A hundred death whistles marching
December 3, 2014 7:41 AM   Subscribe

Ancient musical reconstruction has led to the discovery of the sounds made by Aztec "death whistles".


"Chances of getting your hands on a genuine Aztec death whistle are pretty slim, but luckily, you can hear its unique shrieks in the YouTube videos of musician Xavier Quijas Yxayotl. 'I want to share with you this very unique instrument,' he says before starting his macabre solo. 'We call this the ‘death whistle’ that the Aztecs used for special ceremonies – for day of the dead celebrations, and also they use when they have a war, when they fight with other tribes. They play over a hundred instruments, a hundred death whistles marching to cause a big psychological effect to the enemy.'"
posted by quiet earth (62 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
 
Thingiverse model please?
posted by sparklemotion at 7:47 AM on December 3, 2014 [6 favorites]


"Please be a kazoo, please be a kazoo, please be a kazoo... dang."
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:48 AM on December 3, 2014 [14 favorites]


Hard to be sure the technique is right. If you handed a modern trumpet to an Aztec there's no knowing what the noise they made would sound like, but it certainly wouldn't be Miles Davis.
posted by Segundus at 7:50 AM on December 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


The article was a little breathless, but surprisingly enough, the whistle demonstration actually delivered - that is a pretty intense noise.
posted by Think_Long at 7:53 AM on December 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


Sounds like American Idol's canned applause.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:54 AM on December 3, 2014


The reconstruction sounds like an Aube album.
posted by idiopath at 7:56 AM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Not sure why the reconstruction included the sound of horses, since the Aztecs didn't have them.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:00 AM on December 3, 2014 [11 favorites]


For some reason I'm reminded of all of the green dinosaurs and white ancient Greek temples I looked at as a kid.
posted by mondo dentro at 8:05 AM on December 3, 2014 [8 favorites]


Not sure why the reconstruction included the sound of horses, since the Aztecs didn't have them.

That's what makes it even creepier! Where did they get those horses? Where did they get those horses?
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 8:06 AM on December 3, 2014 [22 favorites]


Every black metal band in the world is now feverishly trying to get one.

The noise is pretty horrific. I'd say it delivers on the hype.
posted by jokeefe at 8:07 AM on December 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


Merzbow, eh? It's funny how it sounds so digital distortiony. For a minute I thought he was screaming into it.
posted by symbioid at 8:09 AM on December 3, 2014


"Please be a kazoo, please be a kazoo, please be a kazoo... dang."

I was hoping it was a slide whistle, despite having read Dancing Aztecs!
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 8:10 AM on December 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


Wow, at one point it really uncannily sounded like a human scream.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:11 AM on December 3, 2014 [12 favorites]


Isn't it weird how prefixing any noun, no matter how innocuous, with "Aztec Death ..." turns it into something uncannily sinister?
posted by cstross at 8:15 AM on December 3, 2014 [14 favorites]


Aztec Death Gerbil
posted by ArmandoAkimbo at 8:16 AM on December 3, 2014 [17 favorites]


Yep.
posted by ArmandoAkimbo at 8:16 AM on December 3, 2014


Aztec Death Aztec Death Whistle

Nope, not twice as creepy. Your theory is for shit.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 8:18 AM on December 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


Wow, at one point it really uncannily sounded like a human scream.

The Hammer Film Whistle...
posted by jim in austin at 8:18 AM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Does anyone have any links to actual scholarship on this subject? I keep finding linkbacks to this one post, and not a lot else.
posted by Think_Long at 8:24 AM on December 3, 2014


Isn't it weird how prefixing any noun, no matter how innocuous, with "Aztec Death ..." turns it into something uncannily sinister?

Aztec Death Particleboard

Confirmed.
posted by GrapeApiary at 8:29 AM on December 3, 2014 [8 favorites]


They don't show it, but shortly after they blew the whistle some velociraptors showed up.
posted by maxsparber at 8:30 AM on December 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


Aztec Death Macarena.

Nope.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 8:33 AM on December 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


Aztec Death Pavlova.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:34 AM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Aztec Death Certificate
posted by hat_eater at 8:36 AM on December 3, 2014 [12 favorites]


Aztec Death Puppies
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:39 AM on December 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


/Hugs a vuvuzela, apologizes/
posted by resurrexit at 8:39 AM on December 3, 2014 [10 favorites]


Aztec Death Benefits
posted by OverlappingElvis at 8:39 AM on December 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


Aztec Death Snuggie.

the horror
posted by winna at 8:40 AM on December 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


Aztec Death Congress

Result: improved performance
posted by 1adam12 at 8:45 AM on December 3, 2014


Aztec Death Whistle Wilhelm.
posted by emelenjr at 8:48 AM on December 3, 2014 [6 favorites]


Aztec Death Ebola.

Just saying that aloud will summon a CNN news reporter to your front lawn.
posted by ardgedee at 8:52 AM on December 3, 2014 [6 favorites]


Someone asked for a scholarly link? Here you go.

