Piecing it Together- Midterm

For my Piecing it Together midterm I decided to build a guitar body. My only experience with guitars before this, besides playing them, was designing a semi hollow body guitar, as well as taking various solid body electrics apart with hopes of putting them back together. Most of the time I failed to put them back together properly.

I wanted to finally build a guitar from scratch (save for the neck.) I bought a used neck on ebay, as well as a chunk of basswood for the body of the guitar. My plans were to make an obtuse triangle guitar body, but when I received the body in the mail I quickly realized that the dimensions of the wood wouldn’t afford me the space to make it, but I still wanted something very angular.

I started sketching on paper first and then moved into Fusion 360 to do the final sketch. I went through 4 or 5 iterations/attempts on Fusion, and I was successful in making something I am proud of. I hit a wall, however, when it was time to create a dxf file to send it to the cam. I also had a hard time going into the cam mode in Fusion, primarily because the metric kept going to millimeters, even after I changed it to inches. I finally ended up making a sketch in Vectorworks, which is a harder tool than Fusion to design, but afforded me easier traffic between program to G code.

I used a 1/2 inch straight bit on basswood on the CNC. When the cut was done I realized I forgot to outline the neck pocket on the CAM. I changed the file, left the slab of wood on the CNC and decided to recut it. Big Mistake. I made sure to readjust the X Y and Z coordinates to the proper 0 position but it ended up being off by a hair. The result is that once the router started its path it started chipping away at the bottom corner of the guitar, eventually destroying the whole tip of it. It also cut through some of the body, which made my dimensions smaller, a consequence that really effected the neck pocket size.  I decided to cut the tip off on the circular saw and sand away the difference of the edges.  The result is not exactly what I hoped for, but I managed to save it. The neck pocket can be sanded down to fit the neck better, but I plan on cutting another piece of wood again anyway.


 Original Sketch by hand.

Fusion 360 Sketch.

Vectorworks Final Sketch.

 18 x 14 x 1.75 Basswood on the CNC













Interactive Music Midterm

I created three loops in Tone j.s that are made to be played together. My experiment is to see how everyone interacts with each other based on their responsibility to play the loop. I will give them these instructions:


1. Based On the Number I gave you, Look up the word Obtuse, followed by the number I gave you.

2. I want you to listen to the piece on your own, with headphones on.
3. I want you to think about the elements of the piece. The frequencies, the patterns, if it’s fast or slow.
There will be a countdown.
When it hits the one marker the time will start ticking.
I want you to start playing and stopping the piece based on how you think it fits with everyone else’s.
The purpose of this piece is to exercise intuitive improvisation.




Connectors- Design as Strategy and Practice.

It was really interesting to think this week about connectors. My approach to this was to find objects or situations that wouldn’t be able to happen without a connection. I naturally looked toward infrastructure, i.e streets, trains, buildings, etc. Once I started observing these things I started realizing that connectors are what holds our world together. On a macro level, streets and subways seem pretty obvious, but there are even more micro connectors that make these bigger connectors happen. Streets connect to other streets to form neighborhoods, and on a macro level the whole country is actually connected via streets.  On a micro level, however, those streets are held together by blacktop or concrete, which include many connectors, like portland, sand, and water. Below the streets there is a sewage system that runs all the way to the ocean. Next to those pipes are wires that connect every building with electricity. All the components to connect those wires… and the list goes on and on. In fact, after a while it was hard to see anything as anything other than a connection.


For my connection project, I took advantage of my thoughts and ideas about music making. In Always On, Always Connected, I am in the process of building a music making app. The work is tricky, as I have been experimenting with different approaches, what works and what doesn’t. What makes sense, giving that our cell phone is a bundle of sensors that can connect a huge variety of other sensors. It isn’t just a screen. It’s a microphone, a flashlight, a gyroscope, etc.

For now I have only been able to connect some elements that would comprise the app. A virtual keyboard, A sequencer, and Volume a control. Nothing is functioning yet, I still have to write the code to connect Tone. j.s and CSS with these interfaces. 



