Sie sind auf Seite 1von 17

The Peruvian Whistling Vessels of the Museum of

Ethnology Berlin
A Research from the Acoustic and Technological Point of View
Friedemann Schmidt

ZUSAMMENFASSUNG
Im Ethnologischen Museum Berlin, SMB-PK
(EMB) befinden sich 326 Pfeifgefe aus unterschiedlichen vorspanischen Kulturen Perus. Ausgehend von diesen Objekten, von denen ca. 100 funktionsfhig sind, wird der Versuch unternommen, eine
Systematik der Pfeifgefe zu erstellen und die konstruktiven Voraussetzungen fr die unterschiedlichen Pfeiftne, Triller und Intervallsprnge zu
erlutern. Fr die Untersuchung werden Pfeifgefe
aus folgenden Kulturen ausgewhlt: Vics, Moche,
Chim, Lambayeque und Recuay. Im ersten Teil
werden die Pfeifgefe als Problem archologischer
Forschung dargestellt. Im zweiten Teil wird eine
Systematik der Pfeifgefe unter akustischen Gesichtspunkten diskutiert. Im dritten Teil wird die
Technologie und Akustik der Pfeifgefe untersucht.
Im vierten Teil werden die Ergebnisse zusammengefasst: In allen Pfeifgefen befinden sich kugelfrmige Pfeifen. Diese Globularpfeifen gehren zur Familie der gedackten Labialflten mit allen typischen
Merkmalen dieser Familie, d. h., sie entsprechen
ihnen in der Tonerzeugung und in der Partialtonreihe. Pfeifgefe knnen beim Entleeren einer Flssigkeit keinen Ton erzeugen, weil alle akustischen Voraussetzungen dafr fehlen. Das Trillern einiger
Pfeifgefe mit zwei Kammern beruht auf dem differenzierten Zusammenspiel der Querschnitte von
Kernspalt und Verbindungsrhre. Der Intervallsprung bei einigen Pfeifgefen mit integrierter Pfeife entsteht durch die Kopplung der Frequenzen von
Primrresonator und Sekundrresonator, der die
Funktion eines Helmholtz-Resonators erfllt.

botella silbato, botella silbadora, silvador, chiflador, vaso silvador (Spanish). English terms are
whistling vessel, whistling bottle, whistling pot
and whistling jar. In this essay the term whistling
vessel will be used.
The whistling vessels have been produced for a
period of around 2000 years in different cultures in
Mesoamerica and South America. The objects of
our research are whistling vessels of Peru from the
following cultures: the Vics, the Moche, the
Chim, the Lambayeque and the Recuay (Fig. 1).
In their specific form they cannot be found in any
other part of the world. While the outer form of
the whistling vessels is modified in the different
cultures, the acoustic foundations remain unchanged for over 2000 years. There is no information about the total number of whistling vessels in
the museums all over the world. In the Museum
of Ethnology Berlin, SMB-PK (EMB), 326
whistling vessels are preserved, around one hundred of them still sounding. All of these whistling
vessels were found in tombs, but widely were not
recognised as sounding tools and therefore cleaned
only on the exterior. Soiling, like bits of earth
inside the acoustic system of the whistling vessels,
is the most common reason why they may be
unable to produce a sound. Most objects in the
museums and on the market lack specific information about the place where the object was found
and the circumstances of the excavation. The
objects are isolated from their archaeological contexts, which makes it difficult to date them and to
assign their former function to them1. This may be
the reason for the fact that their regional origin,
their genealogy and their usage have not been

1. WHISTLING VESSELS IN THE


ARCHAEOLOGICAL CONTEXT
In secondary literature the following terms can be
found: Pfeifgef, Pfeiftopf, Pfeifkopf (German),

Hickmann 1990, 8.

144

Friedemann Schmidt

explained convincingly up to now2. In the extensive library of ceramics of the Moche, so far no
illustrations of whistling vessels have been found
either. After the fall of the Inka Empire apparently
only few objects of this kind were produced and/
or used in public. In the Spanish reports, however,
they are not mentioned.
Only few reports on the use of the whistling
vessels in our time exist. Andritzky3 mentions
them in connection with healing ceremonies in
Peru. Garrett and Stat4 analyse the psychological
effect which happens when several whistling vessels of the Chim culture are played simultaneously. Both authors mention the whistling vessels in
connection with shamanistic rituals which aim to
change the state of consciousness. All whistling
vessels are made out of clay. The quality of the clay
is poor, the colour of the clay depends on its
region of origin, whereas the colour of the objects
is not always identical with the colour of the clay,
for engobe (a clay suspension) is used for the
painting of the vessels. Usually the painting is
ensued before the firing of the clay and either a
reserve technique is used (Vics, Recuay) or the
paint is applied directly with a brush (Moche).
With the ceramics of the Moche black outlines are
often found, too, but these are applied after the firing. The objects of the Chim culture are usually
unpainted. They are produced from dark clay and
are probably fired in a reducing atmosphere. The
whistling vessels are generally polished with care,
so that their surface obtains a dull lustre. The vessels show very thin walls, which are usually five to
six millimetres thick. The seams observed inside
the vessels indicate that they were produced from
moulds5. The Museum for Ethnology Berlin owns
a completely preserved two-piece mould of the
Lambayeque culture that is open at the bottom, a
form which is typical of the model technique of
this region (EMB VA 47728, Fig. 2). The whistling
vessels are presumably fired at a low temperature
(about 650 to 850 degree Celsius), therefore the
clay is porous; it is permeable to water, no matter
whether it is fired in an reducing or in an oxidizing
manner. Whistling vessels consisting of one or two
chambers do not exceed the following measures:
height and axial width 30 centimetres, depths 15
centimetres.
Listing all these problems shows that a lot of
questions are answered only insufficiently. This
chiefly applies to the questions concerning the
purpose and the use of the whistling vessels in the
social context. But furthermore, questions concerning the acoustics have not been clarified completely either. The secondary literature available is
primarily interested in measuring the frequency,
whereas it pays less attention to the question how
the tones are produced depending on the construc-

tional preconditions. Therefore the experiments


carried out in the Museum of Ethnology Berlin
focus on acoustic questions, as these have only
received little attention up to now.
The following questions are to be answered:
How exactly is the tone produced with whistling
vessels? Are whistling vessels able to produce a
tone when a liquid is poured out of them? Why are
some whistling vessels able to trill? Why do some
whistling vessels produce a pitch jump that is to
say two different tones although they only have
one single whistle?
2

