Project presentado a Eafit


Cândida Luiza Borges Da Silva  – RDC1

Title: Integrating a New Diaspora into Composition Practice



  • Consideraciones iniciales:
    • Este proyecto necesita permanecer en total sigilo por ahora.
    • Todos los temas de Brasil pueden estar expandidos a Latino América.
    • Este trabajo representa mis reflexiones principales hasta junio, que ya están mas avanzadas y van estar siempre cambiando.
    • La metodología esta resumida para permitir espacio de creación conjunta con ustedes.
    • La idea ahora es crearnos un plan de acción conjunta, una metodología de trabajo a distancia y presencial. Creo que podemos discutir ideas por Skype para elaborar juntos ese plan de acción.





In this practice-led PhD, I am interested in exploring the diversity of interethnic cultures, characteristics and places (Jacobson, 1998), whose blend creates powerful and new material for a contemporary music compositional process. I aim to create a body of work that brings together the artistic result of the Diasporas (Brubaker, 2005) that have reached the continent of South America, into new music and contemporary arts.


I will consider these Diasporas and migration histories and consequent implications as an opportunity for artistic creation. Being part of this evolution, I consider myself part of these phenomena as a nomadic woman of color, a Brazilian composer who may have a singular translation into “new intercultural music” as a continuing cultural expression in the 21st century.



About traditions and Diasporas


The research for ethnic characteristics has been a common practice in composition since the Nationalism movement in the beginning of last century (Kennedy, 2006). A large number of composers of different nationalities became inspired to represent their countries or to fuse western styles with local music from exotic places, developing largely the field of ethnomusicology and composition. Examples can be given through the music of composers like Debussy (Pelléas et Mélisande1902), Bela Bartok (Mikrokosmos 1926-1929), Kodaly and the Argentinian composer Piazzola (Libertango 1974). One can compile an enormous list of compositions inspired by ethnomusicological research. In Capturing Sound, for example Katz (2004) exemplifies:


Hearing discs of Balinese gamelan music in 1929 proved decisive to the career of Canadian Colin McPhee, leading to his move to Bali in 1931 and immersion in its music and culture. Steve Reich’s exposure to recordings of African music in the 1950s made a similar impression, and indirectly led to his visit to Ghana and to his 1971 work Drumming.(Katz, 2004: 16)



The idea of ethnic


The term “ethnic” in this research reflects the definitions formulated by sociological theorist Richard A Schemerhorn (1970):


An ethnic group is defined here as a collectivity within a larger society having real or putative common ancestry, memories of a shared historical past, and a cultural focus on one or more symbolic elements defined as the epitome of their peoplehood. (Schemerhorn, 1970: 12-13)


I am not looking to a specific culture in order to represent it in music. There is not one singular tradition to be investigated in my work, but the idea of movement, of transcendence, of borderlessness, of displacement of all cultures – what anthropologists call “the practice of Diasporas” (Clifford, 1994; Brubaker, 2017, 2005). I am not looking to describe or affirm a specific tradition. I align with the revision of the concept of tradition applied to Diasporas described by the anthropologist Gilroy (1993):


[Tradition] can be seen to be a process rather than an end, and is used here neither to identify a lost past nor to name a culture of compensation that would restore access to it. Here, too, it does not stand in opposition to modernity nor should it conjure up wholesome, pastoral images of Africa that can be contrasted with the corrosive, aphasic power of the post-slave history of the Americas and the extended Caribbean. Tradition can now become a way of conceptualizing the fragile communicative relationships across time and space that are the basis not of diaspora identities but of diaspora identifications. Reformulated thus, [tradition] points not to a common content for diaspora cultures but to evasive qualities that make inter-cultural, trans-national diaspora conversations between them possible. (Gilroy, 1993: 276)


Therefore, I am interested in the identifications, not in the identities of pre-given forms. I am artistically interested in the connected stories and the combination of persistently displaced and reinvented time/space crossings, which conduct to the dissolution and transformation of styles, names and borders. I believe there is a phenomenonaof a transnational culture created by Diasporas of so many centuries, which can be translated into an Artistic Practice. According to Clifford, “Culture and Diaspora (or the revived Transition), are devoted to the history and current production of transnational cultures” (Clifford, 1994).


