A Symphony of Code

Several years ago, deep in the throes of writing a symphony, I imagined ways for a piece of modern orchestral music to be received by the world accompanied by something other than… well, crickets. One idea was that an audience would be more engaged if they could interact with a live performance. Wow, what if they could use their touch screens to play with visuals that represent the sounds they’re hearing?  Wait, then they could do that anywhere! This eureka led directly to our visual music creation app called ORO.

The ensuing journey to build this deceptively simple piece of software, (and to start up a company that supports said software’s growth), is filled with enough twists and turns for a book, so I’ll try to stick to the theme–the deep parallels between writing software (aka ‘code’) and writing music:

  1. Architecture–is key! If you don’t have the right elements from the beginning, you will have to start over and rebuild. Even with good fundamentals, sometimes you still have to tear up and redo. (The melody makes the tempo feel too slow now…. start over with a faster tempo. Our old Cocos2D engine doesn’t support new iOS updates… start over with Swift.)
  2. Discovery–along the way, as pieces start to coalesce and rub together, things happen. Some are  wonderful happy accidents, and some be evil dragons that devour hours, days, weeks…
  3. Alchemy–speaking of the arcane, when either code or music is written effectively, a magical result materializes that is both technically sound and aesthetically pleasing.
  4. Deadlines–both music and code will take as long as you give them. I’ve only seen either get done on time when there was a hard stop– client needs it by Tuesday at 2pm.
  5. “Demo-itis”–Many’s the sad tale of the band who recorded a practice session in their basement and then labored forever in a studio to recapture the magic in that simple demo. Same with software–sometimes the ‘improvements’ ruin that original sweet UX.

We can add to this list Collaboration/Synergy now that Light the Music has three very capable developers on staff (see Craig’s previous blog). As we race towards our first launch of the ORO Hooch app this fall, our team’s ability to divide and conquer tasks while inspiring each other in the process takes me back to the days of being a band on the road. Of course, it is no accident that our coders double as makers of music (and/or visual art, which also shares many of the above parallels). As such, they possess the imagination and flexibility required of today’s digital producers.

Our three coders work asynchronously on different parts of the code, kind of like three bandmates recording guitar, bass and drums on the same song… BUT get this–in 3 different studios across 8 time zones…. Whattt!!??  Mad props to Dylan Wreggelsworth for not only creating a solid framework but also for keeping this three-headed music coding monster happy and productive. These guys are great at making stuff, and as we applaud them, we should also send a shout out to RVA MakerFest 2015, which celebrates makers of all types. We’re psyched to be part of this amazing showing of inventors and craftspeople, and we’d love for you to come see us October 3rd at the Science Museum.

If you want to stay in touch, or to hear when the ORO app is launched, sign up here on our new new website, and please pass along this link to anyone who might be interested. An amazing amount of work has gone into this ‘symphony of code,’ and we look forward to sharing it with the world… sans crickets!

Steve, CEO and composer