Hickmann 1990, 324: Eine chronologische Ordnung der


Pfeiftpfe ist in Form einer typologischen Seriation nicht zu
erstellen. Caso/Bernal/Acosta 1968, 164: The authors discuss the dating and the genealogy. For the authors (citation:
Mart 1970, 154) [] ist es schwer zu entscheiden, ob die
Pfeifgefe in Mittelamerika lter sind als im Andenraum.
Dort treten sie in der Proto-Chim-Periode in Erscheinung, fr die es eine Carbon-14-Datierung von 373 v. Chr.
gibt []. The pre-classic period of Monte Alban starts at
around 500 AD, so that the date from the Andean region
mainly agrees with the date of Monte Alban. Schuler 1980:
Die Pfeifgefe spielten hchstwahrscheinlich eine Rolle
im Kult, jedoch lassen sich nur Vermutungen ber ihre
genaue Bestimmung und Bedeutung anstellen. Sollte z. B.
durch das Lautgeben das Gef magisch belebt werden oder
sollten dadurch bei der Darbietung eines Trankopfers Gtter oder Tote auf die Gabe aufmerksam gemacht werden?
Wei 1979, 108: Das aufmodellierte Tier stimmt mit den
Pfeiftnen berein. Es ist meistens ein Vogel oder eine
Maus. Es wurde festgestellt, da die Tonfrequenz dieser
Pfeifgefe mit 2400 Hz in einem besonders sensitiven
Hrbereich liegt, der starke psychologische Effekte auslsen kann. Daraus wird geschlossen, da sie rituellen und
spirituellen Zwecken dienten. Mart 1970, 154: Explanation to image 135, two-chambered whistling vessels: []
Form und Verzierung des Gefes werden durch die Nachbildung der Hohlmuschel als Symbol des Regens bestimmt.
Der von dem Instrument erzeugte Pfiff kann demzufolge
als Ruf an die regenbringenden Wolken gedeutet werden
[]. Pfeifgefe fanden bei magisch-rituellen Anlssen Verwendung und wurden deshalb auch nie in groen Mengen
hergestellt.
Andritzky 1999, 191 mentions the usage of a whistling vessel in the context of a mesa-ceremony. The healer (Ruberto
from Chiclayo) carries on his mesa a pre-Columbian silvador that is regarded as an object of power. During a
susto-healing rite he makes the whistling vessel sound by
blowing at it and he moves it from feet to head across the
body of a patient lying down. The tone of the whistling
vessel is supposed to call on the patients stolen soul asking
it to return into the patients body.
Garrett/Stat 1977. Stat 1979, 4 is convinced that the
whistling vessels were used to produce psycho-acoustic
effects, which result in the human brain from the interaction of frequencies situated very close to one another (Binaural Beat Technology). If both signals are less then 20 Hz
apart from each other, they produce beat effects in the
brain, which can be proved by variations of voltage in the
EEG. The beat frequency is the difference of the two original signal frequencies. Stat uses whistling vessels of the
Chim culture, which he produces as replicas and makes
them sound in groups consisting of four to seven persons
who bring them to sound by blowing at them. The event is
described as [] an extreme centering of the consciousness or Zenlike state of clarity (Stat 1979, 4).
Bankes 1980, 14.

The Peruvian Whistling Vessels of the Museum of Ethnology Berlin

2. CONCEPTION OF A SYSTEM OF
THE WHISTLING VESSELS FROM
AN ACOUSTIC POINT OF VIEW
The tone of all whistling vessels is produced by a
whistle in the shape of a ball, the so called globular
whistle. This whistle is a reduced form of the globular flute, a type of flute common in Middle
America and South America. It can be found in the
form of a vessel-whistle, a vessel-whistle in the
shape of a figure and as an ocarina. The tones may
be cross blown or may be generated by an air duct.
According to the classification of Hornbostel/
Sachs6 the whistling vessels are listed as 4. Aerophones. Hickmann7 divides the whistling vessels
according to their outer form of appearance into
three subgroups: Single-chambered whistling jars
413.11, double-chambered whistling jars 413.12
and triple-chambered whistling jars 413.13. If one
regards the number of chambers as an essential
feature, this system seems to be consistent. If one
looks at the whistling vessels from an acoustic
point of view, however, one has to establish a subgroup for the single-chambered-whistling jars and
for the double-chambered-whistling jars respectively. In each subgroup the position of the whistle
has to be considered, since its position is the essential criterion for differentiation. Therefore the system of the whistling vessels from an acoustic point
of view is developed according to the position of
the whistle. Further features are submitted to this
principle, such as the number and the position of
the chambers, stirrup spout handle and other special forms which have no principal influence on
the tone.
The whistling vessels show two different positions of the whistles: It is either enclosed or
exposed. Objects with an enclosed whistle I will
name type A, since they represent the earlier form
of the Peruvian whistling vessels8. The enclosed
whistle is placed in a cavity that is often moulded
as the head of a bird. This cavity functions as a secondary resonator and influences the sound of the
whistle. The whistling vessels of different cultures,
like the Vir, the Vics and the Moche, belong to
this type.
TYPE A (objects with an enclosed whistle)
A 1: One chamber plus an enclosed whistle that is
only able to produce one single tone. The
whistling vessel is often moulded as a cavity in
the shape of a bird (EMB VA 64767, Vics, Fig.
3), the tail is designed as an intake tube. The
whistle is integrated inside the head. If the cavity is filled with water and blown at by mouth, a
trilling resounds.
A 2: Two chambers plus an enclosed whistle that
is able to produce one single tone. The figure

