Perhaps the most terrifying instrument ever devised, the sound of the Death whistle has been described as the “scream of 1000 corpses,” and I can’t help but agree. Listening to the instrument, I was immediately reminded of the screams played in haunted houses crossed with the sound of rushing winds. Records and archaeological evidence indicate the instrument may have been used in ritual sacrifices or funeral ceremonies, though some believe it was a tool for psychological warfare in battle. Engineer Roberto Velázquez Cabrera has made a good deal of information available for English speakers on these singular instruments, and runs an amazing website detailing all sorts of Mexican Aerophones. Functionally, the instrument’s behavior is made clear from its cross section. Air is blown through the tubular mouthpiece, where it generates turbulent noise upon meeting the sharp edge of the primary resonator, the resonator itself generates the harsh tone of the whistle, which is then filtered by the secondary resonator that opens on the bottom of the whistle. By placing their hands around the bottom of the instrument, players can adjust the filtering frequencies, creating the wavering death scream sound. While this truly amazing instrument may be a relic of the past, modern reproductions are available from the Oregon Flute Store for $100. Of course, it’s a bit morbid for a Christmas present, but this seems like an essential tool for an acoustician on Halloween! (News Article by Ancient Origins Original Research and Photo credit Roberto Velazquez Cabrera)
I want one!!!!
*That’s pretty much the exact sound you would expect from an army of Aztec warriors high on peyote who want to take you alive, rip your heart out in public, boil your flesh with peppers and then eat you