Archaeology, Art and Iconography, Bibliography of Maya Music, especially musical Instruments

We list theses, PhD dissertations, articles, and web sites which are not just copy-and-paste from others. We indicate where you can download free copies (when they are available). This list is the work of Nicholas Hellmuth updated by Vivian Hurtado.

 

In addition to doing reading on Maya Music, visit Casa K’ojom Musica Maya

Even though I was a student intern at Bonampak already in 1962 (a while ago), and even though I have been at Bonampak many times since then, it still helps to visit a museum with the actual Maya musical instruments.

Kojom_museum_FLAAR_team

We at FLAAR recommend you visit Casa K’OJOM, a museum of Maya music. This is a few minutes outside Antigua Guatemala. I have been there twice and we appreciate the hospitality of the manager and staff there. As an archaeologist I myself have never found any musical instrument during my excavations. So I learn from the work of other archaeologists and musical historians.

www.Kojom.org is their web site.

You can also see ceramic musical instruments at the National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, near the Guatemala City airport. And you can see other ceramic musical instruments such as ocarinas, and flutes at the Museo Popol Vuh, on the campus of the Universidad Francisco Marroquin.

 

Annotated Bibliography of Prehispanic Mesoamerican Music Especially Musical Instruments of the Classic Maya Art. Archaeology, Iconography

"Pre-Columbian music" would include the Aztecs, Zapotecs, Mixtecs, West Coast Mexico, etc. That would be a separate bibliography for pre-Hispanic music in general. The list of books, articles, theses, and dissertations below is primarily on music of the Mayan people, especially the Classic period. Music played today is different but can still help understand aspects of the past. Music is a pertinent topic in the study of Mayan archaeology because music was played during battle, during ceremonies, during the rubber ballgame, etc.

  • ALFARO, DANIEL
  • 1982
  • Folk Music of the Yucatan Peninsula, PhD dissertation. University of Colorado.

  • AMIRA-Atz, JUAN MIGUEL
  • 2007
  • El Juego de Pelota Maya, Función Simbólica, Social, Política y sus Implicaciones Arquitectónicas. Tesis presentada a la Junta Directiva de la Facultad de Arquitectura Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala.

  • ANDREWS, E.
  • 1969
  • The archaeological use and distribution of mollusca in the Maya Lowlands . Middle American Research Institute, Publication 34. Tulane University, New Orleans

  • ANLEU DÍAZ, ENRIQUE
  • 1940
  • Historia de la música en Guatemala. Guatemala Tipografía Nacional 1986. De las paginas 133-140.

  • BOURG, CAMERON HIDEO
  • 2005
  • Ancient Maya Music Now with Sound. MA thesis, Dept. of Foreign Languages and Literatures. Louisiana State University. 77 pages.

    NOTE: Surprisingly few illustrations and effectively no photographs.
  • CASTILLO, JESÚS
  • 1891
  • La música maya quiché: región de Guatemala. Guatemala: Piedra Santa, 142 paginas.

  • CONTRERAS ARIAS, JUAN GUILLERMO
  • 1988
  • Atlas cultural de México. Música. Secretaría de Educación Pública-Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia-Editorial Planeta, México, D.F.

  • CONTRERAS ARIAS, JUAN GUILLERMO
  • 1994
  • La colección de instrumentos musicales del CENIDIM. Bibliomúsica 7: 49-54.

  • CRESSON, H. T.
  • 1884
  • Construction of ancient Mexican Terracotta Pitch Pipes and Flageolets. The American Naturalist. 8: 498-510.

  • CUELLER, JOSE
  • 2016
  • Reviving the Ancient Sounds of Mesoamerican Ocarinas. Video. Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology, Harvard University.

    Available online: www.peabody.harvard.edu/ancient-sounds
  • DE GANDARIAS IRIARTE, IGOR
  • 2015
  • Aspectos fenomenológicos del son guatemalteco tradicional. Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala. Vol. 2, 2409-3475

  • DONAHUE, JOHN A.
  • 2000
  • Applying Experimental Archaeology to Ethnomusicology: Recreating an ancient Maya Friction Drum through Various Lines of Evidence.