An excerpt from the excellent article:
It was José Luis Franco who published the first (1971) drawings of the death whistle and his family of Mexican “aerophones with springs of air”. A drawing by Franco shows a death whistle with the decorative face of a skull (pic 2, left), which points to its original purpose as a death whistle. Another drawing by Franco shows the internal structure of a death whistle with the decorative face of an owl (pic 2, right). In Mexican cultures the owl is associated with the coming of death. The main technical elements of the death whistle are shown in the cross section of this illustrative model (pic 3).

[...]

More research remains to be done in the future on the effects of their sounds. For example, we know that when two or more similar ancient whistles or their models are played at the same time special effects can be produced, due to the vibrations generated or ‘phantom’ sounds. If the beats are ‘infrasonic’ (too low for the human ear to detect) they may alter states of consciousness. Several death whistles played at the same time can generate very complex vibrations, because their noisy signals are produced in a range of frequencies and the effects on humans is significant due to the intensity and range of their main frequencies, but their effects on health have not yet been analyzed formally. An experimental dual model of the death whistle with the faces of Ehecatl and Mictlantecutli (pic 10) has already been used to test the possibility of the two whistles found at Tlatelolco being played at the same time. The sounds generated are similar to those of a storm. The produced frequencies are more complex and of greater intensity than those of single whistle models.
posted by quiet earth at 8:52 AM on December 3, 2014 [9 favorites]


Here's a link to that scholar playing some.
posted by achrise at 8:58 AM on December 3, 2014 [8 favorites]


Truly, this man is the Zamfir of the Aztec Death Whistle

I look forward to hearing his upcoming album playing in my dentist's office
posted by prize bull octorok at 8:58 AM on December 3, 2014 [6 favorites]


Aztec Death Panels.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 9:04 AM on December 3, 2014 [8 favorites]


Pontiac Aztek Death Whistle, on the other hand, is less horrifying than unmodified.
posted by zippy at 9:18 AM on December 3, 2014 [5 favorites]


"Excuse me, sir. Could you please keep your voices down? This is an Aztec Death Restaurant."
posted by Sonny Jim at 9:20 AM on December 3, 2014 [5 favorites]


"You can buy most anything you want... excepting Aztecs... at Aztec Death Restaurant."
posted by jenkinsEar at 9:33 AM on December 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


Aztec Death by Chocolate
posted by kewb at 9:35 AM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Aztec Death of this joke
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 9:36 AM on December 3, 2014 [6 favorites]


Pontiac Aztek Death Whistle, on the other hand, is less horrifying than unmodified.

That's what Walter White calls that chirp his remote makes.
posted by kewb at 9:37 AM on December 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


That's what Walter White calls that chirp his remote makes.

You're god damn right.
posted by maxsparber at 9:53 AM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Aztec Death Star
posted by ZeusHumms at 9:57 AM on December 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


Aztec Death of a Salesman (horror for the merchant class)
posted by kinnakeet at 10:01 AM on December 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


Aztec Death Lawn Chair.
posted by Happy Dave at 10:01 AM on December 3, 2014


Sounds like the Death Whinny from Bad Horse. Terrifying!
posted by Danf at 11:41 AM on December 3, 2014


one thing for sure, my cats are not a fan.
posted by rebent at 12:10 PM on December 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


Sounds like the end of the internet dialup tone. Perhaps Aztecs figured out a way to upload their souls at 28.8kbps, proto-singularity-style. :p
posted by Perko at 12:24 PM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Thinking back to the Chipotle thread, how great would it be if they gave away a free plastic Aztec Death Whistle with every kid's meal?
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:29 PM on December 3, 2014 [6 favorites]


Aztec Death Maya
posted by rahnefan at 1:00 PM on December 3, 2014


one thing for sure, my cats are not a fan.

Hmm. Let's see if your cats like:
Barn Owl
Cougar
Tasmanian Devil

I know what my cat will be doing later!

Whoah. I can open all of these at the same time. Those ancient Aztecs only wish they'd had YouTube.
posted by polecat at 1:30 PM on December 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


Aztec Death Whistle - Duck Dynasty Edition

"All right, call 'em on in."
posted by turbid dahlia at 1:48 PM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Aztec Death Camera - "(Stab Me) Somewhere In My Heart"
posted by pracowity at 2:24 PM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


The sound reminds me of vultures.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 3:33 PM on December 3, 2014


achrise: Here's a link to that scholar playing some.

Holy crap, that's a lot more intense then the videos in the original link.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 4:13 PM on December 3, 2014


Aztec Death Shizzle, gonna get me sum dat.

Sadly it is a little like tinnitus.
posted by Oyéah at 7:34 PM on December 3, 2014


Finally, I can snaffle this whistle and trunkline a call to Joan Rivers.
posted by clavdivs at 9:17 PM on December 3, 2014


Aztec Death Cab For Cutie.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:09 PM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh my God, I want one. I want one so bad. I want to keep it around and whenever bratty children are playing outside, I want to practice playing it in the garden. Being loud and terrifying and amazing.
posted by Katemonkey at 1:23 AM on December 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


This belongs in every foley artist's bag of tricks.
posted by dywypi at 5:54 AM on December 4, 2014


Just listened to that first video. Jesuz WEPT. I need to go hug a puppy or something now. For about a week.
posted by tabubilgirl at 6:59 AM on December 4, 2014


I dunno about y'all, but I definitely want one of these Death Whistles. I think I'm gonna make one.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:53 PM on December 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


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