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Immaterial: Shells Transcript

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[Sound: a muffled crowd of voices and movement in a large hall. Suddenly, a loud horn sound cuts through the space and is sustained for many seconds, leaving everyone in silence]

Camille Dungy: I don’t know what happened to you just now when you heard that sound. When I heard it, I stopped moving… something about the sound took my mind somewhere else.

[Sound: A very long note being played on a conch shell]

Dungy: That’s the sound of a conch shell being blown into like a trumpet off the balcony of The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Arms and Armor Court. The space is huge: vaulted ceilings, large windows, giant chandeliers… kind of like a conch concert hall.

Long before our modern day communication systems, people discovered that they could blow into conch shells to produce a sound that carried for many miles... and ever since, cultures across the world have been using the conch as a medium to amplify their voices beyond our bodies’ limitations, and to connect with spiritual realms.

Bradley Strauchen-Scherer: Can you imagine the first person who played this conch trumpet and they discovered they had the ability to have a voice that was bigger than their own? That commanded respect and attention and might’ve been the voice of the gods? It might’ve been channeling the voice of the gods.

Dungy: That’s Bradley Strauchen-Scherer. She’s a curator of musical instruments at The Met, and she was the one you heard blowing into the conch. The Met has more than five thousand instruments that cover six continents and span about four thousand years. And out of all these instruments the conch stands out. Its frequency and vibration can be heard by the ear and felt by the heart.

Strauchen-Scherer: If you asked me, ‘what is one of the most amazing pieces of art in The Met?’ I would point towards something that we didn’t make. I would point towards some of these conch trumpets in our collection, that date from ancient India or from Aztec civilization. It was thousands of years before we as craftsmen and as musical instrument makers could produce anything that is acoustically so perfect, that is so extraordinary in its form. That you see echoed across The Met because you look across our different departments and you find artwork that is inspired by the conch, you find these spiral motifs. All of that is here, and it starts with one of these shells.

Dungy: From The Metropolitan Museum of Art, I’m Camille Dungy and this is Immaterial, where we look at materials commonly used in art and ask what the materials themselves can tell us. In this episode we are thinking about shells as a material, and we’re focusing on one particular shell: the conch. How does a sea creature’s home become a medium for our own transformation? Why does playing the conch shell feel so extraordinary? And what is it about this sound that has captured our attention for thousands of years?

Shells are a surprisingly common material in art. The Met cares for thousands of items made with seashells. Like a Malian face mask inlaid with cowrie shells, or a Native American basket made from abalone shells, or an ancient Egyptian amulet made using oyster shells.

Hundreds of objects at The Met feature the conch shell in particular.  There is a necklace from Panama made with conch shell dating back to the fifth century C.E., and a tenth century sandstone stella of the Hindu god Vishnu holding a conch as a weapon to destroy evil.

One piece that stands out is a helmet made from steel and shaped to resemble a sea conch from seventeenth century Japan.

Markus Sesko: So this Japanese helmet is made of thin sheets of embossed steel, which are all put together to resemble a sea conch.

Dungy: That’s Markus Sesko, a visiting researcher in the Arms and Armor Department.

Sesko: And at the very top you have a little extra piece, which represents the mouthpiece, represents a trumpet shell that was used for signaling.

Dungy: He says the helmet was worn on the battlefield by high ranking Japanese commanders. It reminds me of the way a conch’s shell serves as armor for the animal inside.

Sesko: The commanders had to stand out for the troops to be visible. So everyone tried to individualize their armor and their helmets. So this is where all these eccentric helmet shapes came in. Only military commanders had those really flamboyant helmets. So it would have been worn by a fairly high ranking military commander and his troops would have easily recognized him on the battlefield wearing this helmet.

Dungy: The Met collection also holds many conch trumpets that have been used in spiritual traditions all over the world.

To show our historic transformation of the conch shell into a trumpet, Bradley’s placed one at the center of a Met display that showcases instruments from across time and place: from a reproduced ancient Roman cornu to a Vuvuzela from the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

[Fanfare music plays]

Strauchen-Scherer: I put this conch shell in the center of it, and I said, ‘it’s the center of everything,’ because it’s all about why people play brass instruments or, just in general, why they play music. It’s about signaling. It’s about ritual. It’s about status and it’s about making music.

So it’s a feeling of great power, but it’s also a very organic feeling. I think sometimes in our life today with all our amazing technology, we often feel detached from the really gritty aspect of being connected with the fundamental elements. One of the reasons I enjoy playing the natural horn so much is that you don’t have any technology. It’s just your lips and your hand changing the notes and with the conch. It’s even purer than that. It’s as close as I feel to being part of the earth.

