcover copy of that to have.

workouts + iphone magic

by paul, on 07.17.2008

so, I've downloaded a bunch of apps to my iphone. I got a metronome, a tuner, a flashlight, a iphone light saber, and an ear training program. the really nice part about some of these apps is it allows you to get rid of random things that just do one thing (alarm clock, tuner, metronome). maybe this isn't as big a deal to most people as it is to me, but I love having less clutter and stuff just laying around.

tuesday: squats, work sets were 195. standing press, work sets were 95. wednesday: deadlifts 5x5, work sets were 255, 275, 265, 265, 275.

used a switched grip for the first time with deadlifts yesterday, it was much easier on the grip and I'm guessing I'll be able to pull a lot more than with using a matched grip.

crossfit total

by paul, on 07.10.2008

yesterday I did the "crossfit total" workout, which is 1 rep max of squat, press (standing press, not bench), and deadlift. my score was 665, breakdown was: squat: 235

press: 130

deadlift: 300

I feel like I could have deadlifted more, but I definitely maxed out on the squat as I barely got it up and stalled out halfway there. press was difficult but doable, it's probably damn close to my true 1 rep max. I was very happy with the deadlift, as deadlifting 2x my bodyweight (which would be 340 if I stay at 170lbs) is a goal of mine for the year. weight is a strange thing, I remember weighing 185 and thinking that was my ideal weight, now that I'm at 170 I'm wondering if I shouldn't drop a few more pounds, although I can't see myself getting below 165, and could easily go up to 175 with all the lifting I've been doing recently.

workout today

by paul, on 07.08.2008

today I did the crossfit workout of the day, "angie": 100 pullups

100 pushups

100 situps

100 squats

25:50. the pullups ate up most of my time, took me about 12 minutes to do 100. part of this was I was trying to be strict about locking my elbows out at the end, and it was hard to get into a good rhythm doing this. anyways, not a terrible time but I can do a lot better. in other news, I saw "the sting" this weekend, such an awesome movie. probably one of my favorite movies ever actually.

pretty colors

by paul, on 07.08.2008

I was thinking recently that since I stare at eclipse all day, maybe I should look into making it a little nicer to look at. unsurprisingly, there aren't a ton of eclipse skins out there or anything, but I did find a niceexported prefs file that looks pretty nice. the only changes I made were to change the font back to courier new, since I need a monospaced font. also, the kempelton icons for firefox are nicer than the default icons and make things a bit more pleasant as well.

today, yesterday and tomorrow

by paul, on 07.03.2008

today's workout of the day was, with a timer, do 1 pullup the first minute, 2 the 2nd minute, etc. I got up to 13 minutes, keeping very strict on form (full extension on my arms at the bottom, no cheating). also did 15 knees to elbows, 20 thrusters, 15 dips.

yesterday I did the classic squats/bench/deadlifts, work sets were 190/175/225. going to try and move these up a very small % next week.

in other news, one of the trainers at crossfit brooklyn, jacinto, turned 69 yesterday, and they did a brutal workout in his honor. it was: Run 620 meters

69 Squats

69 Push-ups

69 Pull-ups or Jumping Pull-Ups

69 Wall Ball Shots

69 Kettlebell Swings

69 Deadlifts 95lbs/65lbs

Run 620 meters

and he did the whole thing! I hope to be in half that good a shape. jacinto taught me overhead squats the other day, very cool interesting guy who has done a lot of things in life.

workouts + music stuff

by paul, on 06.24.2008

haven't been posting my workouts as much since I'm going to crossfit bklyn as opposed to doing them on my own. I find that for solitary activities, blogging is a way to keep a log of what I've done and provide some kind of accountability. so, all my workouts since last blog are on crossfit brooklyn. generally I run 4 miles (2 miles there, and back again) every time I go to crossfit. climbing a rope this weekend was insanely fun, I'm taking a much needed rest day today after establishing my 1 rep max on back squat @ 225. I hope to improve this in the coming months!

music stuff: - did the hanon #1 exercises as a warmup in F major, melodic minor

- tune: east of the sun, different keys, playing the melody

- blue bossa in all 12 keys

general fitness thoughts

by paul, on 06.19.2008

for most of this year I've been semi-obsessed with fitness, for better or for worse. I really started to enjoy being in shape after I started boxing, as the training was really a whole different level from anything I had done previously. in the typical boxing workout there is a lot of variety, and you are also thinking strategically as well as working towards a clearly defined goal (to hit, and not to get hit). I guess this is why people enjoy team sports, which I have always sucked at and never really enjoyed.

after I tore a tendon in my knuckle I was a little depressed that I would have to pause my boxing training, but considering how much I use my hands for music and work it was really the only sane choice. I had heard about crossfit and decided to give it a try on my own, first as a complement to my boxing training. I took a 4 week class at the crossfit affiliate in manhattan, but quickly figured out it wouldn't work for me to attend classes there regularly, as it's not really near work/home and I hate midtown in general. a few weeks ago I started going to crossfit brooklyn. all the instructors and people there are really good folks, and a lot of what I enjoyed about boxing training I get out of going to crossfit. plus, the best way for me to get there is to run 2 miles, so it's an easy way to clock 16 miles/week which is not a bad side effect.

I've really been enjoying learning new stuff all the time, and not getting into any kind of fitness rut which is so easy to do. plus, I've been posting some pretty good times on some workouts lately, which is very satisfying to me since I was so unathletic when I was younger. I feel pretty lucky to be able to say that at 31, I am in by far the best shape of my life. for now, going to crossfit instead of boxing is really working out well for me in terms of staying off the knuckle and still getting a killer workout. it still takes about 2 hours from when I leave til when I get home, which is a lot of time but I really enjoy it. I feel like I'll eventually start boxing again and probably really get back into it, as I still really enjoy the sport and definitely miss it. but for the time being, doing crossfit stuff is really exciting and definitely is giving me what I need in terms of conditioning.

I've also started thinking a lot more about nutrition in general, but that's probably a topic for a separate post altogether.

crossfit today

by paul, on 06.17.2008

today's workout was 7 rounds of 21 presses/21 back extensions. my time was 19:50, but I only did 1 set of 75lb presses before dropping down to 65lb. even then, in the ending sets I subbed dip+drive for a standard press several times. shoulders are definitely a weak spot for me.

workout today

by paul, on 06.16.2008

ran 4 miles (2 miles to crossfit brooklyn, 2 miles home) warm up: 3 sets of: 20 mountain climbers

20 squats

20 lunges

sidestep patterns (forward, back, alternating) across the floor

workout of the day was: 50 situps

50 double unders (jump rope) 50 situps

50 lunges

50 situps

50 burpees

50 situps

for time. my time was 13:41, not bad!

cooled down doing jungle gym stuff, they got a new pullup/jungle gym thing at crossfit which is really cool. wasn't nearly as tired on the run home today as I was after the deadlift 5x3 workout, it's much harder to recover from lifting heavy than it is from metabolic conditioning type stuff. I always want to die during metcons and then am ok 5 minutes afterwards, but lifting heavy really takes it out of you.

