Dream Project

My dream project is to put together the elements to create an installation on Candombe (Afro-Uruguayan music.)  I want to be more of an ethnomusicological expression and less of a museum epitaph. I want to be able to place people in the story and inspire them to research the topic themselves.

My vision includes a data sets of the rhythmic patterns of the drums that are played, as well as the body movements. On the music end of things, this can be achieved by mapping all the rhythms to their own musical notations, as well as motion capturing the dancers that participate in Carnaval. There are different characters (dancers) that portray different personalities of Colonial culture.

My goal is for PDS is do motion capturing on the dancers and to turn them into avatars. This would hopefully be the beginnings of a data set of all body movements of dancers in Latin America.

My plan is to fly to Uruguay and motion capture the dancers during Carnaval, and when I come back, start designing avatars that can be put on the skeletons of the motion captures.

Final Reflections

Reflections on the Map:

My main take away from Temporary Expert is my approach to the information I want to express.  As you might know,  my “Genealogy of Rhythmic Patterns” is my thesis idea. I originally set out to make this whole intricate data visualization of Latin American rhythmic patterns, along with their socio-economic/ migratory implications. What I quickly learned is that I was embarking on an enormous mission, trying to cram years of future work into a 3 to 5 month block of time.  Research on a more granular level is making more sense for me, although this semester was productive in terms of the classes I took, explicitly exposing myself to possible approaches to this subject matter. The classes I took were Temporary Expert, Cabinets of Wonder, Learning Machines, Ethnomusicology, and Digital Signal Theory. Save for Learning Machines, My ITP classes made me dive in to the information, as well as thinking about how this information can be presented, while Ethnomusicology and DST presented me with to distinct, almost contrasting approaches to music. Ethnomusicology taught me that there is a conversation about music beyond “musician talk.” It actually turned out to be more of a political theory class than anything else, which was refreshing, considering my academic background in Sociology. DST is a Calculus class, building sound waves with mathematical equations.

There were two processes that happened for me this semester. While Temp Ex forced me to tackle the subject matter and do my research, I was also brainstorming an interesting way of playing with the rhythmic patterns I wanted to research. The drum machine I designed and built was a great exercise in this direction. I remember having a conversation with Carlos Guedes, a professor at NYU Abu Dhabi, about my ideas during the summer, and we both agreed it would really cool to disintegrate rhythms into modular rhythmic patterns, so that is where the idea originally stemmed from. Eventually, I would like to record more patterns and create a movement data base as well, using Motion Capturing. For now, I’m going to concentrate on doing an ethnography on just one rhythm, Candombe, from Uruguay. I want to experiment with how I can best present this, going as deep as possible, instead of skimming the surface of the whole continent.








Final Idea- Genealogy of Rhythmic Patterns

My objective is to tell an ethnomusicological story using modern tools. My idea is to map out Afro-Latin rhythms to African Rhythms based on rhythmic similarities to tell the story of the Slave Trade and the roots of American culture.  I realized how ambitious this project was as soon as I started making a data base of Afro-Latin rhythms. Brazil alone has 50+. So I had to scale down.

I chose three rhythms to start working with from different regions in Latin America. Samba from Brazil, Cumbia from Colombia, and Candombe from Uruguay.

As a musician with a Sociology background, I am interested in various topics that surround the analysis of these rhythms. First is the blatantly musical side. These are three rhythms I hold dearly to my heart, three rhythms that reflect my vision of what it means to be American. Beyond the syncretism that is deeply embedded in these rhythms, I am also taking a Pan American approach to the presentation of the information as I attempt to avoid political borders.


