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RFC 8838: Trickle ICE


Way back in 2005 some folks at Google and other parts of the Jabber community started to define a technology for setting up voice and video calls over XMPP, which we called Jingle. Unlike similar methods used in relation to SIP, Jingle enabled endpoints to dynamically gather and exchange potential connection paths for NAT traversal within context of the Interactive Connectivity Establishment (ICE). The original name for this was "dribbling" to differentiate it from the offer/answer method defined in RFC 3264 (wherein an endpoint needs to gather all of its candidate IP addresses up front before sending the offer). Over time the IETF defined a similar method for SIP, too, which we generalized under the name Trickle ICE. This week the IETF published a document cluster containing dozens of RFCs related to WebRTC, including RFC 8838 for Trickle ICE (which I co-authored with Emil Ivov of Jitsi and Justin Uberti of Google). Enjoy!


Bach on Bass #3: Instrumental Challenges


As mentioned last time, there are instrumental challenges involved with tuning an electric bass in fifths, as I plan to do in order to learn the Bach Cello Suites. Classical double bassists often solve the problem of the low C by installing a special extension. On electric bass, you can tune the E string down to C but that results in a low-tension string on the bottom and therefore a flabby tone. You could also play a 5-string bass (for which the lowest string sounds a B), I suppose, but to me that defeats the purpose and I have a strong preference for 4-string basses. You could swap out the low E string for the same low B string that that 5-string bassists use, but then the action (distance between string and fingerboard) isn't quite right. A further challenge for me is that the Minotaur bass I currently play (made by luthier Joe Veillette of Woodstock, NY) is a short-scale bass, and I haven't found anyone who makes that low B string in a short-scale version (I prefer D'Addario tapewound strings on the Minotaur).

The most likely solution is to buy another bass for this project. The requirements are: fretless, four strings, two-octave range on the fourth string, long scale, a slightly modified nut so that I can use a tapewound low B string on the bottom instead of a low E string, and of course a natural, woody sound somewhere between a classical double bass and a rock electric bass. Thankfully, I think I've found a solution by turning again to the ever-creative Joe Veillette: a customized version of his Paris bass that can be tuned in fifths. Discussions are underway, but in the meantime I have my Minotaur tuned in fifths - even though the tone isn't quite right, it's good enough for practice purposes and I'm happy so far with my progress on a few Bach movements (primarily the Prelude to the Sixth Suite in D major).


Bach on Bass #2: Keys and Tunings


Many questions arise when considering how to climb the mountain of playing Bach's Cello Suites on electric bass. One of the key questions is the question of keys. The original keys for the six suites are G major, D minor, C major, E♭ major, C minor, and D major respectively. Other than the fourth suite, these keys lie naturally on the cello, which is tuned in fifths and whose open strings (from lowest to highest) are C-G-D-A. Thus five of the six suites can benefit from the harmonic resonance of open strings, which is especially important when playing the suites on a Baroque cello. (Those who play in a more Romantic style don't like the notes of the open strings because you can't generate the requisite vibrato.)

The bass, whether double bass or electric bass, is by contrast almost always tuned in fourths: E-A-D-G. As a result, the two suites in C and the suite in G no longer lie naturally on the instrument. Many bassists work around the problem by transposing to new keys (e.g., transposing all the suites down a fourth as Mark of has done or using some other heuristic for new keys as Paolo Rizzi did in his sheet music edition for Recordi).

But notice that phrase "almost always" in the preceding paragraph. Another approach is to tune the bass in fifths: C-G-D-A, just like the cello but one octave lower. Now you can play all the suites in their original keys and take advantage of those open strings. The biggest downside is that you have to retrain your fingers (all that muscle memory of how to navigate the fingerboard in fourths!). Jazz double bassist Red Mitchell started doing this back in the 1960s; following Mitchell's lead, classical double bassist Joel Quarrington has made a compelling case for tuning in fifths and has influenced a number of bassists to follow suit, especially in his native Canada.

I've been experimenting with fifths tuning and to my mind (and ears) it makes a lot of sense. Finger retraining is in progress! Unfortunately there are some instrumental challenges involved, which I'll cover in the next installment.


Bach on Bass #1: Wonder


Wonder is what I've long felt about Bach's Suites for Unaccompanied Cello. I'm not sure when I first heard them, but over time they have become ever more meaningful to me. I regularly listen to various recorded renditions; some of my favorites are by Stephen Isserlis (cello), Patricia McCarty (viola), Edgar Meyer (double bass), Michael Nicolella (guitar), Jean-Guihen Queyras (cello), Hopkinson Smith (lute), Janos Starker (cello), and Pieter Wispelwey (cello). So far, that is - I'm actively adding more recordings to my collection as I explore these works ever more deeply.

Naturally, you can't understand a piece of music inside and out unless you can play it. Thus twelve years ago was born my aspiration to learn the cello suites on electric bass (more realistic for me than an arrangement for guitar or than learning a new instrument such as the double bass). Until now I haven't done much in pursuit of that goal, other than learn the Sarabande of the 5th Suite. However, I'm now getting serious about it and will use this journal to recount the long process of climbing the mountain (Stephen Isserlis once described these pieces as the Himalayas of the cello repertoire). If I ever reach the summit, I might even record them someday.

Aristotle said that philosophy - the love of wisdom, the quest for insight, the reaching out for understanding - begins in wonder. This is just as true in the realm of music as it is in the world of ideas. Perhaps in extraordinary works like Bach's Cello Suites these two universes merge and become one.


Monadnock Valley Press Annual Report 2020


Apparently I got out of the habit of writing a brief "annual report" for the Monadnock Valley Press, under whose auspices I both post public-domain texts (at and publish the philosophy books I write on the side. So it's about time to remedy the oversight, since the last report was for 2016.

It turns out that 2020 was a good year for my public-domain postings. As catalogued in the publishing chronology linked below, I republished public-domain works by Lord Acton, Louisa May Alcott, Lord Byron, John Donne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Henrik Ibsen, John Stuart Mill, Michel de Montaigne, Thomas Paine, Edwin Arlington Robinson, Edmond Rostand, Arthur Schopenhauer, Philip Sidney, Sophocles, Algernon Charles Swinburne, Chidiock Tichborne, Voltaire, George Washington, and Yevgeny Zamyatin. That was much more than I expected; perhaps this activity was a pleasant distraction from all the turmoil in 2020. My publication roadmap for 2021 is not nearly so full, but perhaps I'll post more than I currently envision.

A quick look at sales reveals that I earned a whopping $375 on my books this year, which I'm sure was far offset by research and development expenses, i.e., all the scholarly books I bought in preparation for writing an epitome of Aristotle's ethics. C'est la vie.


2020 Readings


Despite pandemic lockdowns and such, I read only ~75 books this year (granted, a third of them were dense works of philosophical scholarship on Aristotle). In 2021 I hope to finish the remaining dozen or so books I need to read in preparation for writing an epitome of Aristotle's ethics; I also hope to include a more generous helping of literature, modern science, and history. Several of the following books are available online at (the site where I post books that are in the public domain); see the end of this post for links.






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