Sunday hangout: teaching, tea, & tech debate

Hi everyone, no notes today because… I’m lazy.

If you’d like notes, or they are helpful to you, let us know and I’ll do better next time!



Sunday hangout: starting a business, future music, & tech stuff

Alex and Rob got together again on Sunday afternoon to catch up and just talk about whatever is on their minds.

Unavoidably, the first bit is about Coronavirus news impacting all of our lives. If you’ve had enough of that, feel free to skip up to 6 minutes, because there’s an update about Josh and COVID-19.

After that bit, you can also skip ahead to about 19 minutes where we get into the meat of the discussion.

Alex is the co-founder of Beyond This Point, a non-profit experimental percussion group. Rob asks about how you actually start something like that, and more broadly how a non-profit works.

A Buddhist monk that left his friend hangin… leads to a longer discussion about movie endings that leave you hanging (often for a good reason).

Can you think of examples where the future of music is represented in film? Usually science fiction speculates on the future of technology, social norms, and even fashion, but is it impossible to create speculative/futuristic music?


Sunday hangout: let’s try to talk about something else

A few minutes in the beginning Rob shares how this pandemic is taking a toll on him, but this doesn’t need to be a downer episode!

Alex and Rob talk about remote work, the pros and cons of it, and how he is adapting to teaching music online and being creative with a virtual group of people.

Rob talks about his affinity for all kinds of technology that creates a sense of shared space, like Zoom, Echo Show with a faraway friend, and other tools.

We ponder about how else these drastic times might create a positive culture shift.

Links to specific apps and sites mentioned:



Berlin Philharmonic – Digital Concert Hall (giving free membership if signing up before March 31)

IDAGIO (has free plan)

*Note if you are using Spotify, they don’t support links. Either try a “real” podcast app, or visit our site:

Also feel free to say hello to @sorrytopic on Twitter, or maybe we can all Zoom together!


Swedish rock, Spotify, & siri shortcuts

Rob chats with a friend and old co-worker, Chris Castaneda. You can hear his whole backstory in an episode of Letters, which will be featured on Sorry to get back on topic very soon. Until then, here’s the site for the Letters episode.*

In this episode we talk about design jobs for a bit, but don’t worry, we also get into our changing music preferences, making music as a hobby, and reminiscing about the old Spotify app. 

Chris uses Alexa to help him record covers of Swedish rock, which got us talking about smart home devices, and some pro-user features of iOS like Apple Shortcuts. Rob might have been a little too honest in automating his marriage 😛 

*After talking to Spotify last week, we learned that they don’t support html links in show descriptions. You have to type out the actual URL, like this for it to be clickable on Spotify. In general, I think Spotify is trash for podcasts, but I try to make our show available on any platform. On the bright side, I think we get zero listens from that platform, so you should be good to go with Apple or Overcast or whatever you like.


Gifting, guzhengs, & pocket calculators

Well, this “Christmas” episode is already way outdated so we’ll get right to it. Enjoy!

Miss the show notes? Let us know you’re reading 🙂

Tweet or follow the show @sorrytopic, or at Rob, Josh, and Mike.

Feel free to jump into our free and open Telegram chat for updates and chit-chat about the show.


Robot music, and Todd’s jury duty for attempted murder

No robots were harmed in the making of this podcast. All music sourced for this episode was computer generated, except for a couple samples later on in the jury duty story (you can tell).

I got to catch up with Todd again while he was finishing up summer break from teaching and he told me about some cool and bizarre examples of computer generated music. He has been on jury duty for weeks, prohibited to discuss the criminal case, and now he’s finally finished!

Most music was captured from Generative FM

The first pop song ever written by artificial intelligence is pretty good, actually [Quartz]

An A.I. Wrote a Christmas Song and It’s Really, Really Creepy

Thanks for listening!

It would be cool if you give us a friendly rating on Apple Podcasts, or rate/favorite the episode in the app you’re using right now.

Wanna get in touch?

Tweet the show @sorrytopic, or at Rob @robrogan and Josh @themacinjosh.

Feel free to jump in our open Telegram chat.


Productivity tools, life online, and trumpet talk with Todd

NEW FEATURE: Chapters!

This might show up in your current podcast app (let us know), but if you don’t see chapter markers then we recommend trying out the Overcast app for our podcast. Or don’t, whatever, just an idea.