[Ambient sound of ocean waves]

Dungy: There’s just something about shells that evokes wonder. Perhaps it’s because shells come from this mysterious place: the ocean. The ocean takes up more than two thirds of the Earth’s surface, yet more than eighty percent of the ocean has never been mapped, explored, or even seen by humans. But we have hints of this world’s depths and power from shells. Beachcombers know that no two shells are exactly alike. Seashells appear in an endless array of colors and shapes, and researchers have just discovered that this variation extends to the molecular level. Each shell is as unique as a fingerprint. Some are shiny and colorful, some are weathered and scarred. Some are intact, some are broken, some can grow to several feet long and some can fit in the palm of your hand. Like us, each shell has its own story.

Steve Turre: It was alive once. You know, a shell was alive once! And there’s something about that when you put air through something that was alive, when it vibrates in a different way than putting air through something that wasn’t alive.

[Jazz music plays]

Dungy: That’s master trombonist Steve Turre. He’s recorded and toured with music legends like Ray Charles, Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, and Santana, just to name a few. You may have seen him play the trombone on Saturday Night Live, a gig he’s had for nearly forty years. But you might not know that he’s also one of the world’s best conch shell players. Bradley calls Steve her ‘conch shell hero.’ And as Steve says, you can hear and feel the difference when you play an instrument from the sea compared to something man made. Here’s Steve on the trombone.

[Music: Turre plays a melody on a trombone]

And now here’s the same tune on the shells

[Music: Turre plays the same melody using a shell]

Turre: It takes me to a different zone than the trombone. Absolutely, it’s a whole different experience and it’s more organic. It’s less intellectual than the trombone. It’s more spiritual.

Dungy: Steve is kind of like a rare shell: he’s down to earth, yet he has this air of mystery. He’s tall, has jet black hair that he keeps neatly in a long braid and an impressively full goatee. Around his neck there’s a conch shell necklace cast in gold and, like the shell, there’s something visceral about Steve that grounds you both in the present and in this otherworldly spiritual realm. That’s why for Steve, the shell is not just another instrument.

How did Steve go from playing the trombone to the shell? It all started when he was just a teenager—more than fifty years ago—when he went to see one of his favorite musicians play at a jazz club in San Francisco.

[Jazz music plays]

Turre: His name was Roland Kirk, or later on Rahsaan Roland Kirk. He played saxophone and flute. And he not only played them individually, he played them all once: three saxophones at once. Roland Kirk was also the champion of circular breathing. I know they did a publicity stunt for Kenny G where he held some note for the Guinness people and all that. Please. Roland Kirk would have wiped him out. And he was blind and self-taught, and if he had gone to school, they would have told him ‘you can’t do that.’ You know? But it was amazing, man. It wasn’t a joke, man. You know, it was amazing.

Dungy: One time Rahsaan Roland Kirk came through town, he invited Steve to play with him. And when they were up on stage, Steve noticed a shell sitting on a chair.

[Ambient sound of muffled conversation at a nightclub]

Turre: I asked him, were you going to ever play that one? What’d you gonna do? He say, ‘I play it when the time is right.’ And right in the front table, right in front of the bandstand there’s this couple there. And they proceed to get drunk. I mean, really drunk. Total disregard for the music. They’re talking loud, talkin having a conversation. And so he took a shell and he circular breathed and he just held the note, you know, [plays note] and he held it for the longest time… and maybe five minutes. I mean, and when you’re holding a note, that’s a long time. And finally these people, they quit talking, they looked up in amazement and man, when they quit talking and looked up, everybody in the club… ‘yay!’ they clapped, and then it was quiet. And in that moment of quiet, he took the tenor saxophone, went into a real pretty ballad, real breathy, and… [hums a melody.] You know, it was beautiful. What a moment. But the sound of the shell kind of brought peace, you know? It was such a peaceful sound. So at the end of the night, I asked him, I said, “Oh, I like that sound. Could I try that?” And he let me blow it. And I say, “Yeah, I’m getting one of these.”

[A jazz recording performed by Turre plays]

Dungy: As Steve’s telling this story, he’s in his living room holding the first shell he got after that moment in the club: a Triton shell. The room is lush, full of these bright tropical plants that Steve loves tending to. Feels almost like you’re on a film set based in some glamorous jungle, but we’re in New Jersey.