    Available Online:
    www.mayavase.com/frictiondrum.html
  • FERNANDEZ, PATRICIA
  • 2013
  • Between Beliefs and Rituals Material Culture of Ancestral Costa Rica. Pp. 59-67, In: Revealing Ancestral Central America, T. A. Joyce, editor. The Smithsonian Latino Center and the National Museum of the American Indian Smithsonian Institution.

    This is not a report on music but Fig. 97 on page 65, shows two musical rattles with Crescentia-like tree grourd, filled with Canna indica seeds. Since I raise Canna indica in my ethnobotanical research garden I note this potential use.

    Downloadable at: www.researchgate.net/publication/
    262936287_Revealing_Ancestral_Central_America

  • FLORES DORANTES, FELIPE and FLORES GARCÍA, LORENZA
  • 1981
  • Organología aplicada a instrumentos musicales prehispánicos. Silbatos mayas. Colección Científica No. 107. Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, México, D. F.

  • FLORES DORANTES, FELIPE and FLORES GARCÍA, LORENZA
  • 1984
  • Clasificación musical de silbatos prehispánicos mayas. Sociedad Mexicana de Antropología, Pages 439-446.

  • FRANCO A., SAMUEL
  • 1991
  • Music of the Maya. Casa K’ojom, Guatemala.

    44 pages of helpful information on what instruments are played by the Highland Maya in their local ceremonies. Mixture of Mayan drums and other prehispanic instruments with stringed instruments introduced by the Spanish.

    Samuel Franco is the founder of the Maya music museum Casa K’ojom.

    Can be download from several places, including Casa Kojom.
    www.kojom.org/archivosarchives.html
  • GARZA, CLARA, MEDINA, ANDRÉS, PADILLA, PABLO, RAMOS, ALEJANDRO and FRANCISCA ZALAQUETT
  • 2008
  • Arqueoacústica maya. La necesidad del estudio sistemático de efectos acústicos en sitios arqueológicos. Estudios de cultura maya vol.32

    Downloadable: www.scielo.org.mx/pdf/ecm/v32/v32a3.pdf
  • HAMMOND, NORMAN
  • 1972
  • Classic Maya Music: Drums. Archaeology, Vol. 25, 124-131. Part I

    1972 Classic Maya Music: Rattles, Raspers, Flutes and Trumpets. Archaeology, Vol. 25, 222-228 Part II

  • HARCOURT, R. d’
  • 1930
  • “L’ocarina à cinq sons dans l’Amérique préhispanique.” Journal de la Société des Américanistes. XXII.

  • HARCOURT, R. d’
  • 1941
  • “Sifflets et ocarinas du Nicaragua et du Mexique.” Journal de la Société des Américanistes. XXXIII.

  • HEALY, PAUL F.
  • 1988
  • Music of the Maya. Archaeology 41(1):24-31.

  • IRWIN, C. N. and HASSO VON WINNING
  • 1974
  • Conch shell trumpets in Mesoamerica. In: Pre-Columbian Art of Mexico and Central America. The Bowers Museum..Santa Ana, California
  • LOOPER, MATTHEW
  • 2009
  • To be like Gods: Dance in Ancient Maya Civilization. University of Texas Press. 269 pages.

  • MARTI, SAMUEL
  • 1968
  • Instrumentos musicales precortesianos. 378 páginas.

  • MARTI, SAMUEL
  • Canto, danza y música precortesianos. Fondo de Cultura Económica

  • MILLER, MARY
  • 1986
  • The Murals of Bonampak. Princeton University Press.

    This is based on her PhD dissertation.

  • MILLER, MARY
  • 1988
  • Boys in the Bonampak Band. En Maya Iconography (editado por E. P….

  • MILLER, MARY
  • Bonampak

    This is based on work after her PhD research, including continued cooperation with INAH.