Different expressions have been used to refer to this practice of hybridizingcultures. Cross-cultural, inter-racial, trans-national, inter-cultural are all expression of a mixed, fused phenomenon that blend traditions from different regions and ethnicities. There are discussions that permeate different fields, for example within Anthropology (Clifford, 1997; Schneider, 2003, 2012; Strohm, 2012; Ibañez y Sáenz, 2006). From this space of in-between time/space/nationalities/cultures, I believe the definition of “Intercultural” by Colin McCarthy suits the cultural and artistic context of this project:


The term “intercultural” points to the complexity of locations, identities, and modes of expression in a global world, and the desire to facilitate awareness, dialogue or understanding across contexts. The term interculturality suggests that artistic and cultural practice resides both in a location – whether geographical, spatial, or corporeal – and also within an in-between space – among and within individuals, milieu, social constructs, and cultures. (Colyn McCarthy, 2016: 32)



Crosscultural composition IN BRAZIL


Brazil is a country that has received many immigrants and Diasporas since its “discovery” in 1500, from main five sources: Europeans, Amerindians, Africans, Levantines and East Asians (Pena, 2018). Its population represents a wide variety of ethnicities,formed by the influx of Portuguese settlers and Africanslaves into a territory inhabited by various indigenous tribal populations (Freyre, 1986). In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, in what is known as Great Immigration, new groups arrived, mainly of Portuguese, Italians, Spanish and German origin, but also Japanese, the Middle East and Eastern Europe (Cánovas, 2004). Most of these nationalities and ethnicities are represented in my own ancestry as found in my DNA analysis presented later on this text. I believe there is a culture and a society created very singularly by the mix of the genetic and traditions.


Although Brazil has a rich intercultural background, Brazilian history has suffered a prejudice in terms of its memory and identity (Freyre, 1986). All this mix and the Diaspora’s circumstances created a lack of memory of some traditions and origins. In 1922 several artists got together in Brazil to create and affirm a “Brazilian” tradition that has been influential to the artistic production throughout the 20th century. These artists and this movement, called “Anthropophagy”, were guided by a manifesto and a mentor – Oswald de Andrade.


In 1928, the “Anthropophagic Manifesto” from the Brazilian writer Oswald de Andrade opened a non-colonial voice in the arts in Brazil, which triggered the beginning of the affirmation of a Brazilian cultural identity. The Manifestoproposed the idea that we should “cannibalize” the colonizer, digest its culture and manifest it in a very Brazilian and singular expression. With strong political support, this Manifesto guided and influenced important artists and national artistic movements through the century – such as Helio Oiticica in Visuals Arts, Glauber Rocha in Cinema, Caetano Veloso in Music (Tropicália Movement).


Works by classical composers like Carlos Gomes, Francisco Mignone, Villa Lobos brought music from folk Brazilian traditions to theaters and orchestras; cinema director Glauber Rocha and visual artist Tarsila do Amaral, Helio Oiticica, Lygia Clark became famous internationally by bringing the “Brazilian style” of art in different fields and their works have consistently been exhibited in museums around the world.


A Villa Lobos’ great work is the Bachianas Brasileira, in which he brings into European form the melodies of the inner of Brazil. In my Master’s research, I studied the technique and the composition of the pianist and composer Egberto Gismonti, which gave continuity to Villa Lobos’ research, and created an instrumental jazz/classical style of modern Brazilian music. Egberto’s great work can be known in his piano album Alma(1996), and I consider him to be one of my greatest influence as a composer and pianist (Silva, 2005).


When considering popular Brazilian music, one of the main movements inspired by this national feeling was the Tropicália, which had Caetano Veloso as its main symbol. Hailing from Bahia, (which is where I am from), Caetano mixed traditional Brazilian music with contemporary elements of composition into popular songs (Veloso, 1997). His work highly influenced artists all over the world, like the German choreographer Pina Bausch (Água – 2001), the Spanish filmmaker Almodóvar (Talk to her – 2002), the American filmmaker Julie Taymor (Frida – 2002) and Meredith Monk (Turner, 2005).


