Monday, July 12, 2010

Sounds From the Past: The Bird-Whistle from Calixtlahuaca

By Arnd Adje Both

Favourable circumstances sometimes allow a sound of the past to be recovered and brought to our ears again. This is the case of a little bird-whistle from Calixtlahuaca, so far the only instrument from the site found intact (many fragmentary instruments were recovered in the excavations).

Its little high-pitched sound is the only one that has survived until today. The whistle (a globular flute without a fingerhole) is in the shape of a bird, and it is not surprising that it produces bird-like cries, which reminded us of a raptor. Does this whistle resemble the bird shown on the shield carried by the local king? We don’t know.

When I made a recording of the whistle in the patio of the ex-Hacienda of the Colegio Mexiquense in Zinacántepec (site of the Calixtlahuaca laboratory), Mike and Angela noted a definite effect on the many birds around. These birds made a lot of noise (or song, as the Aztecs would say), and notably were attracted by the sound produced by the whistle.

Click below for a short excerpt from my

recording of this whistle.

For more information on whistles like this and other Aztec musical instruments, see:

Both, Arnd Adje  (2002)  Aztec Flower-Flutes: The Symbolic Organization of Sound in Late Postclassic Mesoamerica. Studien zur Musikarchäologie III:279-289. Rahden/Westf.

Both, Arnd Adje  (2005)  Aerófonos mexicas de las orfrendas del recinto sagrado de Tenochtitlan. PhD dissertation. Lateinamerika-Institut, Freue Universität Berlin.

Both, Arnd Adje  (2006) On the Context of Imitative and Associative Processes in Prehispanic Music. Studien zur Musikarchäologie V, pp. 319-332. Rahden/Westf.

Martí, Samuel  (1968)  Instrumentos musicales precortesianos. Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Mexico City.



Mi nombre es Laura Villanueva Fonseca, soy investigadora iconográfica de El Colegio de México, ahora colaboro con el Dr. Pablo Escalante. Estoy buscando un archivo sonoro del sonido que emite un silbato de dos conductos del Preclásico, objetos procedentes de Taltilco por ejemplo. Puede orientarme por favor?


Michael E. Smith said...

Laura - La persona que probablemente sepa es Adje Both. Mandeme un correo y te mando su direccion.