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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.


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.

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.