145

on the whistling vessel has a human shape


(EMB VA 64 753, Vics, Fig. 4).
A 3: Two chambers plus an enclosed whistle that
is able to produce a trill on one tone if the
instrument is used as a swinging-vessel. This
type appears frequently with the Moche and
Vics culture; the whistling chamber is often
designed as a bird (EMB VA 5989).
A 4: Two chambers plus an enclosed whistle producing a pitch jump and a trill (EMB VA 598,
Moche, Fig. 5).
A characteristic whistling vessel of type A 4 consists
of two bottle-shaped cavities, the whistling chamber and the intake chamber, which are connected at
the bottom by a lateral tube, and at the top by a
handle (Fig. 6). The whistling chamber is modelled
as a cavity and carries a figure on its top. Inside the
head of this figure, a small globular whistle is situated. The head always has air vents, their shape, size
and arrangement, however, may be very different:
e.g. they may be shaped as circular holes (of a diameter of about 6 mm) and be situated at the neck or
the back of the head, or they may be irregular openings following the shape of the beak. The intake
chamber ends at the top in a vertical tube, in some
cases the tube has a conic tendency. If you pour
water into the intake chamber, both chambers form
a system in the sense of communicating tubes.
Filled with water to the half, the liquid may flow
from one chamber into the other, if the vessel is tilted axially. The water flowing into the whistling
chamber compresses the air which is forced through
a narrow canal (the air duct) to the rim (the edge) of
the circular window of a globular whistle9. The
whistle sounds as long as the complete liquid has
flown into the whistling chamber and the air compression has thus come to an end. If the whistling
6
7
8

Hornbostel/Sachs 1914.
Hickmann 1990, 53.
Hickmann 1990, 323: Frheste Pfeiftpfe Perus konstruierten Trger der Kultur Vics. Garrett/Stat 1977 look at
69 whistling vessels, 20 of them of type A and 49 of them of
type B. The aim of their research is to measure the frequency of the whistling vessels of eight pre-Columbian cultures.
The average frequency of Type A, which features objects of
the Vir, the Vis and the Moche is listed with 1320 Hz.
The reference tone would be e with a frequency of 1320
Hz. The pitch jump (double-noted whistle) of 14 objects
of this group is not explained any further: Fourteen whistles produced two distinct tones depending on the blowing
pressure applied at the spout. The average frequency of
type B, featuring objects of the Chim and the Inka is listed with 2670 Hz. The reference tone would be e with
2637 Hz. The average frequency of Recuay is listed with
2000 Hz. The reference tone is h with 1980 Hz. The frequencies are interpreted as attributes specific for the
respective culture. All the measurements undertaken in the
Museum for Ethnology Berlin stay within the limits of the
experiments of Garrett/Stat.
Olson 2002, 129.

146

Friedemann Schmidt

vessel is moved in a slow axial swinging motion, both


cavities are filled and emptied in turns and a rhythmic whistling develops [CD I, sound sample 1]. The
system of the connected cavities merely serves to
produce the air compression. The size of the cavities
has no effect on the sound of the whistle, as Hickmann assumes10. The air compression depends on
the pace of the movement, therefore we may hear
variations of tone in a scope of around 50 cents.
TYPE B (objects with an exposed whistle)
The exposed whistle is visible from outside and its
sound may unfold freely in the open space (Fig. 7).
It is either integrated in the handle or the body of
an animal, e.g. the body of a monkey or the head
of a bird, serves as a globular whistle. Whistling
vessels of later cultures like of the Chim, the
Lambayeque and the Inka represent this type, but
we find this type also with the Recuay culture11.
B 1: One chamber plus an exposed whistle that is
situated under the animal sculpture and has a
separate globular shape. The spout is funnelshaped. Filled with water and blown at by
mouth, a trilling tone resounds (EMB VA
48308, Recuay, Fig. 8).
B 2: Two chambers plus an exposed whistle which
is situated in the handle. The object whistles, if
it is filled with water and is moved in a swinging motion ( EMB VA 17209, Chim).
B 3: Two chambers plus an exposed whistle inside
the handle producing a trill on one tone (EMB
VA 48022, Chim, Fig. 9). Because the connecting tube is high situated in the center of the
chambers you can receive a good sound only
by blowing.
B 4: Two chambers plus an exposed whistle; at the
top, the whistling chamber carries a plastic figure ( EMB VA 16939, Lambayeque, Fig. 10).
The head of the bird is the whistle. The object
may sound as a swinging-vessel but much better by blowing at it.
B 5: Whistling vessel consisting of four chambers
plus a whistle inside the handle. Sounded by
blowing you can hear a trill (EMB VA 65824,
Lambayeque, Fig. 11).
B 6: Whistling vessel consisting of a ring-shaped
intake chamber plus a whistle inside the handle.
Sounded by blowing you can hear a trill (EMB
VA 835).
B 7: Whistling vessel in the shape of a ring with
four pigeons sitting on top of the ring whose
heads are modelled as exposed whistles, which
sound one after another, if the water inside of
the ring is moved (EMB VA 18277).

Museum for Ethnology Berlin. They particularly


illustrate the manifold variants of type 413.12 double-chambered whistling-jars appearing as type A
and type B. Triple-chambered whistling-jars
413.13 and all other types consisting of more than
two chambers always show an exposed whistle
and thus belong to type B.
The analysis of the whistling jars from an
acoustic point of view opens up to a dimension
that is both historical as cultural. The early cultures like the Vir, the Vics and the Moche preferred type A. The later cultures like the Chim
and the Inka preferred type B.

3. TECHNOLOGY AND ACOUSTICS OF THE WHISTLING VESSELS


3.1 THE PHYSICAL CONDITIONS FOR
THE PRODUCTION OF SOUND IN
GLOBULAR FLUTES
Globular whistles belong to the family of the labial flutes12. Every labial flute consists of three
parts13: (a) of an air duct where the air is moulded
into a sheet of air, (b) of an edge where the sheet of
air oscillates periodically, and (c) of a resonator,
which limits the standing wave and thus designates
the frequency of the tone essentially. (a) together
with (b) form the initiator of vibration, which gets
the energy it needs to build up a standing wave by
the air pressure the player of the whistle produces
by blowing at it14. The initiator of vibration (the
edge-tone) is nothing but a white noise, because
no frequency is selected on the cavity of a resonator. (c) is the producer of vibration which sees
to it that the periodical vibrations, which have
developed inside the resonator, may unfold in the
open air, reach the eardrum and may be thus perceived as a tone.
All whistling vessels show globular resonators.
The window is always circular, the air duct may be
sickle-shaped (with whistles of the Moche) or circular (with whistles of the Chim, the Recuay and
the Lambayeque). The angle in which the sheet of
10

