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  • Maiz:A Cybertotemic Instrument
  • Guillermo Galindo (bio)

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Fig. 12.

MAIZ, cybertotemic instrument, 2007.

© Guillermo Galindo. Photo © Alfredo Alfaro

MAIZ (Fig. 12) is a kinetic sonic structure made from hybrid recycled industrial materials and found objects and controlled by computer. MAIZ is a syncretic cybersonic talisman, a hyper-folkloric object of reconnection.

Aesthetically, MAIZ weds contradictory Western and Mesoamerican concepts, such as myth and science, faith and reason, and technology and animism. Conceptually, MAIZ explores the meaning of sound in relation to its generating source.

In an alternative approach to qualitative listening or the "reduced listening" proposed by French musique concrète composer Pierre Schaeffer, which suggests mentally removing the sound from its originating source, thereby stripping it from any meaning associated with it, the idea behind MAIZ focuses solely on the sound and the sound's relationship with the object.

In a search for postcolonial and post-global hybrid art, MAIZ explores pre-Colombian ideas in language, art and religion. In Nahuatl (the language spoken by the Aztecs), the meaning of a word could not be separated from a constellation of concepts associated with it. In Mesoamerican languages, a word was linked both semantically and phonologically to a universe of concepts inseparable from the object described. In the case of names used for musical instruments, there was an inseparable connection between the phonetics of the word and a sound the instrument made. Furthermore, for the inhabitants of pre-Colombian Mesoamerica, a "sound object" was more of an entity in itself than an actual producer of musical sounds. The object itself contained the essence of the material with which it was built.

While most electronic analog or digital instruments and sonic objects generate sound through speakers, MAIZ is a computer-controlled sonic object that produces physical and mechanical sounds.

Every element used in the construction of MAIZ has a personal meaning for me. The process of construction became as important as the realization of the concept. MAIZ grew inside out from found recycled objects. Its construction flouts artist Joseph Beuys's "enlarged conception of art," which included "every human action" in the process.

A heavy metal disk became the center and starting point of the construction. This rotating disk connects to a powerful servomotor. The disk was remodeled to fit the shaft because the two parts came from completely different machinery. The disk lies over a set of bearings, thus taking direct weight off of the shaft. MAIZ is built from a wine box, metal parts from a mechanical street cleaner (which became the tongues of a kalimba), a cigar box and my wife's credit card, which plays three strings (tied to a guitar neck). MAIZ can alternately be triggered by light sensors, motion sensors, controllers or even the human voice.

The enlargeable sprockets and removable aluminum arms around the plate rotate and strike alternate series of metallic tongues, depending on the length of each sprocket, at different speeds. One of the arms excites a potentiometer, which sends data back to the computer. Each part of the instrument can be amplified independently. MAIZ can be used as an interactive independent instrument or as a live performance device.

My piece Post-Colonial Discontinuum, written for MAIZ and chamber ensemble, was commissioned by Earplay Ensemble and premiered at San Francisco Herbst Theater in May 2006. [End Page 40]

Guillermo Galindo
-gal*in_dog, P.O. Box 9492, Oakland, CA 94613, U.S.A. E-mail: <>. Web site: <>.
Guillermo Galindo

Guillermo Galindo's artistic work spans a wide spectrum of expression, from symphonic composition to the domains of musical and visual computer interaction, electroacoustic music, opera, film music, instrument building, three-dimensional installation, performance and sound design.


Thanks to Raul Aguilar, Fernando Hernandez, Donald Swendingen (control) and Ricardo Rendón for technical advice. [End Page 41]



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