June 13, 2017

Paying my dues

I’m not proficient in Jazz but I took a jazz theory class with the amazing Ryan Keberle and it has changed the way I listen to it. I particularly like John Coltrane’s music.

A thing I learned about, then, is the idea of paying one’s dues. What a commenter on this forum calls: “Having put in the requisite amount of grief to accomplish the stated goal.

A way young, inexperienced jazz musicians pay their dues is by transcribing jazz solos: listening to a solo over and over again, and writing it down, note by note.

Forrest Wernick, from Jazz Advice, says:

You should transcribe to learn jazz language, to learn jazz phrasing, to learn your instrument, to be influenced by the players you love, to learn tunes, to learn concepts that you abstract and apply. The process of transcribing, in my experience and many others, is pretty much the only way to learn these things on a deep level.

I did a bit of transcribing of simple solos and it is a really powerful thing.

So why am I thinking about transcribing jazz solos tonight?

Apprenticeship of code

I’m struggling with the last assignment of this great MOOC I’m taking offered by UPenn, as part of a robotics 6-course specialization (Aerial robotics, taught by Vijay Kumar.)

I was able to program a PD controller and my quadrotor is following the two provided trajectories: line and helix.

The third part of the assignment is to actually program a piecewise trajectory through a series of way points. The math aspect of writing a minimum snap trajectory is pretty intense but I think I got it now. The problem is coding it in Matlab.

The MOOC provides a dummy trajectory that doesn’t fulfill all the requirements but I don’t understand how it’s built: The variables don’t respect the naming conventions in the lecture, the code relies on some Matlab functions we’ve never used before, etc.

But I know how to approach this, and you guessed it: This is like transcribing a jazz solo. It’s painful, it’s time consuming, but it’s transformative.

And I’m going to put in the requisite amount of grief to accomplish my goal.