the oatmeal variations

by paul, on 06.16.2008

so I eat half a cup of steel cut oats every morning, cooked in a slow cooker my sister gave me. that's half a cup dry mind you, it's at least 2.5 cups cooked. I used to be a solid cream/maple syrup guy, but in the past year I ditched the dairy (at least in my oats) and have tried lots of different stuff as flavoring: - maple syrup

- honey

- jelly/preserves

- peanut butter

- toasted walnuts

- bananas

- dried fruit: cranberries, raisins, apricots, etc

- cinnamon

- nutmeg

- mace

- square of dark chocolate (I use lindt, 70 or 85%) - vanilla extract

some good combinations: cinnamon raisin


bananas and toasted walnuts

chocolate peanut butter

choc peanut butter sounds like a terribly unhealthy breakfast, but it's actually pretty healthy considering you only need a tablespoon of peanut butter and 1 square of chocolate to flavor a whole bowl. plus, natural peanut butter is great for you (in small quantities) and so is dark chocolate. this morning I had peanut butter and jelly and it was pretty solid, although peanut butter tends to be a real dominant flavor so it helps to dial it back some.

workout today + yesterday

by paul, on 06.13.2008

today was the crossfit workout "Michael" Three rounds for time of: Run 800 meters

50 Back Extensions

50 Sit-ups

17:03. also did 20 pullups.

yesterday was random skill work plus bench: 155x5, 175x5, 180x5, 185x3, 185x3

15 handstand pushups, head going halfway down

20 hanging leg raises

30 situps

20 pushups

holding a plank 1:30

workout yesterday

by paul, on 06.12.2008

run: 2 miles to crossfit brooklyn gym, and 2 miles home. the run home is like a death march :).

WOD: deadlift 5x3: 135, 185, 235, 255, 255

Accessory Work: Dumbbell Overhead Walking Lunges - 2x30lb

Wheelbarrows with a partner

Dumbbell Thrusters - 2x30lb

Dumbbell Bear Crawls 2x25lb

eating sleeping waiting skipping

by paul, on 06.10.2008

today's workout warmup: 10 pullups

20 dips

20 pushups

20 back extensions 20 squats

main workout was the crossfit workout "annie", it's jump rope double unders (which are a lot harder than singles), and situps. 1 set is both exercises, 5 sets with reps: 50 - 40 - 30 - 20 - 10

for time, my time was 18:43. I definitely suck at double unders, they'd be easier with a lighter rope but whatever. the main thing I noticed is that it's really more about wrist drive than jumping high when doing a double under, although I def have to jump higher than for a single. they really are tremendously harder than singles, I can easily do 500 singles and not even be out of breath and was panting after 50 double unders.

goldberg variations: no 4

by paul, on 06.09.2008

just finished transcribing the first 8 bars, missed some of the inner voices/lines but mostly have the melody/harmony down. the piece is in G, but bach manages to get us fully into D major in just 6 bars, so that the C natural in bar 7 sounds like a blue note on the tonic instead of the V chord. he does this by putting a C# on a very strong beat (beat 2 of bar 5), which is pretty jarring at first but gets the ear immediately into the new key. another C# in the bass on beat 2 of the 6th bar (an inversion of A7) really solidifies the modulation.

after writing this I'm pretty interested to read a "real" harmonic analysis and see if they hear the C natural the same way I do. workout: was feeling pretty beat down in the gym today, some random skill work (L-sits, push jerk, olympic lift warmup), plus standard crossfit warmup: 30 pushups, 30 pullups, 30 squats, 30 back raises, 30 planche holds (not sure of the name of this, it's where you hold yourself in a pushup position with your forearms, it's hard as hell). I suck at lifting my legs to the L position, need to work a lot on this.

music stuff

by paul, on 06.08.2008

since my workout logs are going so well, might as well keep a record of music stuff. I realize that this will be beyond boring to everyone who is not me, apologies. I recently re-ordered "the listening book", one of my favorite books on music. in it, he talks about improvising practice where you improvise a piece that's 1 minute, rinse and repeat. I did some of this today, mostly on a blues, as well as working on some clarence white/tony rice bluegrass stuff ("nine pound hammer"). also, started a transcription of the 4th variation in bach's "goldberg variations". it's in a very lively 6/8, the melody is very cool, and I am incapable of sitting down with a piece of music and doing a harmonic analysis, so I figured I'd transcribe it to try and see what's happening. only 4 bars in, so we'll see if I actually finish.

workouts this weekend

by paul, on 06.08.2008

went to crossfit brooklyn yesterday and today, really nice space and great workout/instruction. I'm going to start going on a regular basis probably, it's exactly a 2 mile run each way, so that plus the workout of the day is a damn good session.

saturday: Five rounds for time of: 135 pound Squat clean, 7 reps

15 Handstand push-ups


sunday: 3 rounds for time of: 10 20lb clean 20 squats

15 wall balls w/20lb ball

20 lunges (50lbs) 9:13! felt pretty good about this time. also, did 7x1 of push jerks, my max was 145. never have done a 1RM (rep max) on anything other than bench press, felt pretty weird to be able to bail on that much weight, although I only had to bail once. bailing is when you drop whatever you're trying (and probably failing) to lift and get the hell out from under it. it's a pretty common thing to do in olympic lifting, where you are basically pulling the bar into the air, and then getting under it and catching it.

rest day friday

by paul, on 06.06.2008

I have somewhat of a tradition doing "fran" on friday when it's a rest day on "fran" as prescribed is alternating sets of 95lb thrusters and pullups, reps are 21-15-9. I did

21 thrusters @ 95lbs

21 pullups

15 thrusters @ 65lbs

15 pullups

9 thrusters @ 65lbs

9 pullups



by paul, on 06.05.2008

combined over two sessions because I forgot I had a meeting: squats 5x5 @ 135, 185, 185, 205, 185

bench 4x5 @ 135, 175, 175, 185

deadlift 3x5 @ 135, 205, 225 (new personal best on this, woohoo!) in other news, I made a lentil soup last night and used no oil, and it's good. very weird. I didn't use no oil on purpose, just sweated the vegetables dry to bring out the flavor and then added lentils straight away, and just never put any oil in. also, I made it with french green lentils from fairway as opposed to regular green lentils. they look different (green + black streaks) and hold together better than traditional green lentils. they're also more expensive, but wtf they are lentils and legumes are as close as you can get to free in the grocery store.

spring cleaning

by paul, on 06.03.2008

yesterday's wod: 10 power cleans (105lbs) 50 GHD situps

8 cleans

40 sits

6 cleans 30 sits

4 cleans

20 sits

2 cleans

10 sits

13:28. also, did "murph" with the crossfit bklyn people at prospect park on memorial day. awesome day, beautiful weather, workout was a bitch though.

run 1 mile

300 squats

200 pushups

100 pullups

run 1 mile

45:23, pretty decent time actually. fall used to be my favorite season, but I think spring might be edging it out.


