Interview with our App Developers (part 1)

Chantine Akiyama and Sue Liang, Undergraduate Researchers (UROPs) at the MIT Media Lab

Hey guys! This week we got to interview some of the people at the MIT Media Lab who worked on the Symphony in D mobile app that you guys have been sending your awesome sound bytes through. (Keep em’ coming, by the way!)

Part 1 of our app developer interviews features Garrett Parrish, a sophomore here at MIT studying Mechanical Engineering and a self-taught app developer (and a UROP in Tod Machover’s Opera of the Future group) here at the Lab. Keep reading to get his take on developing the iOS Symphony in D app.


Us: How did you hear about the Media Lab?

GP: I grew up 20 minutes away, and was introduced to Opera of the Future by one of the judges at the MIT science fair I participated in [and won!] in high school.

Us: What’s your involvement with music?

GP: I’ve been a drummer for four or five years. I play jazz; I like to spend most of my time improvising. I play with a professional band in Boston, various Berklee College of Music students, and other groups. I used to do musical theatre as well. I come from a family of musical theatre people; my brother’s an actor on Broadway, and my sister is a stage manager.

Us: What is your involvement with programming?

GP: I started learning iOS and programming in September 2013 for an app called Powers Live as part of a Global Interactive Simulcast for performances of Tod’s Death and the Powers opera. It was terrifying. The Symphony in D app is the third app I’ve made that has been released to the store, and is the fifth significant iOS project that I have worked on.

Us: What was your favorite part of making the app?

GP: It was cool to create something out of nothing, to build it up one piece at a time. I liked having a say in the user interface in addition to the backend design, to be able to contribute to all sides of it. The formality of the project was exciting too, since it’s an official product that has to work and there are certain criterion to meet.

Us: What was your role in the creation process, and what was it like?

GP: We had a list of features we wanted to include, like allowing people to upload or save sounds, upload a prerecorded track, view the sounds already uploaded by other people in both list and map form, and comment on other sounds.

Then we made some basic graphical mockups, in terms of how the flow would be, what the log in, log out, and onboarding processes would be. After some basic navigation and graphical mockups, we began implementation.

Us: Were there any decisions you made that are of note?

GP: We tried to make everything as simple as possible for everyone. For example, the ability to quickly save and quickly upload sounds. It was particularly difficult, as far as technical infrastructure goes, to render the clusters of sounds on the map. And we chose the colors and backdrop to make it consistent with branding for the festival and symphony and then modeled the rest of the app after that.


Thanks, Garrett!

Stay tuned for Part 2!…

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