Monday, June 30, 2008

Aztec death whistle blown

Someone is finally paying attention to musical instruments found at archaeological digs.
Scientists were fascinated by the ghostly find: a human skeleton buried in an Aztec temple with a clay, skull-shaped whistle in each bony hand.
Roberto Velazquez has devoted his career to recreating the forgotten sounds of his distant ancestors.
But no one blew into the noisemakers for nearly 15 years. When someone finally did, the shrill, windy screech made the spine tingle.
If death had a sound, this was it.
Roberto Velazquez believes the Aztecs played this mournful wail from the so-called Whistles of Death before they were sacrificed to the gods.
The 66-year-old mechanical engineer has devoted his career to recreating the sounds of his pre-Columbian ancestors, producing hundreds of replicas of whistles, flutes and wind instruments unearthed in Mexico's ruins.
....Medical doctors are interested too, believing the Aztecs may have used sound to treat illnesses.
Noisemakers made of clay, turkey feathers, sugar cane, frog skins and other natural materials were an integral part of pre-Columbian life, found at nearly every Mayan site.
The Aztecs sounded the low, foghorn hum of conch shells at the start of ceremonies and possibly during wars to communicate strategies. Hunters likely used animal-shaped ocarinas to produce throaty grunts that lured deer.
The modern-day archaeologists who came up with the term Whistles of Death believe they were meant to help the deceased journey into the underworld, while tribes are said to have emitted terrifying sounds to fend off enemies, much like high-tech crowd-control devices available today.
Experts also believe pre-Columbian tribes used some of the instruments to send the human brain into a dream state and treat certain illnesses. The ancient whistles could guide research into how rhythmic sounds alter heart rates and states of consciousness.
I think that's so awesome. If only we had some sheet music, or whatever the equivalent was. If someone from another time/place picked up a guitar, chances are they wouldn't be playing "Stairway to Heaven" on it. So even if the ancients COULD cure disease using these instruments, most likely it was discovered through generations of trial and error, and seems to me that's a lost art now.
I have a couple of CDs by a guy named Jorge Reyes who claims to make authentic pre-hispanic Mexican music. Only one seems to be still available, but it is worth checking out. I use them as background during rituals.
12 8 Tzec 7 Chicchan manifestation portal

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