The shell he’s holding fits perfectly into this world that he’s cultivated. The shell has these stunning earthy tones and a geometric yellow and brown pattern on the outside. It’s named after the Greek god Triton, son of Poseidon, the god of the seas. In Greek mythology, Triton was said to blow into the conch to control the weather, to whip up the winds or blow them away.

[Ambient sound of wind blowing]

Turre: I played it on most of my recordings and it’s the first one I got. My mom got it for me. So it has very sentimental value. So there you have it. [Laughs]

[Turre plays the shell]

Dungy: Our attraction to shells is both universal and deeply personal. Their beauty, color, and symmetry has collectively inspired civilizations across time. But how they reveal themselves to us is often what stands out most in our memories. There is an element of luck and serendipity to it all. It’s almost like some cosmic coincidence to cross paths with a shell, like a chance encounter with a messenger from another world. We find them and they find us. We collect them, but there’s still so much we don’t know about them.

Strauchen-Scherer: I find it fascinating that this passion for shells, you see it reaching backwards through the millennia across different cultures. So it’s intangible what it is about this magic spiral that connects everyone. But as I look at these shells, I think ‘how do they do it? How and why do the members of the conch family and these various marine snails produce these really amazing shells?’

Dungy: Shells are made by soft-bodied animals called mollusks which pull seawater and mix it with components from their own bodies to build their shells out of calcium and carbonate. It’s magical.

Over hundreds of millions of years, mollusks evolved to develop shells as an innovative means to protect themselves. They’re able to make this—technologically speaking—super fancy structure out of basic materials. It’s ultra-resilient. It protects them from predators like big powerful crabs who would break their shells and eat them. Holding a shell, you can really appreciate how strong it is. It seems almost indestructible, like it could last forever.

So how long does it take a mollusk to make this impressively durable shell? This question has been on Bradley’s mind ever since a visitor at The Met asked about the description of the nineteen inch conch shell trumpet featured at the center of their musical instrument display.

Strauchen-Scherer: ‘I've read your label for this so it can't be right.’ And I thought, ‘oh gosh, what have we done?’ And we had the species name. We had ‘trumpet.’ We had location and then it was the date. The date was 2017. And so the visitor said to me, You know, this shell… it’s been around a lot longer than 2017. Even if you just picked it up off the beach yesterday, how old is it really?’

Dungy: To solve this mystery, Bradley reached out to José Leal, a marine biologist who is the Science Director and Curator at The National Shell Museum. Dr. Leal says, depending on the species of the conch, the mollusk could live up to forty years inside its shell. Of course, a shell found washed up and empty could be much, much older.

One of the things that makes empty shells feel timeless is how long they’ve been around. Shells evolved five hundred million years ago. So holding one, it’s almost as if you can sense this ancient energy they embody. It’s difficult to rationalize why cultures independent of one another have been drawn to use and play conch shells for thousands of years, but it makes sense once you hear them.

The most recent discovery of ancient conch shells being used as wind instruments was in a cave in the French Pyrenees. These shells were brought to the cave more than 17,000 years ago, all the way from the Atlantic Ocean. That’s over one hundred and fifty miles away. Finding conch trumpets in unexpected locations—such as places very far from the coastlines—is actually quite common: they can be heard on mountaintops throughout Asia and from the peaks of the Peruvian Andes.

Within The Met collection, the oldest shell trumpets have lived much longer above water than below. Some date back to ancient civilizations across Oceania, Asia, Europe, and the Americas. The conch has become a metaphysical symbol of fertility, luck, infinity, and interconnectedness.

Strauchen-Scherer: So on this musical level, conchs are hugely central to spirituality.  They’re bound up with origin stories in many cultures. So when we think about the Aztecs, Quetzalcoatl was said to sort of breathe life into the universe by creating sound with a giant conch shell.

Dungy: On the other side of the world, the conch’s sound is also associated with origin stories in Hindu and Tibetan Buddhist traditions.

Strauchen-Scherer:  The sound of the conch is said to represent the sacred syllable ‘Om,’ and this is the first sound of the universe.

Dungy: In Hinduism, the conch is representative of the five elements: earth, water, fire, air and space. The Hindu word for conch literally translates to ‘pacifying the inauspicious.’

To this day, conch shells are used in Hindu puja ceremonies as receptacles for holy water, and they are also blown into due to the belief that the vibrations emitted from the conch will dispel negative energy and purify the environment.