11

12

The whistling vessels described above represent


only a small choice of the whistling vessels of the

13
14

Hickmann 1990, 436: You can hear deep tones if the intake
chamber is sounded by cross blowing. Tiefe, dunkle Tne
erklingen, die m. E. nicht ohne Einflu auf die gesamte
Klangentwicklung sein knnen. Eventuelle Wechselwirkungen mit der Tonerregung im Pfeifenaufsatz sind
bisher nicht untersucht.
Hickmann 1990, 324: Und scheint auch die verdeckte
Pfeifvorrichtung frher als offene konstruiert worden zu
sein, so ist doch festzustellen, da beide Arten der
Klangerzeugung in verschiedenen Kulturen nebeneinander
vorkamen (Bahia, Moche, Chim).
Stauder 1990, 81.
Ruf 1991, 392.
Stauder 1990, 82; Fletcher/Rossing 1991, 433.

The Peruvian Whistling Vessels of the Museum of Ethnology Berlin

air hits the edge is very difficult to perform with


globular whistles15. The shape and the cross-section of the air duct influence the sound. The sickle-shaped air duct common with the Moche results
in a softer vibration of the tones than common
with Chim whistles. The sound spectrum of this
kind of whistles may be compared to the sound of
the stopped organ-pipes, which means that all
uneven partials may be formed within the sound
spectrum, while all even partials are suppressed16.
Especially the dominance of the third and the fifth
partial add a hollow, gloomy and dull character to
the sound. The keynote always sounds one octave
lower than with an open flute having the same resonator volume.
In secondary literature we often find the assertion that a whistling vessel is also able to produce a
tone if the liquid is poured out17. This assertion,
which apparently goes back to Squier, has already
been contradicted by Wilson18. With all the
whistling vessels tested in the Museum of Ethnology Berlin and with all the replicas, no tone could
be produced by pouring out water either. If the
whistling chamber is emptied no tone is produced,
because the physical conditions for the production
of a tone are lacking. The gurgling noises and the
sucking in of air via the narrow air duct that one
can hear during the emptying of the whistling
chamber must not be denoted as a concrete tone. It
rather sounds like the noisy breathing of a living
creature19. The process of sound production is not
reversible with globular whistles, because the initiation of vibration always has to precede the production of vibration.

is blown at the intake chamber by mouth. The


duration of breath decides the length of the tone.
If the intake chambers are half-filled with water, all
whistling vessels trill, no matter in which manner
they are constructed. Whistling vessels with one
chamber were probably always brought to sound
in this manner only, as, by the mere movement of
water in one chamber, no continuous air compression may be produced20. Because of their special
type of construction featuring a narrow air duct,
all whistling vessels may as well be blown by circular breathing21. Using this technique, the air
pressure produced by blowing at the whistling
vessel can be maintained for a fairly long period of
time, so that the whistling vessels are whistling or
trilling for minutes without interruption. In addition to that, the sound may be shaped additionally
by simultaneous singing, talking and rhythmic
pulsating of the breath [CD I, sound sample 2].
Another possibility to generate sound is to boil
the water inside of a whistling vessel. Then, the

15
16
17

3.2. THE SHAPING OF SOUND IN


WHISTLING VESSELS
The air compression inside the whistling chamber
is the precondition for the tone of the whistling
vessels. If the whistling vessels are moved when
filled with water, the air compression is regulated
by the air duct and the diameter of the connection
tube. A large air duct in combination with a wide
connection tube is able to produce a single short
tone only. A large cross section of the connection
tube in combination with a narrow air duct is
responsible for the trilling of the whistling vessels.
The trilling is produced because the air accumulates in the whistling chamber and then, in periodic turns, recedes backwards into the intake chamber. The air escapes in bubbles and this process is
audible as a trilling, since the continuous compression is interrupted. This principle holds both with
exposed whistles (EMB VA 7687, Chim) as with
enclosed whistles (EMB VA 62149, Moche). A
whistling vessel may also be brought to sound, if it

147

18

19
20

21

Hickmann 1990, 53.


Ruf 1991, 150.
EMB, object number 12 of the Gildemeister collection
shows a whistling vessel of the Chim culture, a doublechamber with the head of a parrot: Beim Ausgieen von
Flssigkeiten wird durch die Luftfhrung im Inneren des
Gefes ein Pfeifgerusch erzeugt. Display box: Artisan
techniques in pre-Spanish Peru. Object number 5, Vics
culture: In das Doppelgef ist ein Mechanismus eingebaut. Beim Ausgieen erzeugt die eindringende Luft einen
Pfeifton. Schuler 1980. Im Kopf der Figur ist eine Pfeife
eingearbeitet, ber die beim Fllen oder Entleeren des
Gefes und beim Bewegen des Flssigkeitsspiegels im
Inneren die Luft in einem scharfen Luftzug hinwegstreicht
und dadurch Tne erzeugt. Inka-Peru 1992, 138: Der
Pfeiflaut entsteht beim Ausgieen von Flssigkeiten durch
die dabei auftretende Luftzirkulation in einer bestimmten
Vorrichtung im Kopf des Tieres. Anton 2001, 22: Eine
Kuriositt in allen Perioden sind die Doppelgefe mit
Pfeifvorrichtung, Silvador genannt. Beim Ein- oder Ausgieen des Wassers wird die Luft verdrngt, bzw. sie strmt
ein und erzeugt dabei einen leisen Pfeifton.
Squier 1877, 179. [] so that, in pouring water out of the
vessel, air is not only admitted to supply the vacuum, but in
passing in or out often causes a sound imitating the note or
cry of the bird or animal represented. Wilson (1898, 653)
contradicts this statement: [] the author has not been
able to obtain any sound by pouring the water out. Wilson notes that [] their sounds or notes are given while
the air is forced out by the incoming water.
Olson 2002, 132.
Ransom 1998, 12. Garrett/Stat 1977 are convinced that the
whistling vessels (filled with water or containing no water)
were brought to sound by blowing at them by mouth, for
under these conditions only the authors concept of the
psycho-acoustic relevance of the whistling vessels may be
realised. To measure the frequencies, they therefore use a
mechanic blowing construction. In this way, however, they
oversaw the fact that many whistling vessels of different
cultures are able to produce a trill in an autonomous manner, if the air compression is produced by the movement of
the water.
One should note, however, that the use of circular breathing has not been proved yet with pre-Spanish cultures.