    In addition to her PhD dissertation, Mary Miller (Yale University) has published two large monographs on the musicians shown in the murals of Bonampak.

    I must admit that I really like these murals, since at age 17 I worked as a student volunteer for the INAH Bonampak project. Based on my visit to Palenque I had returned to high school and written my high school thesis on the Maya. My thesis included mention of Bonampak. This thesis won first prize and this helped me get into Harvard. So I returned to Mexico at age 17 (so before I was at Harvard as a freshman) and by coincidence was in the same hotel as the INAH group. I heard them speaking about Bonampak, so I went over to their table and told them I had learned about Bonampak while doing research for my high school thesis; but I had never been to the actual site. They accepted my offer as a volunteer. So they flew me to a landing strip in the Lacandon forest. From there we hiked many kilometers to Bonampak. Like everyone else I helped carry baggage and equipment.

    I stayed at Bonampak about a week to help set up things. Then I asked if I could continue my studies of the Maya by going to Yucatan to learn about Puuc architecture. So I wandered back and then explored Labna, Sayil, etc (a tad remote in 1962).

    One thing led to another and I held three post-graduate research positions at Yale (after graduating from Harvard and with an MA degree from Brown). I then was in Graz, Austria and got invited by the professor there to enter their art history PhD program, so got my PhD there, with 8 years research on Mayan iconography and cosmology.

    So my interest in Classic Maya music started circa 1962.

  • MORRIS, JOHN, AWE, JAIME, BADILLO, MELISSA and GEORGE THOMPSON
  • 2014
  • Recovering Music from Pacbitun, Belize: New Evidence for Ancient Maya Instruments. In: Ancient Maya Household and Social Identity in Belize. Research Reports in Belizean Archaeology Volume 11. Archaeological Investigations in the Eastern Maya Lowlands: Papers of the 2013 Belize Archaeology Symposium.

    Available to download as a pdf:
    https://ufdc.ufl.edu/AA00034786/00001
  • O’BRIEN, LINDA
  • 1975
  • Songs of the Face of the Earth: Ancestral Songs of the … Maya. PhD dissertation, UCLA.

  • Pacheco Silva, Mónica and Gonzalo Sánchez Santiago
  • 2011
  • Los instrumentos musicales mayas en el Museo de Etnología de Hamburgo. (Editado por B. Arroyo, L. Paiz, A. Linares y A. Arroyave), pp. 909-922. Museo Nacional de Arqueología y Etnología, Guatemala.

    NOTA:
    www.asociaciontikal.com/pdf/74._Pacheco_Sanchez_rev.pdf
  • Payne, Richard W. and John D. Hartley
  • 1992
  • Precolumbian Flutes of Mesoamerica. The American Musical Instrument Society. 18: 22-61.

  • PERDUE, R. E.
  • 1958
  • Arundo donax source of musical reeds and industrial cellulose. Economic Botany 12: 368–404.

    Arundo donax is not native to the Americas. So if used as musical reed today, botanists, ethnobotanists, and historians of music need to see whether there was a Mesoamerican reed that could have served a comparable purpose before the arrival of the Spanish.

    Available online: https://LINK
  • ROSSAL S.J., ROBERTO
  • 1988
  • Aproximación a la música vernácula de Guatemala: un ensayo bibliográfico, en busca de nuestra identidad nacional. Guatemala Serviprensa Centroamericana. Universidad de Texas. Páginas 125.

  • SANCHEZ SANTIOGO, GONZALO A.
  • 2010
  • Las culturas musicales en el Itsmo de Tehuantepec. Una aproximación antropológica a los instrumentos musicales prehispánicos. Tesis de maestría inédita, Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología social, Oaxaca.

  • SANCHEZ SANTIOGO, GONZALO A.
  • 2005
  • Los artefactos sonorous del Oaxaca prehispanico.

