As a Content Engineer for Audio/Music Applications at Apple, NEC alumnus, Ari Brown ’19, combines his passion for music composition and production with computer science to help people around the world create music.
A dual NEC/Tufts graduate, Ari received a B.M. in Music Composition from NEC and a B.S. in Computer Science from Tufts. Ari answers questions about his NEC experience, his current work, and how NEC influences his profession. He highlights how NEC encouraged him to explore different areas of music and test the boundaries of his own artistic approach.
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Why did you choose NEC?
The musical thinking at NEC is as much about meaningful process as it is about craft, making it an incredibly unique place.
I love that NEC is a forward-thinking institution. In many academic music settings, almost all emphasis is placed on more traditional approaches to music creation. At NEC I was encouraged to push the limits of the aesthetics in my own composition.
I started my path as a classical piano performance major. Throughout my time at NEC, I was able to explore the different facets of musical knowledge which resulted in graduating as a composition major.
What are some of your favorite memories from your time at NEC?
One of my favorite memories was with John Mallia, my studio instructor. On a sunny spring day, John and a few students took his mobile recording equipment to the Seaport in Boston to capture ambient sounds, like water splashing up against the wooden boardwalk, to use in our soundscapes.
Another favorite memory of mine was sitting in Paul Burdick's office at NEC and theorizing about building an agent-based environment for simulating vocal motion (essentially, a computer program that simulates a "fish tank" of voices that interact to create harmony).
What have you been up to since graduating last year?
I wanted to combine my passion for music composition/production with computer science by working on tools that help people create music. I had a successful interview with the music applications (Logic and GarageBand) team at Apple, and since then have been working as a Content Engineer. My role entails curating Apple Loops, sample packs, and virtual instruments for the users of Logic and GarageBand. I'm grateful that I get to work on a team that impacts the music creation process for so many people all over the world. GarageBand for Mac was the first tool that I used to produce music when I was growing up so it has all really come full circle.
I have also been working on two musical projects outside of work. The first is my solo artist profile named Ari Jonathan. @AriJonathan (on all platforms) focuses on R&B and hip hop and iterates on the experimental electroacoustic production style I worked on with John Mallia at NEC. The second project is with my production collective called BRUNCH CAPTAIN. We released our first EP with Grammy-nominated audio engineer, Daddy Kev (Kevin Moo), on May 8, 2020.
How have your NEC experiences shaped your artistic approach to your profession?
NEC is an institution that offers a vast amount of musical knowledge by exposure or implicit learning. My instructors guided me to perceive deeper aspects of my music at different levels of abstraction. This process is, of course, something that is never finished but is extremely rewarding to continue.
The composition program at NEC did not steer my own aesthetic, rather, it let me curate my style while helping me mature musically. The skills I learned and developed at NEC align with the skills that Apple desires for someone in my role – giving me the confidence and ability to select meaningful sound content to offer to millions of music creators.
In addition, the expertise I was exposed to at NEC in a variety of genres outside of my comfort zone were often the most thought-provoking. I never thought I would be so influenced by observing artists in musical domains other than my own – such as a guitar masterclass with Grisha Goryachev, going to an opera masterclass with Renée Fleming, or sitting in on a private BSO rehearsal with Gustavo Dudamel.