148

Friedemann Schmidt

steam escapes through the air duct and generates a


sound such as in a tea kettle. The technique can be
applied to whistling vessels with two or more
chambers and type A and type B whistles.
Whistling vessels with a single chamber do not
show the effect, as the steam escapes through the
infill tube. This phenomenon of generating sounds
with steam has been studied recently with replicas
of Moche and Lambayeque whistling vessels.

3.3 PRIMARY AND SECONDARY RESONATORS AS A COUPLED SYSTEM


The pitch depends on the volume of the resonator
of the whistle, and with integrated whistles in
addition to that, on the volume of the secondary
resonator where the whistle is located. If a whistle
is added to the secondary resonator, this results in
a rise of frequency of around 100 cents, a phenomenon that was noted with the replication of
whistling vessels of the Moche culture22. The emitted sound does not have the frequency of the
whistle, but its frequency is the coupling frequency of the producer of vibration and the secondary
resonator. The secondary resonator thus influences oscillating motion of the sheet of air at the
edge of the labium. All primary resonators of
whistling vessels have a very small volume. Small
resonators generate fast oscillations, and thus
result in a high-pitched sound. The pitches range
from the fourth octave to with objects of the
Chim to the third octave with objects of the
Moche.
A characteristic feature of all wind-instruments
is their selective resonance; which means that in
the resonator only one single tone can be amplified. With some whistling vessels of the integrated
type, however, we hear a second tone. Various
authors observed this pitch jump, but found no
explication for it23. The air contained in a cavity of
any shape when set in vibration will give a tone. If
a whistling vessel is supposed to produce a second
tone, the globular whistle has to be placed into a
secondary resonator that starts to resonate, if a
periodic force builds up to a vibrating system that
has the natural frequency of the volume of the secondary resonator. This secondary resonator follows the principle of the Helmholtz resonator24,
which is characterised by an unspecific resonance;
it also amplifies tones that are neighbouring its
natural frequency25. With a low blowing pressure,
first of all, in the primary resonator, only the so
called low Maultne26 build up, which lie beneath
its actual initiating frequency. The second tone of
some whistling vessels of the Moche which is
often a major third or approximately a fifth lower
than the first tone results from the natural tone

of the secondary resonator that is generated by the


Maultne. If the blowing pressure goes up, the
lower tone that was produced with less energy, is
superimposed by the higher tone and finally extinguished. If we look at the relation between the single tones of the pitch jumps, we note that they
often obey the laws of the harmonic series. With
globular whistles the Maultne also include the
uneven frequency components of the partials of
the primary resonator. Mainly the fifth and the
third as third partial and fifth partial including
their octaves produce dominating components in
the frequency group of the Maultne. If the secondary resonator of a whistling vessel is blown at
like an ocarina27, the low tone of the pitch jump
resounds. This observation proves the thesis of the
function of the secondary resonator which starts
to sound if a periodic force builds up to a vibration
in the field of its natural frequency. No pitch
jumps less than a third or more than a fifth were
measured. If the frequency of the primary resonator is more than a fifth or less than a major

22

23

24
25

26

27

Rawcliffe 1992, 61: The pitch of the primary whistle is


usually flattened when placed into the secondary chamber.
Wilson 1898, 656; Garrett/Stat 1977; Rawcliffe 2002, 258.
Wilson 1898, 656: The author describes a whistling vessel
of type A: The whistle is inside the head of a parrot. The
documented pitch jump is that of a major third (ce).
The pitch jump happens [] without any intermediate
sound. Rawcliffe 2002, 258 describes a whistling vessel of
the enclosed type: This whistle within a chamber is thus a
pitch jump whistle. Rawcliffe 1992, 50: My own experiments with sound production in these instruments lead to
the hypothesis that the pitch of the generating whistle must
be at an appropriate frequency to activate one of the secondary chambers partials.
Helmholtz 1863, 6. Ausgabe 1913, 7376.
Pierce 1985, 39: Wenn die Schallquelle Frequenzkomponenten erzeugt, die weitgehend mit der Resonatorfrequenz
des Hohlraumresonators bereinstimmen, dann wird er
diese Harmonische verstrken und man hrt nur noch sie.
Wood 1965, 27: We have seen that if a series of tuningforks is held successively over the air in a bottle the
response is greatest to the fork whose pitch is that of the air
in the bottle. But if we try the experiment out carefully we
shall find that the resonance is not sharp i.e., we not only
get a response to the correctly tuned fork, but we get a
response, less marked it is true, but quite appreciable, to
forks a semiton, a tone, or even a third or fourth from the
correct pitch..
Stauder 1990, 82: Ist der Winddruck sehr schwach, so
ertnen zunchst nur die tiefen sogenannten Maultne,
deren Hhe mit steigendem Winddruck ebenfalls ansteigt,
bis die tiefste Eigenfrequenz der Rhre (i.e. hier des
Primrresonators) erreicht ist.
Fletcher/Rossing 1991, 449: [] the ocarina, an instrument in which the resonator is a globular vessel that acts as
a single-mode Helmholtz resonator the frequency of which
is raised as holes are opened, []. The tone is produced
by using a flexible air duct (e.g. a straw) and by blowing at
the edge of an air vent or at the edge of the opening in the
beak.

