Sintonía del Río (River Tuning) is a mechano-acoustic instrument inspired by the Mapuche cosmogony and musical structures. It is a mechanical drum (cultrún) ensemble controlled by droplets of water continuously falling from the Calle Calle River, which is the waterway axis of the Ríos region at Valdivia, Chile. The Cultrún is a local and ancestral instrument used to guide ritual salutations addressed to the elements of nature. For the Mapuche, every ritual is a possibility for the creation of a new rhythmic pattern, frequently improvised, within a 4/4 time signature, which refers to the four elements, all four seasons of the year, the four point of the compass, a sacred number echoing the animist beliefs within their culture.
The instrument comprises twelve cultrún, all designed by different local artisans and representing a unique voice within the ensamble, each contributing with a different tone and texture given by the choice of material and construction method. The system uses step motors that are controlled by water sensors. And in order to attain a generative composition, we’ve developed a reactive code according to the dripping water logic driven by peristaltic pumps. The code has 4 states for each of the 12 drums, 48 different states allowing for a dynamic piece mirroring the river’s own materiality.
Sintonía del Río was conceptualized and developed during a collective laboratory attended by more than 50 children and young people from different schools in Valdivia. We’,ve installed an open space at the public library where we worked together in a series of music, electronic, programming and research workshops over the period of a month.