While my code gently weeps

It’s an observation and not a solid fact, but it surely looks like a significant part of software developers, at least those in the Apple ecosystem, are also aspiring musicians. From personal experience, any Apple developer’s conference of 100 attendees can easily assemble several bands, and in fact, there is one, James Dempsey and the Breakpoints, that has a raving fan base in the community and an album in iTunes.

As to myself, despite my mom being a teacher of music theory, solfège, and classical music in general, my interest in music only started when I became a teen.

And while I don’t think that teen hormones had anything to do with it, somehow from liking rap music I went on to develop a keen interest in learning to play an electric guitar. I remember well that I was mesmerized by the guitar work in En Vogue’s “Free your mind” and on Aerosmith’s “Amazing”. Now when I think of it, I never learned to play these two.

We also had a cool music teacher in grade 8. In those classes, we watched and analyzed Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.” It so happens that David Gilmour is also such an inspiring guitar player.

David Gilmour
David Gilmour

Long story short, I convinced my dad to buy me an electric guitar when I was about 15 and taught myself to play using some books, the Internet of mid-90ies, and a little help from my friends.

Speaking of friends, with some of them we formed a progressive rock band and started to write music. The band was called “Gray Eclipse.” Yeah, marketing wasn’t our strongest point, and we were all fans of Pink Floyd.

We went on to record a couple of demos in a local studio and, after running out of funds for that, my dad sponsored some recording gear. So we continued to record at my apartment (except for the drums, of course). These recordings resulted in a demo album which we were very proud of. We ordered cover art, burned our CDs, printed the cover on an inkjet printer, had a concert in a local community center and tried to get some recording deal. One label liked half of the songs, so we started to work on more material.

Unfortunately, our 18-yo keyboard player drowned in the sea, while heroically saving a mom and her daughter from the same. We became older, and adult life took over our time. Most of the recordings from that time are on SoundCloud. To this day I’m very proud of these.

We never came back together as a band, although my old bandmate and I started to work on a new song in the last year. Hopefully, we’ll get it finished and will be able to share it within the vast and lonely expanses of the internet.

I kept my interest in playing guitar and still have fun playing and occasionally recording stuff. Some recordings are available on the same SoundCloud, including covers of some of my favorite solos.

In 2015, I also recorded two videos of geeky parody covers. First was “Cocoa Police”, based Radiohead’s “Karma Police” with lyrics that only make sense to those who followed community discussions of the transition from Objective-C to Swift.

The second is a more accessible (for non-developers) cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” “App Oddity” tells about the ups and downs of indie app development.

In my most recent video, I recorded the solo from Jethro Tull’s Aqualung, which is one of my favorite albums.

Lately, I try to write and record in a jazz-rock fusion style, and that’s my current focus of creative musical work.

I wonder if the reason that so many indie developers are also musicians or are active in other arts, such as performing or writing, is that programming, especially as an indie, also expresses one’s creativity. As Steve Jobs famously said, it’s the intersection of technology and liberal arts that drives us.

Can you play something?

I play guitars. Not professionally. And though I played in a band many years ago and we had a demo album and a small concert once, I was much worse of a player back then.

I write and play on guitars for pleasure. For me, it is both a form of meditation, a creative outlet and something that I can always challenge myself with and see improvement. It is a constant reminder that desire and practice make you better at that thing. And while other people often compliment me on my playing, I often feel like an impostor.

In my combined work & music room in the basement, I have three guitars, two electric and a classical. And some people who come to our house and see them (and the other audio equipment) friendly ask me “Can you play something?”

This question usually puts me in an uncomfortable position. I honestly don’t know what to play. Despite starting playing the guitar over 20 years ago, I don’t have a performing repertoire, and nothing comes to mind at these moments as to what I should play.

Should I try to impress with my half-baked jazz-rock fusion composition (which for me are one the heights of my achievements but most people won’t appreciate) or just play some chords to a song everyone knows. Or maybe I should play “Smoke on the Water” riff or, god forbid, “Stairway to Heaven”?

Should I have an “always-ready-to-please-anyone” repertoire?

Do you ever find yourself in a situation? If yes, how do you handle it?