Monday, June 20, 2011

Bye bye Blogspot

Today, I imported all my Blogger posts to my Wordpress account. If you ever bookmarked or subscribed or cared at all, my new blog is now at

Friday, June 3, 2011

Fun with MATLAB

There's not enough frivolity in engineering. MATLAB helps out.

%-- 6/3/2011 2:00 PM --%

>> why
The bald and not excessively bald and not excessively smart hamster obeyed a terrified and not excessively terrified hamster.
>> why
To fool the tall good and smart system manager.
>> why
The rich rich and tall and good system manager suggested it.
>> why
He wanted it that way.
>> why
The programmer suggested it.
>> why
Barney suggested it.
>> why
To please a very terrified and smart and tall engineer.
>> why
The tall system manager obeyed some engineer.
>> why
To satisfy some programmer.
>> why
Damian wanted it that way.
>> why
Can you rephrase that?
>> why
Because Damian wanted it that way.
>> why
How should I know?
>> why
Because they asked the terrified and smart and tall and tall programmer.
>> why
To fool a young tall hamster.
>> why
For the love of a bald and terrified mathematician.
>> why
It's your karma.
>> why
Some terrified and rich system manager knew it was a good idea.
>> why
Don't you have something better to do?
>> why
He suggested it.
>> why
A terrified and good and not very rich engineer helped the bald programmer.
>> why
To fool some kid.
>> why
I obeyed the tall and young system manager.
>> why
Bill insisted on it.
>> why
Some smart kid wanted it.
>> why
To please some very good bald and rich mathematician.
>> why
Loren knew it was a good idea.
>> why
A tall and good and not excessively rich and bald and very smart and good tall and tall and terrified and rich and not very terrified and smart and tall and young hamster insisted on it.
>> why
To please some tall tall system manager.
>> why
To please a hamster.
>> why
To please some rich engineer.
>> why
Some mathematician suggested it.
>> why
It should be obvious.
>> why
The good kid told me to.
>> why
To please some system manager.
>> why
You suggested it.
>> why
A good and not excessively bald young programmer told the rich hamster.
>> why
Cleve obeyed some not very young and rich hamster.
>> why
Bill asked some not very good very rich programmer.

Repeat ad infinitum.

I don't know about you, but I found this hilarious.
The help documentation for it was amusing too.

>> help why
 WHY    Provides succinct answers to almost any question.
    WHY, by itself, provides a random answer.
    WHY(N) provides the N-th answer.
    Please embellish or modify this function to suit your own tastes.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Requiescat in pace

It's been forever since my last post. February, eh? Damn... I should be posting more.

Anyway, I felt today would be a good day for a blog post. Today is the 100th anniversary of Mahler's death (interesting how people celebrate births and deaths).

Mahler's death is one to be remembered, not celebrated, honored, not cheered.

And certainly not something to be made a meme out of. Yes, I'm talking about you, Daniel and Tyler.

How should one remember Mahler?


But it's not.

Since people are also still busy (damned Northwestern quarter system), it's not advisable to listen to a whole ton of Mahler in one day, mainly because it's kinda impossible at this time (I should've written this blog post a couple days beforehand).

Here's a listening guide that I have concocted to remember Mahler's death, which, my violin teacher Aaron Krosnick would say, could've been prevented by a heart bypass surgery.

  • Symphony No. 6, "Tragic"
    • Wailing winds, ghoulish xylophone excerpts, screaming and bellowing brass, mysterious distant church bells interspersed with cowbells to create an eerie pastoral scene as if part of a flashback, strict marches flourished with fanfare and tam-tam roars, passionately sweeping strings, and of course, THE MIGHTY HAMMER (Mahlerians know what's up)
    • According to many melodramatic Mahlerians like myself, he pretty much foreshadowed his next three misfortunes with each of the three hammer blows, the third, which he excised out of superstitious fear, foretold his death.
    • Yes, this is the author's favorite Mahler symphony. Yes, he does prefer the third hammer blow. He also prefers the scherzo-andante order of the middle movements (hardcore Mahlerians know what I'm talking about)
    • Recommended: Benjamin Zander with the Philharmonia Orchestra
  • Symphony No. 9
    • Mahler believed intensely in the Curse of the Ninth (the superstitious belief that composers die after having written their ninth symphony, e.g. Beethoven). He tried to circumvent by writing Das Lied von der Erde as a kind of Symphony 8.5. Then he wrote a Ninth.
    • Mahler quoted Beethoven's "Lebewohl" (Farewell!) in this symphony. He seemed to really believe that he was going to die, and this was his farewell.
  • Symphony No. 10 (Unfinished)
    • But he persisted anyway and tried writing another symphony. Too bad he started too late and actually died before finishing it, just like Beethoven, and he thus fulfilled his own Curse of the Ninth superstition. However, did he know that he was going to die while writing this? There is a movement titled Purgatorio, a quote from Dante, but possibly also a self-reference?
  • Symphony No. 5: I. Trauermarsch
    • I can't remember if Mahler wrote more than one serious funeral march, but this is definitely his most famous one.  Mighty and somber, I don't think Mahler would've minded having this performed during his funeral
  • Symphony No. 1: III. Feierlich und gemessen, ohne zu schleppen
    • This is completely optional. Just in contrast to the actual funeral march, this is a parody of one, but a brilliant parody of a funeral march, which includes a Frère Jacques fugue + Klezmer music. It's actually pretty hilarious.
  • Symphony No. 2, "Resurrection"
    • Of course, Mahler must rise from the dead, right? Just kidding. That'd be scary. Yeah.
    • But still, this is intensely powerful music that has changed lives and moved people to tears.  I fell in love with Mahler's music after hearing a live performance of this, as it told of death and resurrection (sorry to say this, Alan, but I think it tops Strauss' Tod und Verklarung by a mile) so magnificently.
    • There's really no reason not to listen to this.
  • Symphony No. 8, "Symphony of a Thousand"
    • Mahler is alive and well! Praise the lord! If Mahler had to praise the lord, he did it with this, and it's pretty damned hard to top this. Written for enlarged orchestra, eight vocal soloists, double chorus, and children's choir, it's easy to see why it won its nickname (which Mahler doesn't like, by the way).
    • This is perhaps his most explicitly religious work, beginning with VENI! VEEENNI CREATOR SPIRITUS (Come, come creator spirit!)
That's my Mahler Deathday playlist! Give it a spin! Let me know what you think!