Since I am using rhythm to tell the story, I thought to make the interface for the interaction an instrument of sorts, although it is essentially a disguised database. I wanted to make a drum machine that lets the user interact with the different rhythmic patterns while being able to dissect the rhythms themselves. Each drum has a story, both in the pattern it plays, as well as its construction. For instance, Cuban conga drums were originally made of rum barrels, modified into different sizes. Similarly, Uruguayan Candombe drums were constructed of tobacco barrels that went through the same fate. The claves for both Cuban rhythms and Candombe are also identical, employing a 3/2 approach on 4/4 beat. It is this kind of information that turns speculation into fact, when it is safe to say that Cuban and Uruguayan rhythms are cousins. They share not only a musical language, but if you dig deeper, there is religion, language, and ultimately geographical origin in common. Most slaves during the slave trade came from Angola and Congo. In this case, the word conga can be etymologically traced to the word KONGO. In Congo, the Bantu language was spoken, and thus we can create the bridge that the word Candombe is also of Bantu origin, meaning “of the black man.”

It is especially imperative, that while I take this approach in making a sort of rhythmic salad, in the face of appropriation, the engagement of the user must also be presented with historical facts about what they are listening to and the material they’re creating with. In the sampling age, where pop music has blatant musical influence from these and many other rhythms that aren’t “white,” the attempt is to give a platform to these and other exploited musical forms via information other than the audio files.

My medium for this piece will be a drum machine.

My first job in making the machine was to consider the interaction. I want the user to experience the sounds, but also to be able to experience the geographical location. I am taking an Interactive Music project a few steps further,  and making a P5.js sketch physical. The design of the piece is an abstract representation of Latin America.


P5 sketch.

The red dots are buttons that play the rhythm from each location.



I went through a few iterations on how to make it less abstract. I finally landed on this design, which is the first physical prototype of the machine.



Illustrator drawing


Foam cut on the CNC machine.




My next job was to record all three rhythms in a studio and stem out each drum so I can create 4 bar loops of each drum within the pattern. I employed three master percussionists, Martin Vejarano recorded Cumbia, Arturo Prendez recorded Candombe, and Lisette Santiago recorded Samba at G Studios, in Brooklyn.  After some BPM experimentation, we (Gary Atturio, sound engineer) and I decided to make the common BPM for all three rhythms 95 bpm.

Here is a clip of Martin recording Cumbia maracas at G Studios in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

The sounds will be running through a Max/MSP patch, connected to a Mega Arduino.

I also want to connect a screen that connects to the buttons. On the screen I want to display short descriptions and history of the instruments being played.


During this time I have also been interviewing different people in different areas of expertise.

  1. Fernando Nunez (Uruguayan percussionist)
  2. Yunior Terry Cabrera (Cuban percussionist and NYU professor, department of Musicology)
  3. David Samuels (chair, Ethnomusicology department- NYU)
  4. Diana Castro (UX/UI designer, NIME)
  5. Timothy V. Johnson (Professor, Africana Studies- NYU
  6. Jaime Rosas (Professor, Musicology, specializing in digital musical interfaces -NYU)





Prototypes/ Sketches for Rhythmic Pattern Machine

  1. This is a p5 sketch that I made last semester for Interactive Music. Each of the red dots are buttons that play each rhythm from the geographical location they’re placed in. The rhythms were all on the same BPM, so the idea was that you can play them at once and they would blend in with each other, but there were some difficulties on the technical side, and the mp3s would either start on different times or the program would eventually crash. My next mission is to break down Samba from Brasil, Cumbia from Colombia, and Candombe from Uruguay, into different tracks for each drum. The constraint would be that you can only play 3 drums simultaneously and the objective would be to make new drums sequences out of existing afro-latin patterns.

This is my first prototype for the interaction, made with construction paper. I think it falls short of intuitiveness. The triangles indicating the rhythm as well as the rhythmic patterns is a bit ambiguous. I think the shape, color, and sizing of the different components can help tremendously.

My second prototype for the interaction, also made with construction paper. My main focus is to make the interaction as clear as possible. I think it would also help to add a visual element to the drag and drop buttons indicating what the drums look like.

This is a sketch in Fusion 360, a 3d modeling program. The grey piece on the side has the dimensions of the wood I will be cutting to make the first machine. I’m testing to see what it might actually look or feel like before I cut the wood.

