Burst of Breath


Burst of Breath

Indigenous Ritual Wind Instruments in Lowland South America

Edited by Jonathan D. Hill and Jean-Pierre Chaumeil

440 pages
26 illustrations, 1 map, 2 tables, 5 figures


December 2011


$45.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

December 2011


$45.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

The first in-depth, comparative, and interdisciplinary study of indigenous Amazonian musical cultures, Burst of Breath showcases new research on the dynamic range of ritual power and social significance of various wind instruments—including flutes, trumpets, clarinets, and whistles—played in sacred rituals and ceremonies in Lowland South America.

The editors provide a detailed overview of the historical significance, scientific classification, shamanic and cosmological associations, and changing social meanings of ritual wind instruments within Amazonian cultures. These essays present a wide perspective that goes beyond better-documented areas such as the Upper Xingu and northwest Amazon. Some of the authors explore the ways ritual wind instruments are used to introduce natural sounds into social contexts and to cross boundaries between verbal and nonverbal communication. Others look at how ritual wind instruments and their music enter into local definitions and negotiations of relations between men, women, kin, insiders, and outsiders.

Closely considering these instruments in their many roles and contexts—in curing and purification, negotiating relations, connecting mythic ancestors and humans today—this volume reveals the power and complexity of the music at the heart of collective rituals across lowland South America.

Author Bio

Jonathan D. Hill is a professor of anthropology at Southern Illinois University. He is the editor or author of several books, including Made-from-Bone: Trickster Myths, Music, and History from the Amazon. Jean-Pierre Chaumeil is a senior researcher at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (France). He is the author or editor of several books in Spanish and French.


"This well-conceived and very well executed volume marks a major advance in discussions of the significance of aerophones and sound over a large area of South America."—Anthony Seeger, Journal of Anthropological Research

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations


Jonathan D. Hill and Jean-Pierre Chaumeil

First Movement: Natural Sounds, Wind Instruments, and Social Communication

1. Speaking Tubes: The Sonorous Language of Yagua Flutes

Jean-Pierre Chaumeil

2. Leonardo, the Flute: On the Sexual Life of Sacred Flutes among the Xinguano Indians

Rafael José de Menezes Bastos

3. Soundscaping the World: The Cultural Poetics of Power and Meaning in Wakuénai Flute Music

Jonathan Hill

4. Hearing without Seeing: Sacred Flutes as the Medium for an Avowed Secret in Curripaco Masculine Ritual

Nicolas Journet

5. Flutes in the Warime: Musical Voices in the Piaroa World

Alexander Mansutti Rodríguez

6. Desire in Music: Soul-Speaking and the Power of Secrecy

Marcelo Fiorini

Second Movement: Musical Transpositions of Social Relations

7. Archetypal Agents of Affinity: "Sacred" Flutes in the Guianas?

Marc Brightman

8. From Flutes to Boom Boxes: Traditions of Musical Symbolism and Change among the Waiwai of Southern Guyana

Stephanie W. Alemán

9. From Musical Poetics to Deep Language: The Ritual of the Wauja Sacred Flutes

Acácio Tadeu de Camargo Piedade

10. The Ritual of Iamurikuma and the Kawoká Flutes

Maria Ignez Cruz Mello

11. Spirits, Ritual Staging, and the Transformative Power of Music in the Upper Xingu Region

Ulrike Printz

12. An "Inca" Instrument at a "Nawa" Feast: Marubo Flutes and Alterity in Amazonian Context

Javier Ruedas

13. Arawakan Flute Cults of Lowland South America: The Domestication of Predation and the Production of Agentivity

Robin Wright

Coda: Historical and Comparative Perspectives

14. Sacred Musical Instruments in Museums: Are They Sacred?

Claudia Augustat

15. Mystery Instruments

Jean-Michel Beaudet



Also of Interest