Caetano is an artist mainly working within music but who has works in many artistic fields. One of his great works is the album, Transa(1972), which was produced after living in political exile in London. This work brought together elements of the Brazilian Culture into the contemporary pop/ art world music field. As reviewed in the British website Head Heritage,


Transa is a conceptual album about homesickness, about absence, about his anguish imprisoned in European walls, about nostalgia and its own marks engraved on music, on his Popular Brazilian music, on rock’n roll which Tropicalism merged with to expand and that definitely changed everything about the sound produced in Brazil. (Carlos, 2003)


I believe that Anthropophagy in Andrade’s meaning is a valid approach for the creations of this project upon a diversity of cultures. To travel, connect, absorb, digest – and so manifest it into something new as a compositional process.



What is Ancestry?


In the biological and social sciences, the consensus is clear: race is a social construct, not a biological attribute (Angier, 2000). Nowadays, scientists prefer to use the term “ancestry” to describe human diversity (Fujimura and Rajagopalan, 2011). “Ancestry” reflects the fact that human variations do have a connection to the geographical origins of our ancestors (Lewontin, 1972). With enough information about a person’s DNA, scientists can make a reasonable guess about their ancestry (Collins, 2004). However, unlike the term “race”, the term “Ancestry” focuses on an understanding of how a person’s history has unfolded, rather than how they might fit into particular racial categories.


With the advance of genetic testing and the associated contemporary consideration of the idea of “tracing one’s roots”, there has been an interest in the relationship of DNA test results and contemporary music composition. For example, using his DNA results, the Puerto Rican rapper and social activist, Residentetraces his roots in his new album, documentary and a sound-map website (Somos anormalesWe are abnormal –Residente, 2017), in which he travels and shows local culture from his ancestor’s countries.


Also, the Icelandic artist Björkexplored the theme in the song Hollow(2012), where she explores the theme of DNA and ancestry in music and image. For the video, she has collaborated with biomedical animator Drew Berry to create a partly-scientific representation of the song. For the music, Raby (2012) describes it:


[Its] instrumentation is sparse — a rhythmic organ-like pulse and Björk’s echoing voice. The blending of the electronic manipulation of the vocals, which makes it sound like there’s a whole tribe of Björks singing in unison, and the thudding electronic notes give the song a feel that is primal yet futuristic. The lyrics add to the sense of looking back hundreds of generations: Bjork yearns to “belong” to the “generations of mothers” that pulse through her body, to be part of the necklace of “jewels after jewels”.


To the website NPR Music (2012), Björkdescribed the idea of DNA and ancestry behind the song Hollow:


It’s just the feeling when you start thinking about your ancestors and DNA that the grounds open below you and you can feel your mother and her mother, and her mother, and her mother, and her mother 30,000 years back. So suddenly you’re this kinda tunnel, or trunk of DNA… All these ghosts come up so it ended up begin a Halloween song and quite gothic in a way… It’s like being part of this everlasting necklace when you’re just a bead on a chain and you sort of want to belong and be a part of it and it’s just like a miracle. (Bjork in Raby, 2012)


In another work, Bjork created the track “Ancestors” from the album Medulla (2004) – using processed voice and piano, in collaboration with Canadian singer Tanya Tagaq.  She declares about her musical process:


The album is about voices. I want to get away from instruments and electronics, which was the world of my last album, Vespertine. I want to see what can be done with the entire emotional range of the human voice – a single voice, a chorus, trained voices, pop voices, folk voices, strange voices. Not just melodies but everything else, every noise that a throat makes. (Bjork, 2004)



Research Questions


Given this research background, I am posing my overall research question as follows:


How can I develop a compositional practice and live performances (or body of work) that responds to the diasporas and migrational movements that reached Brazil and formed my mixed DNA ancestry, represented by immigrants as a sample of the contemporary crosscultural world?