by paul, on 05.28.2008

workout today: press 3-3-3-3-3-3: 75-85-95-105-95-95

yesterday, run 1mile: 6:52

2 minutes of: rowing : 530m

45lb thruster: 30

45lb cleans: 20

boxjumps: 30

pullups: 18


by paul, on 05.25.2008

just got back from awesome week in the mountains rafting, rock climbing, hiking and paintball with 5 of my best friends. I missed sarah, but other than that it doesn't get much better. jumped right back into crossfit yesterday: 800m run

25 burpees

600m run

50 burpees

400m run

50 burpees

this was very tough, 24:03. we walked around 6 miles afterwards, to sunset park for mexican and then to a bbq. today just ran 2 miles to the grocery store, other than that was a rest day. working on some bluegrass guitar again, I think I got inspired after playing andrew's flat top all week in the mountains.

workout du jour

by paul, on 05.15.2008

Complete as many rounds in 20 minutes as you can of: 5 Pull-ups 10 Push-ups 15 Squats

I did 13 rounds. the first crossfit workout I attempted several months ago was this, I did around 10 rounds if memory serves, but that was with assisted pullups and non-full range of motion squats/pushups. so I'm pretty happy with this, big improvement!

rhymes like weights

by paul, on 05.14.2008

oh my lord this is a busy week. pretty basic starting strength workout, kept it light on squats because knee felt at bit weird, and taking awesome mountain vacation next week so didn't want to risk injury. also, I need a form checkup on my deadlifts to make sure I'm not rounding my back at the end of the lift (setting the bar on the ground) squats: 1x5@135lbs, 4x5@185lbs

standing press: 1x5@65, 1x5@85, 3x3@95

deadlift: 1x5@135, 1x5@185, 1x5@205, 1x5@225, 1x5@235

rainy days and mondays

by paul, on 05.12.2008

had an awesome weekend camping in the mountains, will probably post about it. in the meantime: warmup: 30 back extensions, 20 squats, 20 pushups

workout of the day: "fran" 21-15-9 reps of: - 65lb thrusters

- kipping pullups

time: 7:04. woohoo! this is a lot better than the 10 minute time I posted on my first attempt of this workout two months ago. a big part of this is learning how to do a kipping pullup, no way I could post this kind of time doing dead-hang pullups although they are much improved.

cooldown: rowed 2k, 9 minutes or so.


by paul, on 05.08.2008

camping this weekend, very excited! hopefully it won't rain the whole time as forecasted :(. just read about parkour/free running, looks like a very cool city activity.

did crossfit workout of the day slightly scaled down. 21-15-9 reps (3 sets) of: handstand pushups (I did mostly partials) deadlifts @ 185lbs


by paul, on 05.06.2008

this week I made dal with red lentils and rhubarb, along with standard spices (turmeric, cloves, cardamom, pepper). turned out really well! the rhubarb kind of disintegrates into the dal, leaving a nice aroma/ other news, I never really noticed before, but greenmarkets are horrendously expensive in comparison to fairway. mesclun greens are 12.99/lb at the park slope greenmarket, as compared to 5.99/lb at fairway. I am happy to pay a premium for locally grown stuff, but it's not always clear to me that everything at the greenmarket is in fact locally grown.

workout today:Complete as many rounds in twenty minutes as you can of: 65 Pound Thruster, 10 reps

10 Pull-ups

ugh, I lost count of rounds due to various gym snafus (some random guy needs to use power rack, etc). between 8 and 10 sets, however I had to switch to assisted pullups 3 rounds in. super sore right now, glad tomorrow is a legit rest day.

pulling time

by paul, on 05.05.2008

squats: 5x135, 5x155, 5x185, 5x185

deadlifts: 5x135, 5x185x3

crossfit warmup: 30 reps of: pullups, pushups, back extensions, situps

tabata rowing 


by paul, on 05.04.2008

50 burpees, 3:20. thought it was going to be an easy day but was almost dead by the end.

bklyn half marathon

by paul, on 05.03.2008

sarah and I ran the bklyn half today, 13.1 miles from coney island to prospect park. we ran a 9:43 pace, which was better than our expected 10:00 pace! weather was overcast, cool and humid. end of the course was hilly but the first 9 miles were up and down the coney island boardwalk and then straight up ocean pkway, very flat and even. about 10k people ran the race, a lot more crowded than we expected but it was a really nice race overall. yesterday's workout was bench, 1x5 @ 135lbs, 4x5 @ 165lbs, hang cleans 2x5 @ 45lbs, 2x5 @ 65lbs, 2-5 @ 85lbs, 30 pullups/situps/back extensions. kept it light because of the race today and still getting the hang of proper clean technique. 

apples and deadlifts

by paul, on 04.30.2008

wow, I just had an excellent winesap apple. maybe the best apple I've ever eaten.

short and sweet workout, 5x5 deadlifts: 135, 185, 205, 205

standing press 4x5: 45, 65, 95, 95

workout today

by paul, on 04.29.2008

brooklyn half marathon is this weekend, hopefully it'll be nice!

today I'm doing the crossfit workout "jackie": 1) row 1k

2) 50 thrusters @ 45lbs

3) 30 pullups

for time. this is going to suck, I hate pullups although they're much easier when done kipping, which is a weird sounding gymnastics term that basically means you tuck your legs forward and then open your hips quickly which drives you upwards and takes some of the load off your arms. most crossfitters do pullups this way as you're distributing the same work over more muscles than you are with dead hang pullups.

update: time was 9:05, subbed running for rowing as both rowing machines were taken

workout today

by paul, on 04.28.2008

thinking of starting to log my workouts on here. on the one hand, there is probably nothing less interesting than hearing about other people's workouts. on the other hand, all my other attempts to keep any kind of log have failed. maybe this will work. 
warm up: 25 pullups, 30 back extensions, 30 situps.

5 rounds for time of:
1) 30 box jumps, 25" box

2) 30 wall balls, 14lb ball

3) 400m rowing

time was 18:40. 

dry heat

by paul, on 04.24.2008

last night I cooked 2 eggplants in a hot, dry, cast iron skillet, and cooked leeks in a hot, dry saute pan. by dry I mean no oil. I've never cooked a vegetable this way in my life, and after cooking for most of my life I was pretty sure in the back of my mind that this was a cruel joke mark bittman put in his otherwise excellent cookbook. to my amazement, both recipes worked out fine.

dry pan eggplant: - put a small eggplant in a very hot cast iron skillet

- turn it, but otherwise leave it alone until it's very squishy

- slit the skin, let it cool, and puree with roasted garlic and olive oil.

awesome sandwich spread, thickener for soup, etc!

wow, ska was weird

by paul, on 03.20.2008

my friend craig just sent me a link to this video from when I was playing guitar for regatta 69, circa 1996. this was actually shot in some part of brooklyn (don't remember where) while we were on tour. it was obviously a fairly low budget affair and my guitar wasn't even plugged in.