Module Project- Design as Strategy and Practice


For my module creation project I decided to make three loops that are designed to be played either separate or in unison. I have plenty of experience creating loops with real instruments, but I decided to experiment with a new medium I’m learning, Tone j.s. Why I am interested in this approach is because my interest is in building music instruments in both the app world and physical instruments as well. I’m currently working on the design of an app that is ultimately a music maker, but depending on the parameters I set, I still have an underlying control of what could be made and what can’t, i.e, note selection, sound selection, and rhythm selection. There is a fine line between producer, consumer, and collaborator using this method. I am essentially curating the instrument within the instrument.

Tone j.s is the Javascript Library we are learning in Interactive Music, where we not only experiment with making new music, but also in how it is “consumed.” This word is in quotes because I really hate using it, but it seems to represent the current model in music appreciation on the large scale.

My ultimate goal is to create a system where the general audience is both the producer and consumer, and, in these three loops, which are of course, experimental, I’m wondering whether people will be interested in having a loop bank, a la Garageband, or whether their parameters should have more creative control.




Box/ Pen Holder- Piecing it Together

Dimos and I started off with a very rough prototype made out of cardboard. Our main challenge was getting a good fit on the slots of the vertical panels that line the outer shell, as well as getting a good angle on the bottom of the panels, so the box could have stability.


We then drew all the 2-d pieces on Illustrator. Again, the main challenge here was getting those slit measurements right, and it took a few tries in the laser printer to get it right. They were either too tight or too loose. Finally, we opted for the looser fit as it gave more flexibility in putting the box together.


This is what we used to cut all the pieces on the laser cutter.

The main challenge of using the laser cutter was to get the speed levels right. The wood kept catching fire, so we kept bumping up the speed and finally, after three rotations, the wood finally cut through.

On the laser cutter we used these numbers:

Frequency= 50

Speed= 25-35

Power= 100


This is the final product:

We used hot glue to stick the panels together, which ended up being a double edge because of the same reason, how fast it dried. Some of the angles of the panels could be more accurate, and that was a direct consequence of poor planning in the assembly process. I am very happy with the design, however. The sphere shape, combined with the modular design gives the piece an organic, yet modern feel.



Music Manifesto

I grew up indoctrinated to become a musician  from the age of four so music was always a part of my life, if not my life. Music is really my all time teacher, beyond learning music in itself.
It has taught me various lessons, including how to be creative, patient, disciplined, undisciplined, and curious. Through my curiosity, music has taken me to places unimagined, even if it hadn’t been because of it directly, but also  to mental and physical places. Music is my altruistic history book that has also taught me about different cultures, different ways of thinking, and different ways of doing. Music has informed practically every decision I’ve ever made as well as becoming a pillar in the process of forming my ideologies. Without music, I wouldn’t be me. So I am indebted to it, but I am also honored to be able to contribute to its legacy.
Although I am classically trained, I did not focus on music academically. In fact, music was my inspiration to study other subjects in college, mainly political science and sociology. So, as you can imagine, to me, the intersection between music and politics, as well as music being an enormous sociological contribution, are always on my mind.
I have been concerned with two aspects of music lately. One is production and ethics, the other is distribution and ethics. On the production front, I have always found it to be a double edge that while the means of production have been democratized greatly, it also affords for a more homogeneous approach to it on the large scale. You have to go out of your way to sound “unique” in a sense because everyone is using the same tools. The mass production of instruments has also had an effect. To me, it cheapens the sacredness of the instrument to have all these mediocre versions of it floating around, only as symbols of the effects of capitalism. It is also most likely the most influential of art forms if we are talking about pop culture, which is also a side effect of capitalism, at which point it stops being a culturally rich sociological representation and starts becoming a product to be consumed.
Which brings me to distribution.
I was adamant for a long time about my nostalgia for the paradigm of the past, the record industry and it’s physical mediums of distribution. It was hard for me to wrap my head around the seemingly obsolete concept of making a record as an artist in modern times. Now, the one hit wonder is almost standard. On top of that, people in general aren’t concerned with an artist’s personality, philosophy, or ideology. The song reigns as a 3 minute digital distraction until the next 3 minute digital distraction comes along.
But then I thought…
I’m being nostalgic for a paradigm that is also a product of consumerism, albeit, a bit more artistically rigorous. The record sleeve, the pictures, the liner notes, the 3 minute song, the tours, the money, the drugs, the drama… all of those things were also a part of a system I did not agree with, no matter how romantic it all sounded.
So, what I want to accomplish is to be able to produce intellectually rigorous music, produced by instruments that are not products of an economic system that is tearing our world apart, and for that music to be heard, for it to be listened to, not consumed. I’m working on various fronts in terms of my skill set in order to tackle these different areas, and I realize that much of this work is not only  directly music work, but political work, tool building work, reframing and redrawing work. To take music out of the trappings of the economic system we live in and to create a new paradigm, while hopefully, people are creating those new paradigms in other areas of life.