The Peruvian Whistling Vessels of the Museum of Ethnology Berlin

third above the natural tone of the secondary resonator, no standing wave is build up inside the secondary resonator, because the components of the
frequency lie beyond the natural tone of the secondary resonator. The air vents inside the secondary resonator fulfil a double function: they
allow the tones to escape into the surrounding
space28, and at the same time, they decide the natural tone of the secondary resonator. If single air
vents are closed, the natural tone gets lower. With
a whistling vessel of type A (EMB VA 589), for the
secondary resonator a is listed, the pitch jump is
ae. When both air vents on the neck are closed,
F sharp is measured with the secondary resonator
and just the tone e resounds. The secondary resonator consequently is not able to start to resonate, as the distance from its natural tone is more
than a fifth, and thus the secondary resonator loses
its function as Helmholtz resonator. The pitch
jump does not take place and the whistling vessel
solely produces the tone of the enclosed globular
whistle.
The primary resonator and the secondary resonator form a coupled system which is very prone
to disturbance and only allows minor changes of
its constituting factors. This connection has to be
taken into account when producing replicas of the
whistling vessels. Whistling vessels of type A with
pitch jump we find in the cultures of the Vics and
the Moche. The accordance of the natural tone of
the secondary resonator with the low tone of the
pitch jump was observed with various original
objects in the Museum of Ethnology Berlin
(EMB VA 598, EMB VA 5662, EMB VA 48118).
This connection was also noted during the replication of whistling vessels (Fig. 12). Both observations can be taken as a confirmation of the thesis
that the pitch jump can be explained on the basis
of Helmholtzs analysis of the resonance of
acoustic systems29.

4. SUMMARY
At the end of this paper, let us sum up the results
of the analysis:
The globular whistles belong to the family of
the stopped labial flutes and share all the characteristic features of this family, which means that
they correspond with the stopped labial flutes in
their way producing sound and in their partials.
Whistling vessels with two chambers cannot
produce a sound by pouring out water, because for
this effect the acoustic conditions are lacking.
The trill of the double-chambered whistling
vessels is based on the differentiated interplay of
the cross sections of the air duct and the connection tube.

149

The pitch jump results from the coupling of the


frequencies of the primary resonator and the secondary resonator, which functions as a Helmholtz
resonator.
Analysing the whistling vessels we realised that
we are dealing with very complex systems. In their
production not only ceramic know-how is
required, but also knowledge of the interaction of
the constructional measures and of their acoustic
effects.
If one wants to analyse a complex system, it is
essential to develop a concept whose constituting
elements can be looked at separately. Therefore
with type A an experimental whistling vessel was
produced (Fig. 13). The whistles and the secondary resonators may be exchanged. Thus all
possibilities of how to produce a tone may be
demonstrated with this one object. In a pilot
scheme different constructional conditions are
combined which produce different tones by interaction: When a whistle is built inside the secondary resonator, the frequency rises around 100
cents, no matter which tone was measured with
the whistle beforehand. If we put a whistle with a
wide air duct inside the secondary resonator, we
receive a simple tone. If we put a whistle with a
narrow air duct inside the secondary resonator, we
receive a tone with a trill. A whistle whose difference in frequency to the natural tone of the secondary resonator fulfils the conditions of the fifth
third, produces a second tone inside the secondary resonator. We hear a pitch jump. This connection could only be noted with whistles whose
frequency lies in the field of the third octave.
Replicating instruments of sound, their specific
sound always has to be in the foreground. The
artisan must be able to differentiate between essential and marginal elements of an instrument. Concerning whistling vessels only two possibilities for
the production of sound exist (type A or type B),
in spite of the great diversity of their outer shape.
The different functionality of these two types
forms the essential difference of these instruments
of sound. The instrument builders credo (in Germany) is: Erst kapieren, dann kopieren (first of
all, understand it, then copy), which means that
only the person who has understood the construction and the physical precondition of the sound is
able to produce a copy.
Although moulds were used, the production of
the thin-walled cavities without a potters wheel
and connecting these cavities with a tube and a
handle is a technical and artistic performance on a
very high level. The different shrinkage of the cav-

28
29

Olson 2002, 129.


Pierce 1985, 3839.

150

Friedemann Schmidt

ities and of the massive elements has to be taken


into account when connecting the single parts. The
joining of the single elements (cavity, massive handle or stirrup handle, connection tube, globular
whistle) can only take place in a leathery stage of
the clay, otherwise the thin-walled cavities would
be deformed. The connection was probably
realised using a kaolin clay suspension, a special
suspension produced from coloured clay. This suspension also forms the basic material of the painting. For the production of globular whistles one
could probably refer to handed down knowledge.
This knowledge included the right conduction of
air through a tubular air duct plus the right blowing angle in which the air hits an edge of the circular window. The whistles of the Recuay, the
Chim and the Inka follow this principle. The
whistles of the Moche, however, seem to have been
developed particularly for their own characteristic
whistling vessels of the enclosed type. With their
whistling vessels, the air duct is sickle shaped slit
and the sheet of air is conducted very flatly above
the circular window. This constructional means
results in a soft, keynote sound. Apart from the
whistling vessels, this variant of globular whistle
has not been found anywhere else. The described
construction simplifies the production of a whistle, and besides that, the shrinking processes effect
only a minor influence on the cross section of the
air duct. As an integrated whistle cannot be modified after it is placed into the secondary resonator,
the construction described above provides a high
measure of certainty that the whistling vessels do
function after the firing. The question, whether a
technological problem or an ideal of sound is the
reason for this construction, cannot be answered
definitely. With another phenomenon of the
whistling vessels of type A, the speculation that
the ceramist wanted to fulfil an ideal of sound
comes to ones mind. The phenomenon referred to
is the pitch jump. It is quite possible that the
acoustic conditions for a pitch jump happened by
accident during the production of whistling vessels. The pitch jump may be witnessed with many
whistling vessels30; therefore we can assume that in
pre-Spanish Peruvian cultures there already existed some knowledge of the causal connection
between the constructional proportions and
acoustic phenomena. All the whistling vessels in
the Museum for Ethnology Berlin with a pitch
jump from the culture of the Moche have further
features in common: the head of a parrot in their
outer shape and their ability to trill31. The idea that
there might be a connection between the sound
and the animal figure shaping the whistling vessels
comes to ones mind. This assumption was discussed in detail with an ornithologist of the Zoologischer Garten, Berlin, but it could not be con-

