sound composition

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The Book of the origin of the Maya
Sound composition by Götz Naleppa
Popol Vuh
Maya K’iché – German  
Text research : Anja Gundelach
Improvisation on prehispanic instruments: Jorge Reyes
Recordings and Sounddesign: Peter Avar
Leticia Méndez Intzin Maya-K’iché
Juan Chuno Lopez Intzin Maya-Tzeltal
Guadalupe Asunción Gutierrez Maya-Chol
Martin Engler German
Idea, composition and realization: Götz Naleppa
Production: Radio Educación, Mexiko / Deutschlandradio Kultur / RBB 2006

Duration 48:22 minutes
This piece exists in five versions: K'iché–German / K'iché–Spanish / K'iché–English / Kiché solo / 5.1-Surround.

„The Popol Vuh “- „the book of advice “ of the K'iché-Maya belongs to the most important creation myths of the early advanced cultures in the world. A Maya from the people of the K'iché, who had learned Spanish during the conquista, (probably between 1545 and 1555) noted down the texts in K'iché with Latin letters, texts that before were only verbally delivered. Father Francisco Ximenéz copied and translated this book into Spanish. Then he returned the original to the people of the K'iché. Thus the book escaped the radical burning by the Spaniards of nearly all Maya-writings on crusts and leathers. Today only one original copy from the time around 1700 is preserved.

The Popol Vuh contains texts of the creation of the world, about Gods and heroes and reports about the migration of the K'iché up to the arrival of the Spaniards in the year 1524. The myths contained in the Popol Vuh still are today of inestimable importance for the Maya peoples, fighting for their cultural identity. The Popol Vuh, which is the “holy book of the Maya”, the common inheritance of the “humans from corn”- as the Maya call themselves and connects the different peoples of the Maya, (alone in the Mexican Federal State Chiapas live 13 indigene groups with completely different languages). Their habitat in Mexico is the tropical rain forest close to the border to Guatemala and the high country of the Sierra Madre de Chiapas and the Meseta Central.

The sound composition „Popol Vuh - The Book of the Origin of the Maya“ by Götz Naleppa is restricted to the first part of the „book of advice “, in which the cruel and cosmic-comical elements of the creation can be experienced. The text - in classical  Maya-K'iché and in two contemporary Maya languages (Tzeltal and Chol) - was partially recorded in temple places in Chiapas with Maya native-speakers and supplemented by a German / or Spanish language level. The voices are orchestrated by Field Recordings from the habitat of the Maya, the rain forest, and by Jorge Reyes' improvisations on prehispanic instruments in the temple places of the rain forest. Thus the ritual conch-horn rings out again after a silence of 500 years in the temple district of Bonampak and the myth of the creation of the “humans out of corn” sounds in a grave chamber of Palenque.

This sound work is dedicated to the fight of the Maya-peoples for acknowledgment of their dignity and cultural identity.


link to mp3 fileSoundfile Popol Vuh (Excerpt, mp3-file, 2:35 min, 3,6 MB)

link to pdfText Popol Vuh (pdf-file, 156 KB)

link to pdf Production report by Anja Gundelach (in German, pdf-file, 303 KB)

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