I have designed a methodology in four “pillars” in order to respond to the research questions and the Research Background I have outlined above.


  • Construction of a Living Archive: data collection from immigrants
  • Compositional process: experimentation/artistic creation in studio
  • Sharing/Performances
  • Theoretical reflections: dialogue between literature and experience for a reflexive practice





As mentioned earlier,I will use the results of my Ancestry Composition DNA report as one framework within the methodology of my compositional process – I begin with a sample of an interracial and crosscultural person (Murdock, 2006), originally from Brazil. The report is a genetic evaluation carried out in July/2017 by the company 23andme and points at which cultures and ethnicities will be the interest of this investigation, as a starting point for field recordings and collection of narratives, sounds, images. Here is a graphical representation of the results of the DNA Ancestry report:

My interest is not to come back to these original places to investigate and describe local culture, but to understand how culture has “travelled” through different places (migration and displacement), became transformed through time (new generations) and how fusion has occurred with other cultures and landscapes (multi-ethnic city); on what these cultural elements became after the process of displacement through migration, generational transfer and miscegenation. Therefore, I have chosen to investigate the ethnicities from this report through immigrant population in multi-ethnic cities.  I will be looking at this information as a starting point of interest, for collecting material from immigrants that came from the predominant areas present in my DNA: Iberian, Broadly Southern European, West African, Broadly Sub-Saharan African, Broadly North-Western European, Balkan, Broadly European, Native American. Further choices on which ethnicity to focus will be upon availability to connect and meet them. It will depend on the cultures/ethnicities present in the field recording sessions and available musicians for collaboration.


I am interested on opening the archive of my DNA and investigating which cultural and social expressions are alive nowadays from these mentioned ethnicities, through their representants in new locations – immigrants. I am interested in discovering the sounds of voices of singers from these places, on melodies alive in their memories, rituals, gestures, movements, costumes, instruments and life stories.


I believe that immigrants in New York City (displaced culture) can represent my ancestry composition (mirrored resonance) – cultures modified by the new place, new time, new generation and blend with other influences. Also, the city itself generates unique sounds and landscapes as a result of the mix of ethnic groups in the urban space.


In the aims of this project of exploring a crosscultural context, I have chosen to research mainly in New York City with the understanding that it has a strong force, combining cultural ideals, ethnicities, landscapes and ideologies. I am imagining it to be a “miniature of the world”, in which the majority of ethnicities can be found within the immigrants that live there. It also makes my research viable, as I have a working visa for the US and I have been based there since 2013.


Others multiethnic cities may be considered to interact throughout the research.


Displacing the Brazilian background I bring with me, I myself am a part of the displacement and migration process that is integral to this investigation. In an effort to include the diasporic nature of ancestry within my compositional process, I will explicitly use my own DNA analysis within a compositional methodology.


Recording methodologies:


1.1 – Field recordings


1.2 – Collection of narratives.

  • interaction with people in the field recordings sessions – short interviews asking for stories about immigrant motivation, cultural life back in their hometown and what has changed, and some other topics to be mapped.
  • development of a website of the research, where people can interact to share stories, audio, video and pictures. The website will include some activities designed to guide the interaction of the audience.


I will borrow a methodology strategy from the Design field – the “cultural probes” (Gaver, Boucher, Pennington & Walker, 2004) in order to gather information and interaction. Poetical and other artistic dynamics for pursuing experiential responses from participants will be discussed later on in this project as a form of collaborative and virtual compositional process.


  • voluntaryinteraction with the website of the project – in text, audio and image – based on Design strategies of interaction – “cultural probes” will offer questions, fields, requests, provocations to receive the participation of the audience.
  • an ongoing process of selection and interpretation of these interactions will decide which ones will be used in the compositional process, in a subjective strategy of “inspirational data” (Gaver, Boucher, Pennington & Walker, 2004).


