As Nicolás Kisic Aguirre walked out onto the 2018 Design Indaba Conference stage, his entrance was scored by the sound of languid drumming that rapidly increased in tempo. A video of the instrument responsible for the sounds could be clearly seen playing behind him.
Called the Modular Rhythm Machine, it’s a device that the qualified-architect built and designed himself after he became preoccupied with the question of rhythm and sound. He mentions the co-ordinated and intimidating sounds made by the marching of soldiers, the din created by protesters using instruments, and the drumming that emanates from ritualistic ceremonies around the world.
Intrigued by the effects of sound as it relates to to different notions of public space, Aguirre began constructing the Modular Rhythm Machine during his time working toward his Master’s degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Algorithmically controlled, he uses it to explore different types of sound, as well as the psychological effects these sounds can have on those who hear them.
The project was influenced by the traditional Peruvian Cajón, a box-shaped percussion instrument similar to the drum that is played by slapping it with the hands. Aguirre made sure the project was made open-source so that anybody can access the information on how to construct their own machine online.
“It’s a project that keeps growing,” Aguirre told the audience. “It keeps mutating into different shapes and explorations.”
Besides his Modular Rhythm Machine, the Peruvian designer continues to explore sound in other manners. His Speaker Box projects consists of a large-scale speaker created as an instrument to reclaim public space. Similarly to how he ensured the rhythm machine was made open-source, the designer also made sure to utilise widely available materials for the Speaker Box, in an effort to ensure that anyone could build it.
To learn more about Aguirre’s work, watch his inspiring speaker talk above.
Design Indaba 2018 Conference Talks are presented in partnership with Liberty.
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