Rivers Cuomo of Weezer takes online Harvard coding courses, writes band software

There are mythical rockstar coders, and then there are …. rock stars who actually write code.

I call your attention to Techcrunch, which has a piece interviewing Rivers Cuomo of Weezer about his side hustle as a programming student. Apparently he'd long been a spreadsheet-head, and it got him curious about programming — so he started taking Harvard's online computer-science classes, and began writing software to help manage various aspects of songwriting and running Weezer.

As a side note, while writing my last book Coders (WHICH YOU CAN BUY HERE 🤖📖), I discovered a lot of programmers whose entry-point to coding was via Excel. Excel inspires — as Steven Levy noted in Harper's, way back in 1984 — a mode of thinking that is heavily programming-esque, all structured data and functions operating thereon. In terms of sheer human thought-hours, Excel has probably produced more computational thinking than all the programming languages put together.

But je digresse. From the Techcrunch piece …

"I was always a spreadsheet guy," Cuomo tells TechCrunch. "Around 2000, I think I started in Microsoft Access and then Excel. Just keeping track of all my songs and demos and ideas. Spreadsheets got more and more complicated to the point where it was like, 'Well, I'm kind of almost writing code here in these formulas, except it's super hard to use. So maybe I should actually do programming instead.' " [snip]

For Cuomo, productivity has never been much of an issue. The band has two albums completed beyond this year's Black Album, and he's already begun work on two more follow-ups. What has seemingly been a bigger issue, however, is organizing those thoughts. That's where the spreadsheets and database come in.

The "thousands" of spreadsheets became a database, cataloging Cuomo's own demos and work he was studying from other artists.

"For years it seemed like kind of a waste of time or an indulgence," he says. "I should be writing a new song or recording a song rather than just cataloging these old ideas, but I've found that, years later, I'm able to very efficiently make use of these ancient ideas because I can just tell my Python program, 'Hey, show me all the ideas I have at 126 BPM in the key of A flat that start with a third degree of the scale and the melody and are in Dorian mode and that my manager has given three stars or more to.' "

(That CC-2.0-licensed photo of Cuomo by alexlisciophotos)