El Compás Flamenco: A Phylogenetic Analysis

J. Miguel Díaz-Báñez, Giovanna Farigu, Francisco Gómez, David Rappaport and Godfried T. Toussaint
Bridges: Mathematical Connections in Art, Music, and Science (2004)
Pages 61–70


The flamenco music of Andalucia in Southern Spain is characterized by hand clapping patterns in which the underlying meter is manifested through accented claps. A phylogenetic analysis of the five 12/8 time metric timelines used in Flamenco music is presented using two distance measures: the chronotonic distance of Gustafson and a new distance measure called the directed swap distance. The results support several established musicological tenets. For example, the fandango and soled are "centers" of this family of rhythmic patterns. More surprisingly, the chronotonic distance gives the Cuban (Sub-Saharan African) influenced guajira a prominent position. Finally, the directed swap distance yields an interesting "ancestral" rhythm.