Rob has a long chat with another good old friend from Band Camp. Todd currently lives and teaches music in New York City. He also studied trumpet, so we occasionally veer into the weeds to learn some interesting (to Rob) facts about trumpets.

If that’s not your thing, don’t despair, we also hit on a few productivity apps and methods that Todd has experience with, talk about similarities between education and tech jobs, and of course get a bit philosophical along the way.

All the external audio is sourced from youtube which you can view on our website or (if I did this right), hit the links in the notes below.

How brass instruments work from TedEd [youtube]
Trumpet Concerto in E-Flat Major by Franz Joseph Haydn [youtube]
Fanfare for St. Edmundsbury by Benjamin Britten [youtube]

Follow us on twitter @SorryTopic or leave some questions and suggestions in the free and open Telegram chat group.


Alex Monroe, part 2: New Music

Rob continues his conversation with Alex and they scratch the surface of “New Music.” Let us know if you dig this kind of thing. We can do some more like this once in a while!


If you’re looking at these show notes in your podcast player like a totally normal person, we don’t blame you; that’s how it should be. There are a lot of media excerpts in these notes however, and we highly recommend that you read the rest of this on our website.

Electric Counterpoint by Steve Reich

Steve Reich’s “Electric Counterpoint” – we used it in the intro and a couple minutes later when Alex introduces minimalism.

Mallet Quartet: I. Fast by Steve Reich

“Mallet Quartet” is a quintessential example of Reich minimalism. The recording came out last year and won a Grammy.

I won’t even include a Schoenberg piece because I can assume no one wants to listen to him. Check out the wiki here if interested.

In a Landscape by John Cage

John Cage frequently experimented with structure in his works by using the I Ching to generate a “randomness.” This is an earlier work of his that is quite beautiful and tonal, but is not grounded in a common structure (whether verse, chorus, etc. or exposition, development, recap). This excerpt is not in this episode, it was in part 1.

John Cage’s 4’33”

Cage is probably most known for his piece “4 minutes 33 seconds” which is a ‘silent‘ performance.

the so-called laws of nature: part III by David Lang

This piece is so zen. It also is a great example of using found objects to make sound. The main hum you hear is a set of flowerpots being played with yarn mallets.

playing the flowerpots

Alex says: This is an example of how percussion groups have gone mainstream and become more like bands:


Alex Monroe, part 1: Buddhism

We’ve got another special edition with Rob and guest of the show, Alex Monroe! Alex is a percussionist living in Chicago, and the Executive Director of Beyond This Point – ooh fancy. They mostly talk about meditation and the philosophy of Buddhism. Coming soon, in part two there’s an interesting introduction to modern / ‘new’ music for you too.


If you’re looking at these show notes in your podcast player like a totally normal person, we don’t blame you; that’s how it should be. There are a lot of media excerpts in these notes however, and we highly recommend that you read the rest of this on our website. Go ahead and open it up in the background while you listen, we won’t mind 🙂

13:00 – Threads (mvt. 1), by Paul Lansky – Narration by Alan Watts – Performed by beyond this point and Matthew Duvall. Here’s the video:

16:30 – Alan Watts’ recorded lectures make up the soundtrack for this awesome hippy game called Everything. This is the trailer you heard:

Buddhism has transformed Alex’s worldview, even his politics! Rob feels like he had been somewhat Buddhist all along, but didn’t realize it until he read What the Buddha Taught. That Goodreads link has lots of options to buy or check out from a library.

27:20 – Music sampled in the background is from Satyagraha by Philip Glass, someone you’ll hear more about in Part 2. Listen to the full piece here

29:00 – Alex talks about the Headspace app, which is helping him meet his goal of meditating every day for a year! We also play audio from one of the videos just because it’s a cute mix between goofy and interesting. Here’s the Headspace ‘How It Works’ video:

44:00 – Rob refers to some books by Pema Chödrön. A pretty long, but great audiobook he listened to is called Noble Heart. A good, shorter read is The Places That Scare You.

If you want some free podcasts of Buddhism, meditation, Q&A sessions with beginners, and much more, check out AudioDharma. You can search for it in your podcast app to subscribe, or go to the website and browse for specific lectures.

Rob loves talking about this stuff, so if you want to hear more, figure out a way to let us know and maybe we’ll do more like this episode.

/ Side note

51:00 – Totally switching gears, Alex needed to vent about his quest to find an auto part that no one had.

We’ll be back with Alex Monroe, part 2: New Music in a couple of weeks!

Check out for photos, YouTube clips, and other great stuff.