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Ancient Music

December 9, 2010

Playing ancient Peruvian instruments inside the ruins of a temple gives researchers clues to the music’s cultural significance.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
Listening to the past…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.
(Ancient trumpet)

The sound you hear wasn’t produced by just any instrument. These are the notes of a 3,000 year old conch shell trumpet once played by ancient Peruvian musicians. Stanford acoustician Jonathan Abel says the instrument was likely used during religious ceremonies, inside the labyrinthine galleries of a temple called Chavin de Huantar, which pre-dated the Incas.

JONATHAN ABEL (Stanford University): They are incredibly loud. I think one of the first times I heard one was from about 10-15 feet away, man I just felt it in my chest, It practically knocked the wind out of me.

HIRSHON:
Abel and his colleagues are studying the acoustic properties of the ancient instruments inside the temple to to get a better sense of their cultural significance.

ABEL: If these instruments were played in the galleries simultaneously, I imagine that would be quite an experience.

HIRSHON: I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.