Interview with our App Developers (part 2)

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

Akito Van Troyer is the subject of our second Symphony in D app interview. He has been instrumental in developing and maintaining “back-end” server side of the app, as well as for making fun ways of facilitating creative musical dialogue between the citizens of Detroit (you guys!) and Tod and the Opera of the Future team.

Us: How long have you been a student at the MIT Media Lab?

AVT: Almost 5 years. I started as Master’s student, and now I am in the third year of my PhD. 

Us: What is your involvement with music?

AVT: I used to play classical guitar, and will still try to play these days if there’s free time. I also like to DJ and create electronic music.

Us: What was your role in the creation process for the Symphony in D mobile app?

AVT: I developed the database management for all of the Detroit sounds for the project, which is basically the infrastructure to query all of the data received from sound submissions through the app. Now that this infrastructure is in place, we can query this data from any device and use it to help shape the symphony.

Before the mobile app was created, I developed a web browser version with the bare minimum functionalities that would allow for a user to create an account and submit a recorded sound of Detroit. Later on when we wanted to encourage app users to engage with each other’s submissions, I built an infrastructure for sharing and commenting on sounds in the app. 

Since Tod and our Opera of the Future team have been developing these Collaborative City Symphony projects for multiple cities, I set out to develop an infrastructure that could be used for each different city. In order to facilitate this process, I’ve been doing extensive documentation along the way so that future students and collaborators can reconstruct and build upon the work that we have done so far.

Through my work on the Symphony in D mobile app, I’ve also learned a lot about how web technology works – what cutting edge things to do or not to do.

Us: What is your favorite part of the app making process?

AVT: Being creative is the best part; I like designing things. I find making composition environments the most fun, with web apps like Constellation. Web development now supports online audio synthesis and 3D rendering, which opens up more possibilities.

Us: How do the different apps work together to enrich the Symphony in D project?

AVT: We’ve been using the Symphony in D app to collect sounds and put them into composition environments [like Constellation]. There are about 100 different sound sets so far, and we try to get ones that capture the feel and vibrancy of Detroit. Our sound bank consists of mobile app contributions, audio recorded by Tod and our Opera of the Future students during their visits to Detroit, and contributions from partners like RingSide Creative.

All of this material and how it can intertwine contributes to the creative musical dialogue Tod has opened up with the people of Detroit.

Thanks, Akito! Stay tuned for our next interview with a very special guest…

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