firmed. Thus we cannot assume an imitating intention. With all other whistling vessels there is no
connection between sound and the depicted animal or other figure either32.
We started from the idea that the double chambered whistling vessels were brought to sound by
the movement of liquid inside of them33. If we
look at the constructional conditions of this type
of sound production, which is based on the movement of liquid and the compression of air inside
the whistling chamber, we note that with some
whistling vessels of the Moche culture, this constructional challenge was solved particularly well.
In this case, we can suppose that their form was
developed from their function, which is to say that
form followed function. This type is represented
in different collections by various objects34. Characteristic features are the small intake chamber, the
large whistling chamber, the whistle placed high
up inside the head and the stirrup spout (EMB VA
62140, Fig. 14). The liquid inside the small intake
chamber never reaches the whistle high up inside
the head; even if the vessel is tilted extremely, the
water never pours out of the stirrup spout. This
construction thus avoids all the problems which
may happen while the vessel is swung back and
forth by hand. Here a deliberate idea of design that
cared for the optimal function of the instrument
seems to have produced this special form of
whistling vessel. It would be interesting to prove
in a comparing investigation if all these sounding
tools can be assigned to one and the same ceramist.
When we compare type A to type B, we realise
that on the whole a development from complex to
simple can be noted. This holds both for the
acoustic conditions as for the ceramic production.
Type A with its integrated whistle is far more difficult to produce, for in its production complex
acoustic conditions have to be considered. And
furthermore, type A is painted with great care, and
thus its production takes more time than the pro30

31

32

33
34

Garrett/Stat 1977 report on fourteen whistling vessels with


pitch jump. In the Museum of Ethnology Berlin four
objects of type A with a pitch jump are preserved. The constructional conditions for trilling might have been discovered by accident, too. When replicating whistling vessels,
the author of this paper became aware of the connection
explained in the text merely by accident.
Four of these whistling vessels are in the Ethnologisches
Museum Berlin: EMB VA 48118, EMB VA 5662, EMB VA
62140, EMB VA 598. One whistling vessel Wilson 1898,
656 describes belongs to this type as well: The whistle is
inside the head of a parrot.
Amaro 1996, 133; Olson 2002, 130: Very dissimilar figures
such as, for example, human beings, felines, monkeys,
ducks or parrots emit very similar sounds.
Olson 2002, 132.
Hickmann 1990, 209, Fig. P 67: In the Museum of Ethnology Berlin three objects of this type are preserved: EMB
VA 62140, EMB VA 48118, EMB VA 18249.

The Peruvian Whistling Vessels of the Museum of Ethnology Berlin

duction of type B. With type B of the Chim culture and the Lambayeque culture, the cavities are
joined together from single ready-made moulds.
The Chim whistling vessels demonstrate no
painting, as the surface has already been designed
as a relief when moulded and during the firing
process a uniform black colour of the objects is
achieved. By individual manual labour only the
handle with the whistle inside of it is joined in
between the intake chamber and the whistling
chamber. Because of its simple production technique, the type described above is suitable for
mass production. In the Museum of Ethnology
Berlin the majority of the 326 whistling vessels
belongs to type B; only 76 belong to type A. With
type B the traces of modelling are very often
removed only carelessly, while in contrast to that
the surface of type A is treated with great care.
The differences between type A and type B can
be explained on the basis of technological and
acoustic differences. Further research is necessary,
however, if one wants to find the reasons which
led to the changes of the different types.

151

METHODS
All frequencies were measured with a KORG AT1, 440 HZ A-calibrated. When moving the vessel
in slow axial swinging motions, the generated
sound often wavers in a range of approximately
100 cents. In this case, the tone of the highest air
pressure was recorded.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
I owe special thanks to Dr. Manuela Fischer of the
Museum of Ethnology Berlin and Dr. Adje Both
for the interest in my project and their great support in all matters.

ABBREVIATIONS
SMB-PK
EMB

Staatliche Museen zu Berlin-Preuischer Kulturbesitz


Ethnologisches Museum Berlin

BIBLIOGRAPHY
AMARO, I. 1996
Smbolo y sonido: Los instrumentos musicales
figurativos del Per antiguo, in: K. Makowski,
/I. Amaro/M. A. Hernndes (ed.): Imgenes y
mitos, 115141. Lima.
ANDRITZKY, W. 1999
Traditionelle Psychotherapie und Schamanismus in Peru. Berlin.
ANTON, F. 1995
Azteken, Maya, Inka und ihre Vorlufer. Iphofen.
ANTON, F. 2001
Die Bedeutung der Mochica innerhalb der prkolumbischen Kulturen Alt-Perus, in: Gold
aus dem alten Peru: Die Knigsgrber von
Sipan, 1038. Bonn.
BANKES, G. 1980
Moche Pottery from Peru. London.
CASO, A./BERNAL, I./ACOSTA, J. 1968
La cermica de Monte Alban. Mxico.
DONNAN, CH. B./MACKEY, C. J. 1978
Ancient Burial Patterns of the Moche Valley,
Peru. Austin.
DONNAN, CH. B. 1992
Die Ikonographie von Moche, in: Inka Peru:
3000 Jahre indianische Hochkulturen, 100108.
Tbingen.
EISLEB, D. 1975
Altperuanische Kulturen I. Verffentlichungen
des Museums fr Vlkerkunde Berlin, Neue
Folge 31. Berlin.

EISLEB, D. 1987
Altperuanische Kulturen IV: Recuay. Verffentlichungen des Museums fr Vlkerkunde
Berlin, Neue Folge 44. Berlin.
FLETCHER, N. H./ROSSING TH. D. 1991
The Physics of Musical Instruments. New York.
GARRETT, S./STAT, D. K. 1977
Peruvian Whistling Bottles, Journal of the
Acoustical Society of America, Vol. 62, No. 2,
449453.
HELMHOLTZ, H. VON 1863
Die Lehre von den Tonempfindungen. Braunschweig. Zitiert nach 6. Ausgabe 1913, Nachdruck 1983. Hildesheim.
HICKMANN, E. 1990
Musik aus dem Altertum der Neuen Welt.
Frankfurt/Main.
HORNBOSTEL, E. M. VON/SACHS, C. 1914
Systematik der Musikinstrumente. Ein Versuch, ZfE, 46. Jg., H. IV und V, 553590.
INKA-PERU 1992
3000 Jahre indianische Hochkulturen. Katalog. Haus der Kulturen der Welt Berlin. Berlin.
JORALEMON, D. 1984
Symbolic Space and Ritual Time in a Peruvian
Healing Ceremony. San Diego Museum of
Man, Ethnic Technology Notes, No. 19. San
Diego.
MARONN, E. 1964
Untersuchung zur Wahrnehmung sekundrer