1.3 – Artistic collaboration from immigrants

  1. Identification of peers, potential collaborators, immigrant artists in NYC.
  2. Sound recording, composing, free improvisation, filming, writing – free creative interaction of the researcher with immigrant artists in studio and open spaces, looking for the sonority of typical instruments, different vocal techniques, and musical structures.


  • The creation process will have a freeform, which can be continuous to a final result, or circular, with multilateral interactions, which result in open, improvisable, multiple-format work. The group is afforded the possibility of experimenting which process best serves the construction of the intended work.
  • Documentation of all stages of creation in multimedia (creation journals, rehearsal recordings and video recordings of created performances, etc).



  1. COMPOSITIONAL PROCESS – interdisciplinaryprocess



Compositionally, I aim to work in the form of a song cycle, with lyrics in Portuguese, English and Spanish. The song form is on the border between classical compositions and popular styles, seen in evolutions from the lied, operas into pop music (Fox, 2016). The presence of the text and its interpretation by human voice is adequate for the nature of story telling that these compositions might have. It’s a way of incorporating words, music and emotion, in a very particular and constrained way, which may communicate a sense of empathy to an audience and open space for the collaboration into other arts – like performance and moving images. It enables to tell stories in a long form rather than a short form way, exploring in continuity but in different moments the various ethnicity themes this investigation will cover.


The collected material from immigrants will generate the source for lyrics writing, for melodic, rhythmic and harmonic creations and for choices of non-conventional instruments.


This process finds new structural andtimbristicpossibilities resulting from studio experiments in the use of technology on concrete and synthesized sounds, on human voices and instruments for static (recording) and dynamic (live – concerts and performances) results. It is intended to use Ableton Live software; analog synthesizers; Novation and Tc-Helicon peripherals controllers as main operational resources.


Experiments in time, form and sound will also be done in images and movements. In collaboration with other artists are already planned – video makers, photographers, music producers, actors, choreographers, theater directors. A work of video, performance, photography, choreography will be created to form the body of works that will include installations and projections in live performances.





  1. Live performance: to present the songcycle in a concertwhere I intend to digitally process voice in real time to create layers of sound punctuated by sampled concrete sounds (which are triggered by controllers and gesture-controlled MIDI instruments), fragments of text, and instruments looped in real time.
  2. About the installations: The installation works can involve any combination of stereo or multiple channels of audio, single or multi-channel video, and physical objects. The fixed-media sound works will be exhibited in a gallery space, a concert, or for broadcast.
  3. Website – creation and maintenance of a channel of interaction and collective construction via web, to interact with the public, follow up, disseminate and record the researches of this work and reflect on their interactions with actors/ spectators. Its construction has started and not yet finished:


  1. Theoretical reflections: dialogue between literature and experience for a reflexive practice


  • Review of general and specific literature;
  • From the immersions and review of literature, to map and reflect on the trajectory of contemporary interdisciplinary artists and composers of crosscultural music; INFORMACION
  • Journaling on creative and performative processes, recordings, rehearsals and performances in audio and video – shown in the website of the project;
  • Comparative analysis of the artistic results obtained with the initial scripts and proposals, including the DNA Ancestry Report map; Validation
  • Creation of articles and final thesis.



  • Material en audio/video disponible para trabajo desde la directora Sabrina (NY), que captó imágenes de inmigrantes por toda Europa.
  • Material en audio/video disponible para trabajo desde Sadam, un refugiado de Siria que tiene imágenes/sonido de Siria, y vive con una amiga mía en Berlín.
  • Material que hoy empiezo a gravar em 360 technology (áudio/video) de comunidades imigrantes de NYC.
  • Tengo especial interese en producir instalaciones para espacios públicos, museos, para conciertos, además de un concierto colectivo. Trabajos con imagen/ video/ performance/ movimiento. Ideas con inteligencia artificial son de especial interés para becas internacionales. Referencia muy interesante son las obras de New Museum (NY) e Tote Londres.
  • Posibilidades: Grants from US, Europe and Americas (Iberoamérica está abierta ahora)
  • Circulación: concierto en Plymouth (obligatorio), NY, Rio, otros locales de mis conexiones.