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Music and Dance

Music

Music was an extremely significant aspect of Aztec culture. Not only used for enjoyment and leisure, it was an important method of passing on culture and for sharing an understanding of religion.

Music and the playing of instruments was an important subject in the Aztec curricula taught to students at school. Students between the ages of 12 and 15 would be taught the importance of music in their culture, with the Elders of the Aztec society teaching children the songs that they needed to know. Rich families of the noble class often had their own band, songwriters and studio in their homes.

Aztec music varied greatly, from sacred hymns, to cantares (called “ghost songs” by linguist John Bierhorst) and more light hearted songs. Sacred hymns would commemorate the deeds of great rulers or the gods, often also asking the gods for their gifts. These songs could be sung at special occasions, accompanied by special ritual dances. Cantares would also recount deeds of the past, but had a more mystical purpose, with these songs sung specifically at times of battle. Specially trained singers, dancers and actors would take part in the ritual ceremony. The more light hearted songs and songs of everyday life included love songs, songs of energy and excitement.

All these songs maintained the poetic and symbolic nature of the Nahuatl language and writing system, and the heavy use of allusions and symbolism would make the songs seem obscure and nonsensical. However, these songs were centred on the use of phrases to describe the significant aspects of the Aztec culture. Aztec music was a combination of dance, ritual, vocals and instruments, with whistling also often incorporated into the song.

Aztec instruments included drums, rattles and a variety of other instruments. Drums played a major role in the music of Aztecs, and the many forms and types of drums included the ayotl (a drum made of a turtle shell), teponaztli (a horizontal log drum played with mallets) and huehuetl (an upright skin drum similar to the modern drums used today, and played with the hands). Flutes were also used.
 An Aztec ceramic flute made circa.1500 A.D., Mexico City, Mexico
               
A fine replica Huehuetl Aztec drum-played using either sticks or hands
A Teponaztli Aztec drum, made out of a horizontal log
 
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Ayotl.mp3
(34k)
Hillary Pan,
1 Apr 2012, 04:20
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Huehuetl.mp3
(32k)
Hillary Pan,
1 Apr 2012, 04:20
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Teponaztli.mp3
(29k)
Hillary Pan,
1 Apr 2012, 04:20
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