Wire Frame

The idea behind this app is to turn the phone into an instrument or instrument interface. It is also interactive as you can also get together with friends to play together on each phone, simultaneously being able to record the session and post the session on social media.


No Phone, No Problem

I went to Cuba for the second time this past August. The first time I went was a year and a half before that, for ten days. This time I booked a month long trip. I was very excited to go back, not only because I feel like I didn’t do enough exploring the last time I went, and I subsequently spent much time trying to get a connection on my phone at a five star hotel, trying to get a wire, because I extremely underestimated how much money I would need. As most know, Cuba and internet service aren’t the best of friends. I was paying 14 Euro for two hours of really shitty (slow) internet service at one of Havana’s most prestigious hotels. It was hard to judge how much money I was spending on internet versus my time being spent efficiently trying to figure out how I was gonna get a wire sent to me. I probably spent a good five days worth of money for food on internet service. I spent way too much time trying to get a wire and not enough time BEING in Cuba. I promised myself the next time I went, I would take more than enough money. Funny enough, I ended up missing my flight the second time around and I was stranded in Cuba with not enough money to pay for another flight, and spent some time getting another wire. That’s not the point of this story, though.

The point is, I had plans for my second trip. Between the two trips I met a Cuban DJ and producer in New York at a music festival and we eventually made plans to collaborate when I went to Cuba. I downloaded all the musical ideas I wanted to work on in my phone, just because it was so much easier than taking a hard drive. I was really excited to be working on these specific ideas in Cuba, with this specific producer.

As luck would bless me, in the first few hours in Cuba I lost my phone. There is nothing like the feeling of losing your phone… IN CUBA. First I shrugged it off because I thought I would eventually find it. Then I started playing out the cab scene from the airport to where I was staying and pondering about whether or not it got stolen. That feeling of not knowing whether you lost your phone or if it was stolen was probably one of the most uneasy feelings. HOW DID I NOT KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO MY PHONE?! I feel like we almost take it for granted that there is an unspoken magnetism between us and our phones. We are so dependent on them, constantly checking them… and you start to realize how the action of checking your phone is so subconscious that it’s really hard to picture the last time you had it in your hand, nevermind the fact that it just slipped through the cracks of your fingers without realizing.

After a solid week of going through phone withdrawal and not being able to satisfy my high by going to the nearest Verizon store and picking up a new phone, and going through the agony of having to recreate my music ideas from memory, and not having a camera, or an easier time connecting to the internet, or having any means of communication at all….. a beautiful thing happened. Actually, many beautiful things happened, and that is because I suddenly wasn’t trapped by the confines of a screen, of a clock, of a camera, of the internet, of music ideas, of anything. It turned into the perfect opportunity to unplug myself, and finally live the life that I wanted to live for this next month.

The consequences became positively clear. Yes, there were many downfalls, all of them mentioned, plus that infamous phantom ring in my front pocket kicked in. But I surrendered to the idea of not having a phone and life began to unfold in a different way, because of the different set of circumstances that present themselves when you have to TALK to people. It forced me to be social, to ask for directions, to go to a bar, to walk around and respond when talked to, to not have a screen between me and the world, ever. Subsequently, I made some really cool friends and made music I never thought I would make. It was a pleasant surprise to be reminded that not having a phone didn’t cripple me at all, and in fact, it helped me spread my wings even wider. It made me be in the moment and only think about what is exactly in front of me. I didn’t have all these access decisions to make about who I spent time with, or making plans, or buying shit I don’t need on ebay, or take part in any social media of any kind. I was only where I needed to be, which is where I always was.