Rockstar Programmer: Rivers Cuomo finds which means in coding


"Hi, I'm Rivers from the band, Weezer, ”says Rivers Cuomo with a slight smile and a wave. He turns away from the camera a little before launching his best info brand. "Imagine you're on tour and you're sitting in your locker room or your tour bus. You're backstage. You have stage fright, you're stressed. You walk up and down. And on top of that, your tour manager keeps calling and introducing you logistical issues. "

As for internet pitch videos, it's not the most universal. If anything, the three-minute clip ends up losing any hope of populist appeal. In a final shot, the singer in a maroon SpaceX hoodie is the last to climb the ramp of a private jet. The aircraft door closes and shows a weezer flying "W" logo.

"Download Drivetimes on GitHub now," added Cuomo Voice-Over. "This is CS50X."

It's not the most polished app pitch video, and Cuomo's elevator pitch could probably be tweaked a bit before reaching out to venture capitalists for a starting round. However, this is something special about the final projects for online programming courses. The images alternate between code pages, Google Sheets, and POV footage as he takes the stage for a co-headlining tour with the Pixies.

It helped Cuomo earn a 95 in class.

While the Drivetime tour planning tool may have limited appeal in its current configuration, the musician's final project from Harvard's CS50W follow-up course is instantly apparent to an army of fans who have followed his career for over a quarter of a century. This week Cuomo released more than 2,400 demos with a total duration of more than 86 hours. From 1976 to 2015, the quality of the songs ranged from taped sketches to more elaborate dishes. Some would eventually find their way onto Weezer's 13 albums or various side projects. Others would not be so lucky.

Available from Cuomo “Mr. On the Rivers & # 39; Neighborhood website, the tracks are grouped into nine bundles, each available for $ 9 each. "By the way," Cuomo writes at the end of a disclaimer, "this market is my last project for a course in web programming."

The platinum-rated rock star has been a student of computer programming in the moonlight for half a decade.

"I've always been the spreadsheet guy," Cuomo told TechCrunch. “I think I started in Microsoft Access around 2000 and then Excel. Just keep track of all of my songs, demos, and ideas. Spreadsheets got more and more complicated, until it looked like, "Well, I'm almost writing code in these formulas here, unless it's very difficult to use." Maybe I should code instead. "

It would be an odd sideline for virtually any other successful musician. For Cuomo, however, this is the next logical step. After the massive success of Weezer's self-titled debut, he enrolled in his sophomore year at Harvard and spent a year in a dormitory. He would ultimately quit school to record the band's popular follow-up, Pinkerton, but two more enrollments in 1997 and 2004 resulted in the musician graduating with an English BA in 2006.

CS50 found Cuomo returning to Harvard – at least in spirit. The course is hosted online by the university, a free introduction to computer science.

"I took some online courses looking for something that looked nice, and that's why I saw the Harvard CS50 be very popular," says Cuomo. "So I thought," Well, I'll try. "It didn't take right away. The first week's class used Scratch. I don't know if you know, but it's like click-and-drag programming and you're making a little video game."

A six week course lasted six months for the musician. In the same year, the musician – now a father of two – played dozens of shows and recorded Weezer's 10th album, the Grammy-nominated White Album.

“When we met Python Halfway through the course, I was amazed at how powerful and intuitive it was for me, and I could just get so much done. At the end of the course, I wrote programs that really helped me manage my daily life as a traveling musician, and then my spreadsheets and my work as a creative artist. "

For Cuomo, productivity has never been a major issue. The band has completed two albums beyond this year's Black Album and he has already started working on two more follow-ups. However, what appears to have been a bigger problem is the organization of these thoughts. This is where the spreadsheets and database come in.

The "thousands" of spreadsheets became a database in which Cuomo's own demos and work studied by other artists were cataloged.

"For years it seemed like a waste of time or a treat," he says. “I should be writing a new song or recording a song instead of just cataloging these old ideas, but I've found that years later I am able to use those old ideas very efficiently because I can only tell My Python -Program: "Hey, show me any ideas I have at 126 BPM in the key of A that start with a third degree of scale and melody and are in Doric mode and that my manager has given three or more stars to . & # 39; "

He admits the process is lacking in some of the rock & # 39; n & # 39; roll romance fans of the bands could hope for. Despite drawing on the analytical side, Cuomo insists that magic is still there.

For Cuomo, productivity has never been a major issue. However, given its productivity, it can be difficult to organize all of these thoughts. This is where the spreadsheets and database come in.

"There is still a lot of room for spontaneity and inspiration in what we traditionally consider human creativity," explains Cuomo. “One of my heroes in this area is Igor Stravinsky. There is a collection of his lectures entitled "The Poetics of Music". And he had a note in that collection. He said he was not interested in a composer who uses just one of his skills, like a composer who says, "I will only write what comes to mind when I'm in a creative zone." I won't be using any of my other tools. "

“He says: 'No, I prefer to listen to the music of a composer who uses every ability available to him, his intuition, but also his intellect and his ability to analyze, categorize and use everything he has. & # 39; that these were the wildest and most unpredictable and creative compositions. "

There is no shortage of compositions. According to Cuomo, the band has completed two albums beyond this year's Black Album and he has already started work on two more follow-ups. After decades of feeling committed to the major label album's 18 month release cycle, the singer says so after the demos Project he has found a renewed interest in finding more ways to release music directly to fans.

"I don't feel like I'm really good at understanding the overall market and making the biggest impact on the world," he says. “My manager is so good at it, but I just told them, 'Hey, this feels like something here. First of all, it's really fun. The fans are very happy. It's super easy for everyone involved. "The coding part wasn't easy, but for everyone else, it's a couple of clicks and you've got all this music, and it's a cheap price, and there's no middleman. PayPal takes a bit, but it's nothing but a big label So that could be something. And there is only one thing, it feels so good when it goes straight from me to the audience. "

Computer science still takes up a large part of his time for the time being. Cuomo estimates that he spent around 70% of his working time on programming projects. On Wednesday night, he's helping with programming for a meditation page (another decades-long passion) and plans to take Harvard's CS50M follow-up course, which focuses on mobile app development.

However, there are no immediate plans to quit his job.

"I can't see myself getting a job at a startup or anything, or maintaining someone's website," he says. “But maybe the line between rock star and web developer is blurring, so that musicians are increasingly turning to technological tools. In addition to music software, we will use more and more distribution, organization and creativity tools that result from the way we code our connection to the audience. "