kind of a blast from the past, I am surprised this even made it onto youtube, as far as I know it was only on a moon records videotape compilation and maybe once on super ultra latenight mtv (120 minutes)? anyways, I still have the guitar and the shirt I am wearing!

crossfit class + general physical training thoughts

by paul, on 03.20.2008

so I signed up for the crossfit nyc elements class, which is like an introduction to crossfit. basically, the workouts focus on variety, intensity and speed. almost everything is done for time, meaning the workouts are usually something like "do as many sets as you can of these exercises in 20 minutes", or "do 5 sets of these exercises and record the time". the idea being that the more fit you become, the better your time will be, etc.

we went over a basic warmup routine which is a samson stretch, 10 pullups, 10 pushups, 10 situps, 10 squats (bodyweight), 10 back raises per round. we did 3 rounds for time at the end of the workout, everything was doable for me although I lost a lot of steam on the pullups on the 3rd round which I guess is normal.

on a related fitness note, I also picked up mark rippetoe's book "starting strength". it's a howto guide for how to do basic barbell lifts. it's a pretty crazy book, in that he really only talks about 5 exercises in the whole book. squat, bench press, deadlift, clean, and standing press. his basic workout program is also super simple, there are two workouts: workout 1 is squat, bench and deadlift. workout 2 is squat, clean, and press. you alternate workouts and don't train on consecutive days. that's it. I got the book because I've been in a serious lifting rut for the past 10 years or so and I wanted to learn basic exercises the correct way.

although I've been really busy with boxing training and that alone is a great workout, as much as I love it I've gotten a little nervous about hurting my hands training and the long term sustainability of it. I think it will be fine if I am careful, but I probably don't need to be pounding on a heavy bag 4 days a week either. I guess I view learning some weight training and starting crossfit as a way to get in some great workouts on non-boxing days that will be a little more sustainable as I get older.

all this plus half marathon training means I'm spending a ton of time in the gym and doing physical stuff. I figure I am just on a health kick right now and should go with it until I decide to cut back and focus on something else for a while. I go through learning spurts like this with lots of things and I think it's generally a good idea to just follow whatever I'm currently interested in.

unplugged experiment

by paul, on 03.03.2008

this is going to sound incredibly ocd, but that's mostly how I roll.

like most musicians with a day job, my typical after work routine involves practicing guitar, playing/writing music, etc. since I use my computer as a music player, and have a lot of cool software for composing, etc, I tend to sit in front of the computer when I practice. unfortunately this also leads to me compulsively and needlessly checking rss feeds and email every few minutes, and basically wasting time checking on random things that pop into my head: should I order new boxing gloves? what's the weather going to be like tomorrow? how late is fairway open? not exactly pressing, need to know information.

I've tried a number of things to remedy this in the past: deleting browser shortcut from dock, turning off network connection, and good old fashioned resolve. unfortunately none of this has contributed to less browsing the interwebs.

so last week I just turned my computer off. I turn it on when I need it for something (like transcribing or whatever), and then turn it off when I don't. if I need to do something on the internet, I sit down, fire up the machine and do it as opposed to interspersing it with practice time. this has really helped my focus a lot, and probably also helps reduce energy consumption. do I really need to have a computer, 2 external hard drives and a external sound card sleeping 24/7 when I use it less than an hour a day?

berkshire 2007 letter

by paul, on 03.02.2008

does warren actually write the berkshire letter himself? in any case it's very well written as always, and has a ton of great info. It's the best one I've read in a while, certainly better than the GEICO commercials we've been getting over the past few years.


by paul, on 02.20.2008

been messing around a little with some of the <a href="">crossfit</a> exercises. basically they're timed workouts composed of a very large range of crossfit exercises (examples are posted on the site). apparently these workouts are kind of limitlessly hard in the sense that you can always improve in some aspect, since most of them are timed.

also, the workouts are weirdly named after women, not sure why. I tried "cyndi" which is 5 pullups, 10 pushups and 15 bodyweight squats, do as many sets as you can for 20 minutes. I only managed 13 sets and was very, very tired at the end of the workout. bodyweight squats are deceptively difficult, I was pretty sore the next day.

they have ramp up classes in nyc that teach you all the exercises and help you get started (it incorporates things like gymnastic rings and kettlebells), so that might be interesting to take at some point post half marathon training.

running again

by paul, on 02.05.2008

sarah and I just started training for the brooklyn half marathon, on april 26th. I am really looking forward to doing this, as I've lost 15 pounds since I ran the marathon and am a much faster runner as a result. also I've been boxing a lot and it can be hard to put in miles when doing a lot of other training, so this should be a good motivator to pound the pavement. balmy days in february don't hurt either.

gig 02.04

by paul, on 02.01.2008

I am playing with the incomparable elizabeth! this coming monday, february 4th at banjo jim's from 7pm-8pm. elizabeth will probably be singing, pianoing, and tromboninatin', I will be guitaring, and there will be drums. oh yes, there will be drums.

well then

by paul, on 01.28.2008

long time, no blog. what can I say, it's been a busy month. a few random things to note: - for roasting anything, lining a pan parchment paper is infinitely superior than using aluminum foil. I discovered this on saturday when I was roasting winter vegetables, which always stick to the foil despite assiduous application of oil.

- there is no combination of food more perfect than coffee and pie.

- I saw "there will be blood" this weekend based on the "if daniel day lewis is in it it's going to be great" heuristic and it worked out great.  highly recommended, and it reminded me a bit of "no country for old men". "diving bell and the butterfly" is coming to our local theater soon so that's next on the list. pretty good year for movies thus far.

happy new year

by paul, on 01.07.2008

long time, no post. got a bunch of cool books for xmas, hung out with family/friends and generally had a nice holiday after a less than stellar december. the other day at my boxing gym there was a grudge match between two dudes who got into an argument at work! I guess they decided to take it to the ring as they rented out a ring and went 4 rounds and looked super pissed at each other! bruce, the gym owner hooked them up with trophies at the end and that seemed to cool everyone out. on an unrelated note, come be my interwebs friend on goodreads!


by paul, on 12.19.2007

In boxing, the punches that hurt the worst are the ones that come out of nowhere. a week ago monday our good friend rich markwart passed away unexpectedly. rich was a great, very smart person. he was from indiana, and went to CMU for computer science, and was the most talented programmer we knew. he had close friends back in indiana that he stayed close with his whole life. he had a house in indiana that he visited two weeks out of the month, and he had an apartment in new york. he loved both places and didn't want to choose between them. 

Rich loved nyc and was always up for some exploring on the weekends. My fondest memory of rich is a day we spent exploring city island in the bronx, and drinking pina coladas and eating french fries on the pier. rich had the worst diet of anyone I've ever met :).

