Alex Fraga

Research Assistant


Brazilian percussionist Alex Fraga is a first-year DMA student at the University of Toronto. His main research interests include how technology can support music performance, performance psychology, and neurosciences. He is currently studying how utilizing audio analysis in the practice room can affect the final musical result of the performance. He also enjoys playing repertoire for percussion and electronics, having a piece for multi percussion and electronics entitled Triangulo Mineiro premiered in 2019.


Exploring Non-Isochronus Subdivisions on Brazilian Vibraphone Repertoire

Traditional percussion pedagogy stresses evenness between notes and consistent subdivision right from the first lesson. However, in the realm of popular music, this evenness can impair performance, making common rhythmic patterns sound too flat or uninteresting. In such patterns, the listener’s interest is not only on the sequence of low and high pitches but in what ethnomusicologists call non-isochronous rhythms. This term refers to rhythms that are not equally distributed over time, and it is a resource utilized in genres such as the Viennese waltz and African djembe playing. Uneven pulse subdivision is an essential component of Brazilian samba rhythms, in which according to Naveda (2011) and Haugen (2020) the third and fourth subdivisions of the quarter note tend to be slightly anticipated. While Haugen classifies samba’s sixteenth notes on pandeiro according to its length (medium-long, short, medium-short, and long), Naveda exposes how this concept varies depending on the instrument that is playing (low-pitched instruments tend to delay the downbeat of each pulse). To date, no research has explored the consistency of the subdivision while accompanying different recordings or even if the performer can repeat the same subdivision consistently. An analysis of different musicians playing the same piece reveals that beat subdivision varies depending on parameters such as tempo, performance venue, and instrumentation. In my presentation, I will first illustrate the diversity of subdivisions used in Brazilian music through an analysis of Jacob do Bandolim’s Assanhado (1966) recordings. Secondly, I will demonstrate how the analysis presented informs my own performance of the piece on the vibraphone. This demonstration posits that subdivision placement, an oft-overlooked feature in music education and performance, is a vital aspect of musicality.


MadLib is an electro-acoustic piece for open instrumentation with live electronics created using Max software. It was commissioned by Jonny Smith in 2021 from composer Louis Pino. The concept of this work was to create a piece that can be customized by the performer in a variety of ways thereby giving the performer greater creative agency and allowing for a wide array of potential musical outcomes. The concept of the piece is inspired by the word game, Mad Libs. In the game, the reader or group of readers is asked to think of and write down random words. These words are then used to fill in the blanks of a prewritten story, usually for comic effect. A core aspect of the piece is the performer uploading their own audio samples to then be manipulated by the patch in some preset and some personally customizable processes.

A study was held from October 4th to November 6th 2022, involving various TaPIR researchers learning, experimenting with, and recording their own versions of the piece. The goal of this experiment was to analyze how performers chose to perform and interact with the electronic accompaniment, and to evaluate the piece as a creative practical tool to aid in learning the Max software. MadLib premiered in April 2022 at The Space Between conference at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Both Smith and Pino performed their own versions of the piece in order to demonstrate how the piece can be shaped in a variety of ways by different performers.