    NOTE: Our focus is on musical instruments of the Classic Maya, but when a book of this class is available on music of other pre-Columbian cultures of Mesoamerica, we feel it should also be mentioned, especially when the entire book is available on-line (at no cost).
    http://en.calameo.com/read/0013822512e08965bbdca
  • SAPPER, CARL
  • 2006
  • Música tradicional de las tribus indias de la Mesoamérica septentrional. En Etnomusicología en Guatemala (editado por Matthias Stöckli y Alfonso Arrivillaga cortés). Tradiciones de Guatemala 66. Páginas de 101-108

  • SAVILLE, M. H.
  • 1898
  • The Musical Bow in Ancient Mexico. American Anthropologist, Vol. 11, No. 9 (Sep., 1898), pp. 280-284.

    More debate on whether the Q’eqchi’ (Kekchi) and Yucatec had stringed instrument before the arrival of European musical instruments with the Spanish conquest. But subsequent research documents that the codex figure at the far right was eroded and repainted for an illustration (Stevenson 1968: 23ff).

    Free to view on the Internet:
    www.jstor.org/stable/658759?seq=5#page_scan_tab_contents

 

  • STEVENSON, ROBERT
  • 1968
  • Music in Aztec & Inca Territory. University of California Press.

  • STÖCKLI, MATTIAS
  • 2006
  • Etnomusicología en Guatemala. Guatemala: Centro de Estudios Folklóricos, Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala.

  • STÖCKLI, MATTHIAS
  • 2005
  • ¿Una música maya prehispánica? Incursiones en la arqueomusicología. Centro de Estudios Folklóricos Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala. Conferencias del Museo Popol Vuh. 6 páginas.

 

  • TOZZER, ALFRED M.
  • 1941
  • Landa’s Relación de las Cosas de Yucatán: A translation. Kraus, New York.

    Shortly after the conquest Bishop Diego de Landa observed and wrote about the Yucatec Maya people and their way of life.

 

 

  • YURCHENCO, HENNRIETTA
  • 1978
  • Music of the Maya-Quichés of Guatemala: The Rabinal Achí and Baile de la Canastas.

    This seems to be a recording, not a “book.”

 

WEB SITES WHICH MENTION MUSIC OF THE MAYA

www.chicospl.com/estrellas/instrumentos-musicales-mayas/
Has a nice list, intelligently organized into percussion instruments and wind instruments.

http://culturalvitality.org/mayan-chirimia-drum/
Mayan Chirimia and Drum music, with a short recording.

www.deguate.com/artman/publish/hist_losmayas/instrumentos-musicales-de-los-antiguos-mayas.shtml
Instrumentos musicales de los antiguos mayas. Summary; no photos.

http://eds.b.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=3&sid=85d4fd41-5b32-4e36-b73f-2933664ca514%40sessionmgr102
Fragmento de revista Cultura de Guatemala, propiedad de la Universidad Rafael Landivar.

www.geocities.ws/rvelaz.geo/bonampak/lek.html
Anális virtual de Trompetas Mayas.

https://indigenousinstrumentsofmexicomesoamerica.weebly.com/
string-instruments-of-the-americas1.html#:~:text=%
22M.H.%20Saville%20described%20a%20primitive,him%
20to%20a%20%22primitive%20form

Lots of photographs, lots of information, lots of links.

www.kojom.org
This is the web site of the best museum of Maya music which we have found so far in Guatemala.

Centro Cultural La Azotea, final calle del cementerio, Jocotenango, Sacatepéquez, Guatemala,C.A. tel (502) 7831 1486- tel/ fax (502) 7831 1483, email: info@kojom.org

www.mexicolore.co.uk/maya/teachers/resource-the-boys-in-the-band
Has a nice animation of the musicians of the Bonampak murals.

http://raicestabasco.blogspot.com/2010/03/instrumentos-musicales-de-los-chontales.html
No photographs, and list is not everything which the Maya had 2000 years ago, but is nonetheless a helpful resource.

http://solo-de-interes.blogspot.com/2011/02/la-chirimilla-y-el-tum-musica-maya.html
Has a nice soundtrack.