Strauchen-Scherer: The conch is also popular in lots of spiritual practice as a visual aid for meditation, because you have the spiral, you’ve got this Fibonacci sequence ever increasing. What do you look at to hypnotize someone? It’s the spiral.

[Turre plays music through a shell]

Dungy: Coming up on Immaterial, we’ll visit the world’s conch shell capital and go back in time to Mexico City with Steve Turre to the night that changed his connection with the conch trumpet forever.

While touring as a musician, Steve picked up conch shells from all over. But there’s one place where many of the shells in his collection are from: the self-proclaimed shell capital of the world, Key West, Florida. There, and throughout much of the Caribbean, conch shells are ubiquitous. They're a cultural icon, foghorn, and food staple. Locals born in Key West even call themselves ‘conchs.’ There, you’ll find conch parades and festivals, conch-blowing contests, hurricane-hardened conch houses, menus featuring conch ceviche, chowder and fritters, and shell-themed souvenir shops.

Jim Waterman: I have hanging on my wall at home a certificate proclaiming that I’m an honorary conch because of all the years I’ve lived here and because of my business.

Dungy: That’s Jim Waterman, the founder of Shell World, a much beloved local treasure that Steve discovered one day when driving down the Overseas Highway.

Turre: …And we were driving down through Key Largo and I said, ‘wow, look at that place. There’s a big shell… there’s a great big shell out by the road.’

Dungy: When Steve pulled up to Shell World and strolled in past the giant shark jaw at the entrance, he found a massive 18,000-square-feet store, selling more than two hundred and fifteen different types of shells from all over the world. Some cost as little as a quarter. Others will set you back more than five grand.

Turre: And I went in there and I got a whole bunch of shells. I felt like a kid in a candy store, I got to tell you. [Laughs]

Dungy: Steve’s recounting this story to Jim and Jim’s daughter, Julia, who practically grew up inside of Shell World. Jim had been collecting shells ever since he was a kid. His parents would take him out on their boat into the shallow marsh waters to fish for them.

Waterman: And we gathered the shells only for the meat because there was no market for shells in those days and we sold the shell with the meat to the local fish house for twenty five cents a piece. They would take the meat out and they would throw the shell away. Those are shells if I had them a day in my store, I could get thirty dollars a piece for them.

Dungy: Jim estimates that in his lifetime he has collected about fifty thousand conch shells. And sold more than twenty thousand conch trumpets.

Waterman: The only thing I can do is make a lot of noise with mine. I can probably satisfy the coast guard. [Steve laughs.] You have to have a horn on every boat.

Turre: It carries...

[Sound of conch horn being blown]

Dungy: But as common as conch shells are in Key West, it’s pretty rare to hear them played like an instrument. And that’s because you can’t just pick one up on the beach and start playing it immediately. You actually have to cut off the tip of the shell to make a small opening that you can blow into. The spiral expanding inside the shell forms an ideal wind-way for strong, clear tones.

But of course, unlike a brass instrument, not all conch shells sound exactly alike. Their sound is determined by where they’re from, their species, and their size. That’s why when you see Steve perform, he often has conch shells from all over the world spread out on a table before him. Steve can get this extraordinary range of notes, by playing different types of conch, sometimes several at the same time.

Turre: Each one has its own personality. The primary tone on a shell, they all different. And they all aren’t perfectly on pitch. You know, some of them are a little off, and they all have a decent sound, but some of them sound better than others, you know? This one, the frog shell from the Philippines and a Triton shell, they always have a good sound.

[Recorded music performed by Turre on a shell plays]

Dungy: And when Steve plays the shells, he can play notes like a bugle. He’s also learned that by sliding his hand in and out of the conch shell’s opening, he can make different notes like he would on the trombone.

Turre: And you know, it wasn’t something I set out to do, you know? I was shy about presenting it because, you know, Roland, Kirk, he played three horns at once and he would receive criticism sometimes. “Ah that’s just a gimmick.” And it wasn’t really, it was beautiful music. And you know I became aware that they’re always going to be naysayers and all that stuff. So I was, you know, guarded, shall we say? But then I had an experience.

[Jazz music]

Dungy: It was 1983. Steve was playing a gig with master trumpet player Woody Shaw in Mexico City.

Turre: And my relatives came to the concert. And they told me, ‘man, did you know that your ancestors used to play the shells?’ I said, no, I didn’t know. So I went to the museum there, the archeology museum, and they had queen conch instruments like this that the Aztec and the Maya used to play. And I said, ‘oh, no wonder I’m attracted to this sound. I think it’s a part of me.’ It’s something inside, you know?

