Recording Studio: Peru
Long before the conquistadores, long before the Incas, long before the modern recording studio, the music of the woodwind instrument we call the Panpipes or Panflute was echoing across both American continents. As the discipline of modern archaeology continues to grow, researchers are slowly beginning to come to an understanding of the pivotal importance of Peru in the story of mankind. Today, much of the world’s food supply (corn, potatoes, beans, tomatoes, sunflowers) owes its origins to the uniquely gifted farmers of ancient Andean civilizations. These vital crops slowly spread north from South America so that by the time Europeans arrived in what would become the United States, they found these landrace crops being cultivated from one end of the country to the other. It is conjectured that the Panpipes followed a similar process of distribution. The earliest known example of the Panpipes was found at Cahuachi, Peru, dated to 4200 BC – a time that corresponds with what is called the Honda Period of this region.
Researchers point to three different ancient Peruvian cultures as early users of the panpipes: the Nasca Culture (1,100 BC – 750 AD), the Paracas Culture (600 BC – 175 BC), and the Moche Culture (100 AD – 800 AD).
Reed, cane, ceramic, condor quill and bone panpipes have been found across the Andes, into the Central American territories of the Maya and Aztec civilizations, to the Cahokia complex on the Mississippi River, to the Ohio River Valley site of the Hopewell Tradition. Believed to have been used for everything from ceremonial rites to personal expression, the distribution of this multi-tubed woodwind is truly impressive.
When we use the words Pan Pipes or Pan Flutes to describe this instrument, we are using European terminology, referencing the Greek god of rustic music, Pan. Panflutes have a long history in both Europe and Asia, but indigenous instruments of this type have their own terminology. The following is an explanation of some of the major panpipes of the American continents.