Genealogy of Rhythmic Patterns (Research Post-1)

Installation Idea:

This is a sketch of me explaining my spatial audio idea to a friend. The overall shape is Latin America, drawn on a floor. The X marks the user’s spot. The circles represent speakers, and they placed according to geographic locations, i.e : Colombia, Panama, Brazil, and Uruguay. The rhythms would be coming from the speakers, and every rhythm will be quantized with each other, so they will all be playing on the same BPM.




First Outline of Topics Included


Books/ References:


Other Books:

‘Independent Coordination’  by Jim Chapin

‘Participating Discrepancies’ by Charlie Kyle

‘Rhythms of the Afro-Atlantic World’ by Diouf and Nwankwo

‘From Shipmates to Soldiers: Emerging Black Identites in the Rio de la Plata’ Alex Borucki.


Websites/ References:










Treasure Trash – A song for kids

I wanted to write a playful children’s song, inspired by a Woody Guthrie vibe. I imagine Woody and Oscar the Grouch singing it together.



(Chorus) Treasure Trash, it’s everywhere. Treasure Trash, we all can share…


People throwing things on the street

We’re kicking gold with our feet

The things that we throw away

We all know they’re here to stay


Paper, Plastic, Wood, and Metal

Styrofoam.. and all these chemicals

If you’re wondering what to do with these things

Just throw it in the right bin


Don’t throw away what you just ate

In the same place you dumped the paint

treasure trash, we can use it again

but only if it’s in the right place

We can fix things that are broken, with treasure trash and some imagination

we can have a beautiful world with treasure trash.. you can build your own stash when you don’t spend money using treasure trash.


Design as Strategy and Practice – Transformations

My life as a musician has had me playing instruments for quite a while. I started with the violin at 4, then the piano at 6, the guitar at 10, and the drums at 14. And while playing these instruments, relationships are formed with them. For most of my life I’ve been obsessed with guitars. There was always this gravitational pull towards them. It wasn’t just the sounds they made, or who played them. I was also obsessed with their aesthetic. Their colors. Their shapes. Their compact size, despite how powerful they are.

My favorite guitar company has always been Fender. They are responsible for the iconic Stratocaster guitar, and at this point, it has become almost a generic, albeit, classic design. The first run of them came out in 1954 and they changed the way popular music sounded and LOOKED for the rest of time. It set a standard for every single guitar design made after it. The Fender company came out with upgraded models in 1959, like the Jazzmaster and the Jaguar, which also have their super loyal fanbase. I am part of that fanbase. Although not as versatile as a Stratocaster, their unique shape and sound has earned them “the off-set standards.” The Fender Mustang was introduced in 1964 and also earned its loyal cult following.

Now it was time for me to actually make the instrument I’ve been playing all these years. My guitar design was inspired by all of these models, and thrown into the mix is the triangle, as a shape. In my fabrication class, Piecing it Together, I spent the semester designing and building this guitar.








My original sketches of the Triangle Guitar. Functionality was secondary. Shape was priority.  I decided to curb this extremely triangular shape and go for something a bit more pragmatic in the end.


My first iteration of the Triangular guitar. I wasn’t completely satisfied with the shape. I was also learning how to use Fusion 360, a 3d modeling program, and ran into various detours throughout the process such as file transfers not transfering properly, having to go through Vectorworks, which was a downfall in my process,  and using the CNC Machine and making a mistake in the programming, disturbing the proper measurements of the guitar.


My first 3d sketch on Fusion 360.


My second 3d sketch on Fusion 360, which became the final product. I finally worked around my mistakes the first time around. Measurements were more efficient and neat, the guitar became more ergonomic.


Foam cut on the CNC Machine.


Wood cut on the CNC Machine


Foam cut guitar, cardboard pickguard. First semi fully functional Triangle Guitar prototype. It kind of looks like a Mustang, it kind of looks like a Jaguar, it kind of looks like a triangle.