Dungy: It was like this ah-ha moment for Steve, discovering this connection between the shell and his ancestors. He realized playing the conch was actually not so random, it was like he’s supposed to do it. And so he decided...

Turre: I don’t care what people think. I’m just going to play it. And I started playing it. And, uh, I just kinda go with what feels right. I trust intuition a lot of times more than I trust your thought process. I’ll put it this way. Intuition is connected to wisdom. Now I know in Western culture, intellect is supposed to be the crown king. But I beg to differ with that. I feel wisdom always surpasses intellect. So to me, wisdom– body, mind and spirit– is a more powerful force.

[Music plays]

Dungy: Playing the conch became a way for Steve to connect not only with his Mexican roots, but also to other cultures that have been playing the shell for thousands of years. One of the most prized shells in his collection is an ancient conch trumpet from Peru. In Peru, conch trumpets dating from before the Incas were excavated from this monumental ceremonial complex called Chavín de Huántar, a sacred pilgrimage site that was constructed as early as 1200 B.C.E. It is believed to be architecturally designed to mimic the echoey acoustics you’d get inside of a cave.

Miriam Kolar: Finding such instruments at an archeological site is tremendous. Why… you know… why seashells in the mountains? That’s the first question.

Dungy: That’s Miriam Kolar. Miriam leads the investigation team at this ancient ceremonial complex where 21 conch shell trumpets, locally called pututus, were found.

Kolar: Why would they be brought at least a twelve days’ journey from the coast, taken at great cost as probably live animals from the ocean right? and brought to get to a place that’s kind of up and away and far from everything.

Dungy: Each shell is different visually and acoustically. Depictions of these superhuman and animal-like figures playing the pututus can be seen on the walls of the complex and also carved onto the shells themselves.

[Ambient sound of wind blowing through a mountain pass]

Kolar: So we have these beautiful rock faces in this very narrow valley where  two rivers intersect. So when you’re down in the site, and you’re kind of looking up around you, you see these towering rock faces and very steep mountains on both sides. So it’s this impressive place itself. Quite a destination.

Dungy: And by the time the pututus reached the mountains, the animal had been removed, so there was this great mystique around the creature that lived inside of it. The pututus were believed to have transformational powers.

Kolar: At Chavín it’s clear that only one species of conch was preferred. The name of this animal now is Titana Strombus Galeatus. What a name. It’s like the T-Rex of… of conch shells.

[Sound of shells blowing]

Kolar: So we had this amazing opportunity to hold and perform this three thousand year old conch shell. It has a shape that produces such a clear and powerful tone that is quite robust to wind shear because of the frequencies that’s produced. So that makes it useful in a high altitude place where you have a lot of wind. If you’re trying to use them to communicate at a distance.

Dungy: Playing the ancient pututus at the site today, Miriam got a sense of how they may have sounded thousands of years ago.

Kolar: When you perform these pututus on tops of the buildings at Chavín you get these like 360-degree swirling soundscapes, where the sound is just ricocheting off of the rock faces around you and the buildings as well.

Dungy: Investigating Chavín’s architecture, the mystery as to why these shells ended up all the way in the mountains at this particular site starts to unfold. They were there to be heard. It’s believed that the pututus were used not only to communicate across distances. They were also played inside the structure’s echoey chambers. They were used as ritualistic tools to control the weather and the cosmos. And they were used to honor and connect with the ‘apu,’ or mountain spirits.

Kolar: So if you look at the stone carvings there are two of them excavated in place that are pututu performers.

And they have these very large eyes, you know,  and that’s been interpreted as an association with a kind of trance-like state, probably from ingesting hallucinogenic plants, but it could also be from being kind of entrained in this rhythmic breathing, performative trancing cycle, that’s musical.

Dungy: Along with documenting the acoustic properties of the shells from a pure archeological perspective, Miriam invited local performers to improv on the pututus, to experiment with how they may have sounded in a spiritual ceremony.

Kolar: And then my colleague is like demonstrating, ‘wow, look at how loud and powerful and this hybrid imaginative creature, we can make sonically with these instruments, right?’

Dungy: Here’s Riemann Ramirez, imitating a jaguar on the pututus.

[A sound created on a shell that sounds like a jaguar plays]

Dungy: Miriam also invited Peruvian master musician and sound healer, Tito La Rosa, to play.

Kolar: I wonder, you know, who were the people that played, pututus in Chavín? Were they master musicians like Tito La Rosa who have these or Steve Turre who have these incredible capacities to perform these instruments who are, these creative geniuses that were just in awe of the experiences that they can create sonically and performatively for us.

