Steven Veach
When archaeologists unearthed conch-shell trumpets at a pre-Inca religious site in Peru in 2001, they discovered a rare opportunity to reproduce sounds that had not been heard for 3,000 years. Perry Cook, an emeritus professor of computer science and music and an expert shell musician, was called on to play the instruments while colleagues from Stanford University and the Helsinki University of Technology gathered data through microphones positioned in and around the shells as well as in Cook’s mouth. Recordings revealed a range of rich, full tones that may have been featured in religious ceremonies. The team presented detailed acoustic analyses of the shells at an academic conference in Cancun, Mexico, in November.