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date: 31 May 2020


  • Richard Keeling


Bone whistle of the Maidu and other native peoples of northern California. It is made from the leg bone of a large bird, a deer or other animal, or local cane. The whistles, from 12 to 20 cm long and 1.5 to 2 cm in diameter (the larger of cane), are usually played in pairs, hence the Kato name tulnok kleyulit (‘whistles tied together’); other names for them include xosa:ng’ay (Hupa); speryspery (Yurok); məpu (Southeastern Pomo); tōka (Patwin); and delni (Wailaki). The bones are bound together with sinew or cord near each end and plugged at one end with pitch. Each tube has a V-shaped hole at or near the centre, with a block of pitch to direct the airstream over the opening. The two whistles produce different notes but are not played melodically; rather, they mark the rhythm of dancing. In ceremonial and secular dances, several men blow them at the same time, producing a rich texture that also includes contrapuntal singing. Historically they were used in shamanistic rituals. ...

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