I never saw rich either get upset about anything, or say a bad word about anyone. he was a kind, giving, easygoing person who enjoyed his life very much, and was always happy to see us and hang out. another great memory I have is when my friend brett came to visit us when we first moved to nyc, we went out for indian food with rich. Brett is the kind of person that you have to warm up to, but after a 20 minute meal, brett pulled me aside and told me he liked rich a lot, and that he was a really good person. this is not a normal thing for brett to say, so you know rich had to be a special person for him to say something like that so soon after meeting him.

 although rich is gone from our life, both sarah and I feel lucky to have known someone as great as him for as long as we did. it is small comfort, but things could be much worse than they are now. we could have never met him at all.

merry christmas!

by paul, on 12.09.2007

us!I am a pretty big sucker for christmas traditions, and general holiday stuff like making your own eggnog, which we did this evening. it still has to age for a few weeks in the refrigerator, but we tried a bit and it was pretty good already.A few years back, I recorded a bunch of christmas tunes as a gift to my family. I figured I'd post them here, since it's that time of year and all that. The trio tracks feature dan schlessinger on tenor sax, and the amazing ameen saleem on bass.

Hope you enjoy!

more solo guitar

by paul, on 12.02.2007

here is me playing john coltrane's beautiful ballad "central park west" which I think of every time it snows, as it did today. it's got a melancholy character to it which I tried to preserve.


by paul, on 11.30.2007

birthdays are good. I'm going to go drink some bourbon and have some good indian food with sarah!

javascript tip

by paul, on 11.29.2007

you can gzip javascript files, and firefox and IE know how to handle them. with all the huge .js libraries everyone uses these days, this is a great thing if page weight is a concern. note that I picked this up from steve souder's awesome web performance tuner,yslow.

solo guitar

by paul, on 11.28.2007

here is me playing "my one and only love" solo. I am really trying to get better at playing solo, as you are really exposed and I feel it helps with conception. a lot of times, with a group, having a concept for playing a tune can come naturally from the situation, but when playing solo I feel like it's a more conscious process. this could just be my lack of experience playing solo however.

string quartets

by paul, on 11.18.2007

I recently recorded a new string quartet, written for my friend andrew and his wife morgan, and rerecorded two older string quartets I wrote for our wedding. I am thinking of starting a side business in which I write custom music for people's weddings. not sure how much work I'll get, but I love writing music and it might be really fun. anyways:

peter bernstein's solo on "billie's bounce"

by paul, on 11.05.2007

here is a transcription I did of peter bernstein's solo on "billie's bounce", from the melvin rhyne trio cd mel's spell. you can hear pete playing it here, but if you like the music please pick up a copy, it's a wonderful album on a small label that deserves your support.some interesting notes on the solo: 

  • pete frequently uses a minor chord a half step above to resolve into the next chord, check out the F# melodic minor into Bb7 in bar 16-17, followed by a Bbm back to the F7
  • in the 3rd chorus, pete plays a Abm-Db7 going into Gm7 instead of the usual Am7-D7
  • bar 48 is another classic half step resolution from F# to F
  • he leads into the last 4 bars of the chorus with some kind of C augmented sound a lot.
  • the last chorus has some really nice lines, bar 82-83 is a classic pete line where he starts things off straightforwardly and then really takes it somewhere interesting.

anyways, I'm sure there are a few mistakes, so if anyone finds any feel free to drop a note in the comments. enjoy!

interesting quote

by paul, on 11.05.2007

from lance armstrong on weight (he lost 7 pounds between marathons): "Just like in cycling, your body weight is a huge factor," Armstrong said. "It's no accident that the best in the world weigh 120 pounds." even though I've recently experienced the same thing, losing 15 pounds and seeing my running speed and distance I was able to cover skyrocket, I didn't really put 2 and 2 together and realize they were so closely correlated. it makes a lot of sense now though.

very short introductions

by paul, on 11.01.2007

I just noticed the "very short introduction" series of books bythis company (pdf summary). even though I have a shelf full of books to read and just embarked on an 700 page biography of muhammad ali, the consumerist in me wants to buy the full set of these right now as I LOVE stuff like this.

however, the new yorker that lives in a small apt with limited shelf space in me is probably going to prevail. also, I would rarely if ever read stuff like this more than once, so buying them wouldn't have much value. maybe they have a subscription program or ebook or something...


by paul, on 11.01.2007

I jailbroke my iphone earlier this week, the tiff/safari exploit just made it too easy. since all you do is visit a web page, I figure nothing too bad can happen from a "steve jobs bricking my phone in the next release" perspective. it's their security hole after all.

anyways, the infrastructure the folks at apptapp have set up for package management is amazing. it's very high quality software, and the 3rd party programs you can dl (I have an ssh client, nes emulator, and a theme management thing) all seem to work well. the nes emulator is particularly nice, it's pretty cool to play super mario brothers on the train.

this weekend

by paul, on 10.28.2007

saw wes anderson's new flick, "the darjeeling ltd". I liked it better than steve zissou and less than the royal tenenbaums and rushmore. the great thing about watching wes anderson movies in the theatre is everyone laughs in different places.

also went to a gamelan concert this afternoon which was really cool, and recommended by steven smith on his excellent blog. it was a really great show, you really get the sense that everyone is playing a single instrument rather than individual instruments in unison.

last week when we picked up milo we had breakfast at this place in frenchtown, pa. they have these cream cheese eggs that sarah loves, and great granola pancakes. I tried making my own this weekend (just added granola into the batter of regular pancakes) and they came out so good I made them both days this weekend. add raisins if you are feeling extra saucy and have some extra raisins (I was and I did).

milo on youtube!

by paul, on 10.23.2007

milo plays fetch! things are going great so far, it is a lot of fun having a puppy around. we expected him to cry all night for the first couple of nights, but he has been pretty quiet.


by paul, on 10.14.2007

this is a picture of me and milo, our new puppy. we went to visit him this week, and he is coming to live with us next saturday! milo is a king charles cavalier spaniel, sarah's favorite kind of dog. he's named after the boy from "The Phantom Tollbooth" by Norton Juster.

current listening/reading

by paul, on 10.12.2007

I am listening to the fabulous 1960 recording of the miles davis quintet live in copenhagen. this is the famous 50's quintet with coltrane, wynton kelly, paul chambers and philly joe. most of this quintet recorded the most famous jazz album ever, "kind of blue", and the playing (and recording quality) is fantastic. all the tunes are quintet staples, with "so what" being taken way uptempo. it's very cool to hear wynton kelly playing on this, since bill evans was the pianist on the studio version. kelly's harmonies are less expansive than evans, but man does he swing his ass off the whole time.

today I picked up A.J Liebling's "The Sweet Science" from the library. it's a collection of essays about boxing, sports illustrated called it one of the all time great sports books, so I am really looking forward to it. of course, since I posted my last books entry my reading time has been cut way down by my very short commute, so I haven't finished "mr. norrell and jonathan strange" yet, although I am really enjoying it.

listening to yourself

by paul, on 10.10.2007

I got a new zoom h2 mp3/wav recorder, so this past weekend I recorded all my practice sessions, and I've been recording all my gigs for several weeks now. a few interesting things to note: - I get a lot more value out of listening to gigs that I feel went poorly than ones that went well. In general, when things are sounding good I am aware of what's going on and that we are all swinging together, etc. when things are going poorly, it's often hard to nail down what exactly is going on at the time, and listening back later is often very helpful.