152

Friedemann Schmidt

Tonqualitten bei ganzzahligen Schwingungsverhltnissen. Beitrge zur Musikforschung,


Vol. 30. Regensburg.
MARTI, S. 1970
Musikgeschichte in Bildern. Bd. II: Musik des
Altertums. Vol. 2, Lieferung 7: Alt-Amerika.
Leipzig.
MUSEO CHILENO DE ARTE PRECOLOMBINO 1990
Ausstellungskatalog. Santiago de Chile.
MUSIKINSTRUMENTE DER WELT 1979
Ausstellungskatalog. Gtersloh.
OLSON, D. A. 2002
Music of El Dorado: The Ethnomusicology of
Ancient American Cultures. Gainesville.
PIERCE, J. R. 1985
Klang: Musik mit den Ohren der Physik. Spektrum-Bibliothek, Vol. 7. Heidelberg.
RANSOM, B. 1998.
The Enigma of Whistling Water Jars in PreColumbian Ceramics, in: Experimental Musical Instruments, Vol. 14, No. 1, 1215.
RAWCLIFFE, S. 1992
Complex Acoustics in Pre-Columbian Flute
Systems, in: C. E. Robertson. Musical Repercussions of 1492, 3562. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press.
RAWCLIFFE, S. 2002
Sounding Clay: Pre-Hispanic Flutes, in: E.
Hickmann/A. D. Kilmer/R. Eichmann (eds.),
Studien zur Musikarchologie II. OrientArchologie 10, 255267. Rahden/Westf.

ROEDERER, J. G. 2000
Physikalische und psychoakustische Grundlagen der Musik. Berlin.
RUF, W. (ed.) 1991
Musikinstrumente. Mannheim.
SCHULER, I. VON 1980
Abbildungsblatt der Staatlichen Museen Preuischer Kulturbesitz. Berlin VII, Blatt 040a,
Abteilung Alt-Amerika. Berlin.
SIMBRIGER, H./ZEHELEIN, A. 1951
Handbuch der musikalischen Akustik. Regensburg.
SQUIER, E. G. 1877
Peru: Incidents of Travel and Exploration in
the Land of the Incas. London.
STAT, D. K. 1979
Ancient Sound: The whistling vessels of Peru,
El Palacio. Journal of the Museum of New
Mexico, Vol. 85, No. 2, 27.
STAUDER, W. 1990
Einfhrung in die Akustik. Wilhelmshaven.
WEISS, G. 1979
Alte Keramik neu entdeckt. Berlin.
WILSON, TH. 1898
Prehistoric art; or the origin of arts as manifested in the works of prehistoric man. Washington.
WOOD, A. 1965
The Physics of Music. London.

The Peruvian Whistling Vessels of the Museum of Ethnology Berlin

Fig. 1 Five prehispanic cultures of Peru, where whistling vessels investigated in this paper were produced;
drawings: F. Schmidt.

153

154

Friedemann Schmidt

Fig. 2 Two-piece mould of the Lambayeque culture. The moulds were produced with the help of an
already existing vessel: The clay was pressed around the pot and divided in two pieces when it was dry
enough; SMB-PK (EMB V A 47728); photograph: F. Schmidt, 2005.

Fig. 3 One-chambered whistling vessel of type A from the Vics culture with ten air vents in the
secondary resonator; SMB-PK (EMB V A 64767); photograph: F. Schmidt, 2005.

The Peruvian Whistling Vessels of the Museum of Ethnology Berlin

Fig. 4 Double-chambered whistling vessel of type A produced by the Vics culture. The eyeholes are
the air vents of the secondary resonator; SMB-PK (EMB V A 64753); photograph: F. Schmidt, 2005.

Fig. 5 Double-chambered whistling vessel of type A. The white ornament on red clay is typical of the
Moche culture. A cross section of this sounding tool is shown in Fig. 6; SMB-PK (EMB V A 598); photograph: F. Schmidt, 2005.

155

156

Friedemann Schmidt

Fig. 6 Type A cross section of a double-chambered


whistling vessel with an enclosed whistle. The air vents
in the neck and in the beak tune up the own proper
pitch of the secondary resonator.

Fig. 7 Type B cross section of a whistling vessel with exposed whistle in the flat handle. This type is characteristic of objects of the Chim culture as shown in Fig. 9;
drawings: F. Schmidt.

Fig. 8 This one-chambered whistling vessel of type B belongs to the Recuay culture. The globular
whistle is situated separately between the legs of the little animal; SMB-PK (EMB V A 48308); photograph: F. Schmidt, 2005.

The Peruvian Whistling Vessels of the Museum of Ethnology Berlin

Fig. 9 Type B double-chambered whistling vessel typical of the Chim culture. The exposed whistle is
situated in the handle; SMB-PK (EMB V A 48022); photograph: F. Schmidt, 2005.

Fig. 10 Type B double-chambered whistling vessel of the Lambayeque culture. The head of the little
bird serves as a globular whistle; SMB-PK (EMB V A 16939); photograph: F. Schmidt, 2005.

157

158

Friedemann Schmidt

Fig. 11 Whistling vessel of the Lambayeque culture with four connected chambers and an exposed
whistle in the handle; SMB-PK (EMB V A 65 824); photograph: F. Schmidt, 2005.

Fig. 12 Replica of a whistling vessel of the Moche culture made by F. Schmidt emitting a trill and a
pitch-jump. Six replicas of this Moche whistling vessel are sounded experimentally [CD I, sound
sample 1]; photograph: F. Schmidt, 2005.

The Peruvian Whistling Vessels of the Museum of Ethnology Berlin

Fig. 13 With this experimental set the whistles and the secondary resonators can be exchanged. Furthermore a whistle can be tested separately before the insertion in the secondary resonator; photograph:
F. Schmidt, 2005.

Fig. 14 Double-chambered whistling vessel of the Moche culture with stirrup spout handle. In the large
air vent of the secondary resonator you can see the enclosed globular whistle; SMB-PK (EMB V
A 62140); photograph: F. Schmidt, 2005.

159