https://tulan.gt/es/mayista/articulos/los-sonidos-ancestrales-del-tunkul
Los Sonidos Ancestrales del Tunkul

http://vosytuguatechula.jimdo.com/instrumentos-autoctonos/
Since this has actual photographs for each and every musical instrument, this web page, albeit basic, is one of the most helpful.

http://yaashtun.blogspot.com
Shows lots of CDs and photos of local groups recreating pre-Columbian music. To judge the authenticity, I would have to see and hear in person.

http://eds.b.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=3&sid=85d4fd41-5b32-4e36-b73f-2933664ca514%40sessionmgr102
Fragmento de revista Cultura de Guatemala, propiedad de la Universidad Rafael Landivar.

http://www.mayankids.com/mmkpeople/mkmusic.htm
Explicación música para niños

https://newmedia.ufm.edu/video/sonidos-del-pasado-investigaciones-sobre-la-musica-maya/
Video of a lecture on Maya music by Vanessa Rodens.


Recordings of the Sounds of Mayan Instruments, Youtube, etc.

  • OBREGON CLAIRIN, CLAUDIO
  • 2012
  • Ik' B'alam - Tambor de Cuerda Maya.

    Video Online:
    www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_q2OAz_x2w

    Informative, educational. Shows the unique “stringed instrument” on a polychrome Late Classic Maya vase. Would be even more helpful to have a thesis or dissertation on how to make this instrument (showing in diagrams step-by-step), then how to play it (movement by movement) and recording of what sounds it can make (without having other instruments playing in the background).

www.youtube.com/channel/UCakt-1RrsQUrmecaxlq1VwQ
Musica Maya Aj is a channel where you will find lots of maya music videos

www.youtube.com/channel/UCAfpcIJZO_V2mA96qMGndTQ
Tz'utuj Q'ajom Musica Maya Ancestral Channel

www.youtube.com/watch?v=BUArfZ-vljQ&t=29s
Prehispanic Maya Music

http://literaturaymundomaya.blogspot.de/2012/08/el-tambor-de-cuerda-maya.html
Text which discusses the identical Maya case is as a document; not a video

Would be even more helpful to have a thesis or dissertation on how to make this instrument (showing in diagrams step-by-step), then how to play it (movement by movement) and recording of what sounds it can make (without having other instruments playing in the background). The above article is a “start” but would help to have significantly more step-by-step aspect.

https://christophergarciamusic.weebly.com/indigenous-instruments-images-to-delete.html
Has links to five or six videos with pre-Columbian music (mostly Aztec, but they had pretty much the same instruments as the Classic Maya).

www.kojom.org/archivosarchives.html
Has links to six mp3 sound tracks.

www.mexicolore.co.uk/aztecs/music/conch-trumpet
A capable musician playing a conch shell instrument, however in a very modern manner (different than usually played, in part because this individual clearly knows modern music).

www.oregonflutestore.com/smartlist_7/native_american_style_flutes.html
Native American Style Flutes


Vocabularies of Mayan Languages which have good quantity and/or quality of Mayan words for musical instruments

  • ALVAREZ, CRISTINA
  • Diccionario etnolingüístico del idioma maya yucateco colonial, Volume 3.

    There are dozens, scores of Mayan dictionaries. That would be a useful BA thesis “Mayan Words for Musical Instruments in 21 Mayan Languages of Mesoamerica.” For a Master’s thesis could be Mayan Words for Musical Instruments in 21 Mayan Languages, Xinca, Zapotec, Mixtec, and Nahuatl of Mesoamerica.”


Sources on how to make Mayan musical instruments today

Luis Mendez;
https://vibrararte.wordpress.com/instruments/instrumentos/trompeta10-2/
Photo of Maya trumpet made of quiote of pulque maguey (Agave salmiana). But no information of by whom or how.

 

Most recently updated September 2020.
First Posted mid-February 2018. Updated July 2020.

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