Date of Degree


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Stephen Blum

Committee Members

John Beatty

Bo Lawergren

Peter Manuel

Tim Pugh

Henrietta Yurchenco

Subject Categories



Instrumental music played on two valveless trumpets and a wooden slit-drum currently accompanies the highland Guatemalan Maya dance-play Rab'inal Achi. These two instrument types are known from the Prehispanic record and have been associated with the play since its first mention in the mid-nineteenth century.

The script of the Rab'inal Achi is considered by many scholars to have Prehispanic roots. The possibility that its accompanying music also originated in Precolumbian times is the impetus behind my study. To explore this possibility I apply ethnoarchaeomusicological research methods, incorporating data supplied by iconology-iconography, ethnographic analogy, history, archaeology, and music analysis. Ethnoarchaeomusicological methods are also applied to three other dance-plays currently performed in highland Guatemala, the Tz'unum, the Baile del Venado, and the Baile de los Moros y Cristianos. Like the Rab'inal Achi, the Baile de los Moros y Cristianos is documented as using the same instrumentation, a duct flute and skin drum, since its emergence in highland Guatemala (during the Colonial period), and as it is an example of a Spanish-introduced dance-play type its performance components can be compared to those in the indigenous Rab'inal Achi.

The storylines and choreography of the four dance-plays are reviewed, and the prototypes of their instruments traced. In addition, music aspects of the Rab'inal Achi and Baile de los Moros y Cristianos, including form, rhythm, and tonality, are listed and compared. Audio excerpts from these latter two bailes are on a compact disc, located in the back pocket accompanying this document.*

*This dissertation is a compound document (contains both a paper copy and a CD as part of the dissertation). The CD requires the following system requirements: Windows MediaPlayer or RealPlayer.


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