Monday, February 14, 2011

On Applause and Stuffy Farts

A friend (Joe E.) wrote a Facebook note about the do's and don'ts of concert-going.  One of the topics that were brought up in the comments section was applause.

Here were my thoughts on applauding between movements:

Clapping between movements was acceptable at one point. The faux elitism of classical music has made it almost a crime to do so. This is not conducive to reaching a wider audience...

Understandably, some composers do not want breaks between movements to be spoiled by applause (Mendelssohn circumvented this by providing no breaks between movements). This concern is legitimate, as ofttimes, the feel or magic of a piece can be shattered by applause.

Other times, such as in the case of Dvorak and Mahler, sometimes applause is called for and appreciated between movements. It really depends, so as a rule of thumb, don't clap between movements, but certainly don't suppress it to the point of illegitimacy.
What do you think?

The topic of expanding classical music to a wider audience has been of much concern to classical music critics and aficionados around the world.


When popular music continues to excite and move audiences around the world, why must we continue beating the same crap that people think "classical music" is into the heads of a youth that is looking for more?  The world is different. Things change. How does anything survive in a world of constant change? Adaptation. I'm not asking for a bastardization of Lady Gaga with Mozart; I'm simply asking for a new perspective and presentation of classical music.

The stereotypical current perceptions of classical music may include descriptors as stuffy, boring, old, plain, soporific, etc.

Pop music does so well because it is so easy to relate to, because it goes straight for our emotions, thoughts, feelings, etc. Intellectualism is a secondary pursuit. In a world of increasingly quicker results and communication, instant gratification, attention, distraction, etc. are the norm. Thus, fulfilling emotional needs comes first. This is completely understandable in a world where we have no time or place to have a good bawl in front of everyone. Music provides one of many avenues for venting.

If classical music is stuffy, boring, too-intellectual, etc., then classical music cannot survive.

What is the problem? What can we do to change this?


I had been a vocal proponent of change in my personal senior recital (which you can view on YouTube, lectures and all; [yes this is a shameless plug]).  We must get rid of this uptight traditionalism.

There is so much more to music than just the notes.  There are entire back-stories, explanations, interpretations, emotions, etc. that people might not grasp at first.  Sure you can provide them in the program notes, but what percentage of the audience is going to actually take interest in the program notes? Explanations must be made clear.  The concert hall should become increasingly a less stuffy atmosphere. Stuffiness is not conducive to enjoying music freely.

After my recital, many people had told me that the lectures were extremely helpful. My brother, who doesn't enjoy classical music, said he actually could understand and enjoy the music better. Have I proven my point?

Anecdotal evidence! you might shout at me. Well, there is certainly logic to this, don't you think?

Stifling and repressing anything is not conducive to doing anything freely, for that matter.

It is understandable that talking, coughing, sneezing, noise-making, whispering, etc. are frowned upon in concerts.  But, we can't stifle everything, like applauding between movements. That's just verging on draconic.

If we are to expand the horizons and ensure the continued survival of serious music, we cannot present it as an elite "I'm-better-than-you-so-nut-up-or-shut-up" holier-than-thou form of entertainment.

Classical music is truly awesome. It can be totally headbang worthy (see the second movement in Prokofiev's Scythian Suite or the last movement of Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony). It can be heart-wrenchingly beautiful (Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis).  It can be so EMO (Mahler's and Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphonies).

We're just not presenting the right things. In a world where emotions are so ready to explode, we need explosive music.  There's a reason why romanticism and modernism sprung up. We need to embrace them and show how they relate.

Mozart, Beethoven, Bach were certainly masters; they were extremely influential in the whole realm of music, but their music really is old and, unfortunately, boring, compared to newer music.

We can't keep pushing old and boring music and pass it off as representatives of classical music. No one will take it seriously.