- It is amazing to me the difference warmup can make. in one practice session, I was kind of sounding rhythmically weird for the first few minutes, then I spent 20 minutes playing along with a jim hall record and I sounded immediately better, and played better for the rest of my session!

- one non-obvious benefit of recording my practice sessions is I tend to stay much more focused for longer periods. often I have kind of a short attention span when practicing and stop to make a cup of coffee, check email, etc. I don't really do this when I am recording because I listen to the recordings as background music at work and don't want to have to listen to me making coffee for 15 minutes. I also don't want the recordings to be too long, so I typically practice in 30 minute increments then take a break to get water/coffee/whatever.

the sweet science

by paul, on 10.09.2007

the walk from my place in the heights to gleason's gym in DUMBO is about ten minutes long if you walk fast. in that ten minutes, you will walk down a street straight out of every movie ever set in new york, a great pizza place, a check cashing shop, and a starbucks coffee. once you are at the bottom of a hill between the two bridges, you will look around at the stores selling fancy furniture to fabulous people, the yoga studio on the corner and the people walking to and from the park. at this point, you are strongly suspecting you have made a wrong turn as this seems an unlikely location for one of the oldest and most famous boxing gyms in the world. if you remember to look up, you'll see a sign in the windows upstairs for gleason's.

having never been to a real boxing gym before, I wasn't sure what to expect. gleason's is an old school gym in every way imaginable: no air conditioning, almost no place to sit, hand cranked speed bag platforms and two way balls held down with dumbbells. most of the time, everyone is doing something, and you are probably in the way. it took me until my second lesson to realize something very important about training; all exercises are done by the round, which is demarcated by a stoplight and a bell with three different sounds. the first bell (green) signified the start of a three minute round, the second bell (yellow) tells us there are 30 seconds left in the round, and the third signifies the end of the round and the start of the break, which will last a minute.

almost everyone in the gym is moving in concert with the bells, and almost everyone does whatever they're doing a little harder at the 30 second bell. finishing a round strong is important. my typical routine is something like: - 4 rounds of jump rope

- 4 rounds of heavy bag

- 4 rounds of technique with my trainer, roosevelt.

- 3 rounds of speed bag

weights, situps and pushups at the end. this weekend I trained on saturday and sunday, about 2 hours each day, and haven't been this sore in a while.

bye bye blackbird.

by paul, on 09.19.2007

here's an mp3 of wataru uchida, scott schaeffer and myself playing "bye bye blackbird" at the end of our gig at room 18 this tuesday. recorded with my new zoom H2 recorder, which records wavs or mp3s. we are playing at room 18 every tuesday from 9pm-12, so swing on by if you're in the neighborhood!


by paul, on 09.19.2007

I just found out the patent I got is no longer pending. although the idea is nothing groundbreaking, it's pretty cool to have it on the books.

running in brooklyn

by paul, on 09.18.2007

having lived in brooklyn for 7 years and trained for 2 marathons here, you would think I would have figured out the optimal time to run around outdoors in brooklyn. until 6 months ago, I used to go right after I got home from work (6:30-7ish), which is right when everyone and their mother is walking the dog, jogging, watching the sunset, driving somewhere, etc. a great time of day for sure, especially if you are lucky enough to be watching the sunset from the promenade, but not the best time for running unless you like running into people and almost getting hit by cars.

many runners swear by the morning, which I agree is a great time to run if you are not a fundamentally morning challenged person, as I am.

I submit that the best time to run around brooklyn is past 11pm. there is a whole different sort of quiet after 10 or so, when most of the shops are closed and most people are making their way towards the bed. I am putting in more miles in this calm, cool early autumn weather than I ever have before, and it's almost purely out of enjoying the surroundings instead of worrying about all the things you have to worry about when you are running on the street in the city.

greenmarket dinner

by paul, on 09.11.2007

so sarah cox's very cool food blog, a saturday trip to the greenmarket, and the passing of another monday inspired me to make and write about a nice dinner yesterday. the raw goods, from the borough hall green market: heirloom tomato and arugula salad, dressed with blood orange/avocado oil and sea salt: a thai red vegetable curry with basmati rice. vegetables involved are chocolate bell peppers, zucchini, onion, eggplant, and garlic. sauteed in a little oil, briefly simmered with coconut milk and thai red curry paste, finished with black sea salt. this was good, but could have used a few chilis!

berry cakes topped with greek yogurt. the cakes were kind of dry, but the berries and greek yogurt was very good:

pete bernstein solo

by paul, on 09.10.2007

here's a transcription I just did of pete bernstein's solo on "who can I turn to?" from his criss cross record "earth tones". you can also listen here, but if you don't have the cd you should pick it up, it's awesome.

pete double times a fair amount in this solo, which is not something he often does. also, pete rarely uses his left hand pinky and moves along the fretboard vertically for a lot of his lines. the A diminished walk up and the A augmented licks are both classic pete.

things I miss about osx

by paul, on 09.10.2007

I used to use osx at my day job, but at my new job most everyone drinks the MS kool aid. I try to keep an open mind and figured it wouldn't be that big of a deal, windows isn't so bad and everyone uses it, etc. now, after spending a month on the dark side, a few thoughts: 1) I really miss expose. I used it constantly, it is by far the best screen switching tool I have ever used. I still hit F9 on my keyboard, and cry a little inside when nothing happens. if anyone out there can recommend a similar utility for windows I will love you forever.

2) outlook is infinitely better than I used to think was pretty nice, and it's fine for personal use, but oh man does outlook destroy it in terms of everything else.

3) I really miss terminal. I have a love/hate relationship with terminal due to its lack of tabs, but having a unix prompt easily accessible is great and I miss having a unix based operating system. cygwin sucks, dos is horrible and there are no symlinks.

all in all, windows has made some improvements since I last used it, but I'm still an osx fan at heart and windows just feels like a junky OS to me. it's clunky, fonts look weird, DOS scares the hell out of me, and I have to download precompiled binaries of open source stuff.

summer in nyc

by paul, on 09.08.2007

all of these taken this summer


by paul, on 09.05.2007

mountains! we just got back from a mostly awesome weekend of camping, hiking and whitewater rafting in the adirondacks. I say mostly awesome because we got off to a pretty rough start rafting, the put-in was right at the beginning of a long rapid and sarah and I both got thrown out of the boat pretty quickly. the rapid was about a quarter mile long and I was in the water, but was hanging on to the kayak in front of me. this was somewhat unfortunate because I couldn't see anything in front of me, which is a big problem since rapids are rapids because of a lot of large rocks. I took some pretty good hits on my legs and smashed my back against a rock, I now have a large bruise to show for it. the rest of the day was fun once we got some practice in calmer waters.