Sound has always been so important to human beings and to life on this planet. I mean, it’s this basic means and medium of interconnecting us, and interconnecting us with stuff that’s happening in the environment and other living beings with humans, and humans with ideas of things that may not be tangible. Right?

Dungy: And what better way to honor the shell and its ability to connect us than to surprise Bradley and have her meet her conch shell hero?

[The sound of a car door closing, feet shuffling to a doorway, etc.]

Turre: Welcome!

Strauchen-Scherer:  Hey! How are you?

Dungy: When Bradley and Steve met they immediately started comparing their shell collections like two excited kids. After all, it’s not that common to get to nerd out with a fellow seashellist.

Turre: This is my granddaddy. It’s got a lot of energy and the colors. It’s alive, you know, it vibrates.

Dungy: And by granddaddy, he’s not kidding. Steve’s holding the world’s largest known seashell, The Australian Syrinx shell. The biggest ones can weigh up to forty pounds. The exterior of Steve’s shell was painted in stunning earth tones by a Cuban artist friend of his. The Syrinx covers about a quarter of Steve’s body. Bradley hauled her own unadorned giant Syrinx shell on the train over.

Turre: You want to hear something crazy. Just hold your F.

[Turre and Bradley play. A low, hypnotizing combination tone is formed from the sounds of their shells]

Turre: You hear that low note?

Strauchen-Scherer: oh yeah!

Turre: Because the two together vibrate there in such a way they created a third note. It was stron,g man. You hear all of the room that’s resonated. This is different than brass...

Strauchen-Scherer: I hear it and I feel it right in my chest.

Turre: Yup, yup…

Strauchen-Scherer: It’s giving me goosebumps! It’s really powerful.

Turre: It’s deep. And it makes the whole room shake.

Dungy: It’s almost as if shells hold this sacred wisdom, this ancient yet timeless secret, this whisper from the ocean. Kind of like if you’ve ever found a conch shell on the beach and put it up to your ear. You know how you can hear the ocean ringing through your ears?

[Ambient sound of ocean waves]

Turre: You hear the ‘whooooo,’ but you don’t hear the waves break. That’s the sound I like, the waves breaking, you know. That’s the ocean to me.

Dungy: There’s something about the sound of the ocean that stays with us, deep in our memory. And in our fast-paced digital world, it’s almost like a spiritual experience to sense this power from something we didn’t make. Like shells, we are a part of everything that is here, and everything that is here is also shaping us. We may think we are rulers over the natural world and that we are in control, but we are as ephemeral as sound. We are made up of materials that will dissolve back into the earth, connecting us to one another and connecting us to other realms.

[Jazz music plays, including instrumentation performed on the shell by Steve Turre]

Immaterial is produced by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Magnificent Noise.

This episode was produced by Elyse Blennerhasset.

Our production staff also includes Jesse Baker, Eric Nuzum, Eleanor Kagan, and Adwoa Gyimah-Brempong, and from The Metropolitan Museum: Sofie Andersen, Sarah Wambold, Benjamin Korman and Rachel Smith.

Sound design by Ariana Martinez and Elyse Blennerhasset.

Mixing by Ariana Martinez and Kristin Mueller.

Fact-checking by Christine Baird. 

The podcast is made possible by Dasha Zhukova Niarchos.

Additional support is provided by Bloomberg Philanthropies.

This episode would not have been possible without: Bradley Strauchen-Scherer, Curator of Musical Instruments, Tim Caster, Principal Departmental Technician, Markus Sesko, Visiting Researcher of Arms and Armor,John Guy, Curator of South and Southeast Asian Art, Maia Nuku, curator of Oceanic Art, And James Doyle, Former Assistant Curator for Arts of the Ancient Americas.

And our deepest gratitude to Steve Turre, Miriam Kolar, José Leal, and Jim and Julia Waterman for your time and expertise.  

Our music in this episode was performed and composed by Steve Turre, Lemon Guo, Sophia Shen, Elyse Blennerhassett, Austin Fisher, and Chris Zabriskie.

Shell recordings from Chavín provided by Miriam Kolar and performed by Miriam Kolar, Robert Silva, Ricardo Guerrero La Luna, Riemann Ramirez, Ronald San Miguel, and Tito La Rosa.

Additional recordings by Paul Schneider, Eleanor Kagan, Elyse Blennerhassett, and Peter Rinaldi.

I’m Camille Dungy.