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1.5 Music and Art

Native American music in North America is almost entirely monophonic, but there are notable exceptions. Traditional Native American music often centres around drumming. Rattles, clappersticks, and rasps were also popular percussive instruments. Flutes were made of river cane, cedar, and other woods. The Apache fiddle is a single stringed instrument.

Music from indigenous peoples of Central Mexico and Central America often was pentatonic. Before the arrival of the Spaniards it was inseparable from religious festivities and included a large variety of percussion and wind instruments such as drums, flutes, sea snail shells (used as a kind of trumpet) and “rain” tubes. Archaeologists discovered a jar in Guatemala, attributed to the Maya of the Late Classic Era (600–900 AD), which depicts a stringed musical instrument which has since been reproduced. This instrument is astonishing. First, it is the very few string instruments known in the Americas. Second, when played, it produces a sound virtually identical to a jaguar’s growl.

Art of the indigenous peoples of the Americas include pottery, paintings, jewellery, weavings, sculptures, basketry, carvings and hair pipes.