the rest of the time was spent hiking, cooking good food and drinking beer by the fire. it was cold enough to enjoy the fire and see our breath but not freezing. the stars were some of the best I have ever seen on the east coast, weather was just perfect the entire time. cool in the shade, warm in the sun. the picture is from a hike we did up crane mountain. it was a very good hike, about 1.4 miles straight up and then 3 or 4 miles the long way down. we went with our friends nick and beth and everyone had a great time, really a perfect end to summer.

finally getting a dog!!!

by paul, on 08.28.2007

we talked bill the breeder last night and one of his cavaliers just had new puppies! we're going to visit them in a few weeks, very excited. this is a pic from last time we visited: dogs


by paul, on 08.27.2007

I've been working on a bunch of bluegrass tunes recently, this is my best imitation of tony rice. the tune is "temperance reel" from his self titled record on rounder. unsurprisingly, he plays it faster than I do.


by paul, on 08.25.2007

I've been listening a lot to this horace silver album, which is really interesting because most of it is a trio date with mr. silver on piano, art blakey on drums and 3 different bassists: gene ramey, curly russell and percy heath. each bassist plays on 4 different tunes, and it's a great way to hear the subtleties of each player in the same context (i.e. piano and drums) and how they change the feel/sound of the group.

I've been listening a lot more intently to bassists, drummers and the way they interact ever since I started reading do the math, ethan iverson's excellent blog. he's had excellent interviews with ron carter and stanley crouch where they talk about the finer points of rhythm sections, and also had a great feature piece where he got a lot of modern players to talk about their favorite bass records.

gigs this week.

by paul, on 08.21.2007

I am playing tonight (and every tuesday night) at room 18, 18 spring st in nyc with wataru uchida. 9-12pm.

This saturday, 8/25, I'm playing as part of Rob Perle's trio at Greenwich Village Bistro at 13 carmine st, also from 9-12.

wedding music

by paul, on 08.20.2007

I was very honored to be able to compose a processional for one of my closest friends recently, and I ended up writing out my first ever solo guitar arrangement for it. I have done some solo arrangements, but never really made it official by writing it out. anyways, here's a recording and here's the sheet music. the arrangement and the tune are very straightforward and simple, probably the simplest thing I've ever written. at the actual wedding, andrew and I played it as a duo on two guitars (he usually plays upright bass). I have been meaning to write some music for bowed upright and classical guitar for several years, so maybe that will be next.

alarm clocks

by paul, on 08.20.2007

tomorrow morning I'm trying out aurora, which is allegedly going to turn my mac into an alarm clock. I'll report back on how it goes.

on hardware.

by paul, on 08.20.2007

maybe I have just gotten a little unlucky in this regard, but most of the startups I've worked for and with have had very tight hardware budgets.This has never really made sense to me as a developer, and certainly doesn't make sense to me from a management/budgeting perspective. I have no idea what the budget is like at my current gig, but here's a real world, just happened to me today example of why I am perplexed by companies not spending a lot of money on hardware in their software engineering groups.

I was doing a build of our application on an older development box everyone uses, and it was taking between 3 and 5 minutes. not long enough to work on another project simultaneously, not short enough to avoid uncomfortable waits for completion. I remember that my boss told me about another, brand new with all the latest hardware server to use that might be coming online soon, so I check and it is up and no one else is on it. on the new box my build is down to 35 seconds!

if I can save 3 minutes per build, and I do 20 per day, then that's an hour a day in saved time. for a team of 5 developers that's 25 hours/week of people not waiting around for a build to finish. this example today is 11% of my day, and a significantly larger portion of the time I actually spend writing code.

I don't really want this to turn into a rant, but if you are going to pay a guy as much money as most developers get paid to write code, I can't understand why you wouldn't include the cost of having a new machine on his desk twice a year, and all the latest hardware in the development environment. hardware just keeps getting cheaper and faster, and yet at my last job I had the same computer for 2 years, and we had to battle for hardware constantly. just yesterday I spent 2 hours with a co worker on a problem we were having because of an outdated operating system, at my previous job the number of application servers in production dropped by half once we got new machines, and saved tons of time during deployment.

stupid thing I didn't know #473

by paul, on 08.15.2007

java primitive array sizes must be initialized with an int. who knew? this little fact now joins the illustrious category of things I just learned that everyone else knows, alongside where pimentos come from and how to fold a plastic sandwich bag.

gogol bordello. oh my.

by paul, on 08.14.2007

it always takes me forever to check out new bands, so of course everyone probably knows about gogol bordello already, but holy shit do they kick ass. I'm listening to "super taranta!", and clearly need to see them live asap.

new bookshelves!

by paul, on 08.13.2007

bookshelves my parents built us these beautiful bookshelves (which sarah designed) for our apartment. we had a dividing wall between the bed and the living area, but we also had a ton of books in boxes and stacked on windowsills, so we knocked out the wall and put in these bookcases. one of the great things about them is they are 6 boxes that can be stacked in any configuration, so we'll be able to use them no matter where we live. it's really awesome having all our books out and accessible again, we both have "to be read" shelves so I'll post the contents of mine pretty soon. the stuff my dad can do with wood is just phenomonal, he can build anything. so far he has built us a hallway cabinet, desks, bookcases, a cd rack (with a very cool infinity inlay) and when I was little he built me a desk. it's a colonial desk and fit together perfectly solid before it was ever glued, as the entire thing was dovetailed together. I later found out he wanted to use only the tools they would have had available in the time period the desk was from, so he cut every single dovetail by hand. one of my earlier memories is him showing me a pile of wood and telling me it would be a desk someday, and me not believing him. boy was I wrong. thanks, dad.

new job.

by paul, on 08.06.2007

today I started my new job at <insert name of large investment bank here>. I know, it's kind of lame not to put the name of the place but I did spend all day in orientation hearing about how it's not cool to talk to the press or write stuff about the firm, so I'm sure the 3 people reading my blog (hi mom) won't mind.

the orientation was actually semi interesting, it's a big company so they have lots of programs and facilities and investment plans and benefits and all that type of stuff (highlights include a running club, a gym that costs more the higher up you are in the company, and roth 401ks). my orientation was for "experienced hires" (i.e. not recent grads), and every single person there had previously worked at a bank. I guess the hr guy wasn't kidding when he told me they rarely hired out of industry. anyways I just said I worked in the music business and the hr lady asked me in front of everyone which area. although it took every ounce of self restraint I could muster not to say that I was a fluffer on the last prince tour, I managed to mumble something about digital music and software and tried not to laugh at this awesome mental image I had of the hr lady recoiling in horror. if there's one thing I am good at it's laughing at my own jokes so keeping quiet really took a lot out of me and I had to get another cup of coffee afterwards.

the rest of orientation was fairly uneventful, after that I swung by my new office and met with my new boss and tech lead, both of whom seem pretty cool and interesting. they took me to a meeting where a bunch of economists were talking about credit spreads, which I just learned about recently so I thought that was pretty interesting, I really got the feeling I am going to be learning a lot at my new gig. there definitely seem to be a lot of really smart people that work there, and working with people smarter than you is good stuff. being married to a person that is smarter than you is even better stuff, but I'm getting off topic again which is right behind laughing at my own jokes in the short list of stuff I am good at.

gig tonight, 8.7.2007

by paul, on 08.06.2007

playing this tuesday, and now every tuesday night at room 18 from 9pm-12am in soho with wataru uchida on tenor and scott schaeffer on bass. it's a really fun hang, there is starting to be a semblance of a regular crowd and the place has a good vibe.

gig tonight, 7.31.

by paul, on 07.31.2007

so, the day after I write a post about how computers make everything easier my computer decides to develop some weird hardware problem and I've just now gotten it (kind of) fixed. I'm between jobs this week so doing a bunch of fun nyc stuff I usually don't get the chance to do, like going swimming on the floating pool docked off the brooklyn heights promenade and having breakfast at clinton st baking company (high recommended btw).

anyways, we're playing again tonight at room 18, 18 spring street. it's a trio and we play from 9-12.

writing music is easier than ever.

by paul, on 07.26.2007

well, kind of easier than ever. I mean I am after all writing this because I am putting off writing the second half of a tune because there is a Db that can't find its way back to a Bb, despite having definitely done it before.

I started writing songs down in standard notation (dots, lines, sharps and flats, that kind of thing) when I was a freshman in college. I was in a jazz band with some friends and wrote some tunes for everyone to play. coming up with the music was easy, getting it down on paper and in a format that other people could parse was another bag entirely. it doesn't really help that trumpet and clarinet read things in a different key than us guitarists, pianists and bassists, so you have to write out two copies of every tune and keep them in different folders, as well as have extra copies for people who lost their copy and so on. instead of composing for a band being the collective realization of a well written melody, writing music conjured thoughts of driving to kinko's and tracing over pencil with pen (no 2 pencils, which suck for writing music btw, don't copy well).

forunately for us, all that has changed in the past 15 years due to notation software and usable playback. instead of writing some music down, copying it at kinkos and bringing it to rehearsal hoping it sounds good, I can sit in front of a computer and write for a symphony and hear it played back instantly. 20 years ago I would never have been able to hear music written for a large ensemble without considerable cost, today I can buy an orchestral sample library for 250 bucks and hear it all. correct any mistakes, try a section a different way, whatever, it's all right there.

notation programs (basically word processors for music) are extremely powerful and can generate parts from a score automatically, transpose everything that needs transposing and apparently also generate figured bass. they can playback your score with rubato, pay attention to dynamic markings and generally turn in a credible, perfectly in tune performance. the new sibelius even comes with post it notes for ideas!

with multitrack recording software you can basically cut an album in your basement, with programs like ableton live you can take your laptop to a gig and play it. hell, half the gigs on jim black's gig page feature him on drums/laptop.

the best thing about all this is it's all available to anyone. you don't have to go to school or work in a studio or repurpose your basement, anyone can spend a couple hundred bucks on some software and start cranking out the jams.

gig tonight (7/24)

by paul, on 07.24.2007

playing a trio gig tonight at room 18 from 8-11 (maybe later). it'll be me on guitar, wataru uchida on tenor sax and scott schaffer on upright bass. I haven't played with these guys in a while so it should be really fun. hopefully this will turn into an every tuesday thing, it's a nice place with good spanish/asian/fusion food and a good atmosphere.

stuff I am reading

by paul, on 07.23.2007

I read a lot, but usually only a few books at a time. unfortunately the books I put on reserve at the library came in today, and I am already in the middle of several books, and there's that whole library thing where you have to give them their books back in 3 weeks, so I am currently reading or about to read quite a few books. in order: 1) jonathan strange and mr. norrell - first fiction book in a while, it's set in olde england and is about magicians. so far it's kind of slow going. then again, some of my favorite books were slow starters so hope springs eternal. damn it is raining hard here.

2) the intelligent investor by benjamin graham, notes by jason zweig. my friend ken lent me this, it's obviously a great book although it definitely takes a while to absorb. it doesn't really help that I don't know a lot of the terms he uses and have to look them up on wikipedia as I go. I feel like I am getting to the meat of it though, he's currently discussing ways securities can be undervalued.

3) how equal temperament ruined harmony (and why you should care). about a subject near and dear to my heart, equal temperament vs just intonation. I am super excited to read this, but then again I sing in just intonation almost every day so my opinion on topics like this should be taken with a healthy shot of skepticism.

4) rat race blues: the musical life of gigi gryce. I used to read jazz biographies voraciously in college, haven't read one in a long time. gigi gryce was a great alto player who wrote some cool tunes, played on some great sesssions and then left music entirely to be a teacher. I am fascinated by great musicians who leave music, I just don't really understand it but I guess life can throw you some weird curves.

as a sidenote, my favorite jazz autobiographies are miles davis' "miles" (written with quincy troupe) and art pepper's "straight life". pepper's book is soul crushingly sad but a great read.

thoughts on the iphone

by paul, on 07.23.2007

I've had an iphone for several weeks now, there are a lot of really great things, some less than stellar things and a few totally inane things. I always like to hear the bad stuff first, so here are my complaints: 1) the headphones suck, and having a nonstandard headphone jack is ridiculous. I had to cut my e3cs with an exacto knife to get them to work with the iphone, and the headphones that ship in the box sound terrible and fit even worse.

2) the battery randomly drains sometimes. I am convinced this is a result of wifi network activity, as the battery life in general is very good. once every few days, I will wake up to a drained battery when it was fully charged the night before.

3) notes. I use the notes feature all the time and think it's great, but I can't move notes to and from my mac. this sucks, especially if you want to copy and paste directions or other chunks of text.

as far as complaints, that's pretty much it from me. the ipod UI, which I use more than anything else, is much improved. I love the way they incorporate album art. videos are amazing and fun to watch, email is super easy, stocks and weather are great, texting is crazy easy and visually appealing, and the web browser is fine (for me at least). worth 600 bucks? I go back and forth on this, for just a phone it's definitely overkill.

if you are like me and you are a complete ipod junkie and carry your phone and ipod with you everywhere in your pockets and live in a city where you walk everywhere, then I'd say it's probably worth it, but just barely :).

this weekend

by paul, on 07.22.2007

we had a pretty damn sunny and beautiful weekend here in brooklyn, ny. on saturday sarah and I went to the greenmarket and picked up a bunch of summer squash, some starter potted herbs, and a lemon cucumber. the basil and cilantro got put in planters and sent out to the fire escape, the squash got sauteed with onions and eaten with a peanut sauce, and the lemon cucumber got talked about, examined, and eventually eaten. it looks cool but pretty much tasted like a regular cucumber.

after all this food insanity I went on a long run up to fort greene only to see elizabeth playing in a horn section on stilts in the fort greene park (!), and then over to prospect park and back home via carroll gardens. it got pretty hot late in the day and I really ran out of gas at the end, at 7 miles it was the longest run I've done in a while.

last night we went to the beer garden in astoria to hang out with friends, huge line as I guess it is pretty trendy now. today I banged out another 4 miles, played some music and took a nap. pretty awesome and perfect weekend.