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Costa Rica AD 800-1200
sculptural folded up flute
by the artist
Bahia, Ecuador, 400 BC-400 AD
Through her years of research, Ms. Rawcliffe has become an authority on construction methods of ceramic wind instruments both contemporary and those of prehispanic artists. Initial research in Mexico was sponsored in part by a NEA grant. She has had the privilege of playing and examining the instruments of the ancient Americas in collections throughout the USA and Mexico.
For 30 centuries, the prehispanic societies from the Olmecs to the Mayas, Zapotecs and Aztecs developed a unique flute organology. Their instruments were created for spiritual devotions and are redolent with ceremonial symbolism. Ms. Rawcliffe's research is circular: she makes acoustical copies, learns to play them, then reinvests her insights, evolving through stages into new instruments, which inspire with their wonderful scales and evocative timbres. These studies teach her the craft of building musical instruments and point to the art of how sound affects people.
The marvelous ancient flutes, pipes, ocarinas and whistles were made in a wide diversity of shapes and sounds, including ones unique to these societies. They are not so much the "remains of a bygone art, as the sacred sound symbols of a now vanished cult." Through her work, Ms. Rawcliffe is able to play sounds that may not have been heard for 1000 years. It's her pleasure to share them with others.
Ms. Rawcliffe can bring to a lecture a wide range of the images and sounds of prehispanic musical instruments, as well as images of her own work. She can focus on either the musical instruments of the prehispanic cultures, on her own instruments and sound sculptures, or on both, including discussions of: instrument construction practices, visual possibilities, and musical issues. As part of her presentations, she plays her flutes, pipes, ocarinas, whistles and trumpets, sharing their wonderful sounds and musical potential, drawing parallels between her own instruments and those of the ancient flute makers.
In 2007, Ms. Rawcliffe lectured and developed an educational booth for the "Wild Music," exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of Science, Raleigh, NC. In 2006, she lectured and demonstrated her work with prehispanic flutes for the International Study Group of Musical Archaeology, Deutsches Archäologisches Institute, Berlin, Germany. In 2002, she lectured on her work as researcher and artist-musician for the "Wats:on Festival of Interdisciplinary Arts," Carnegie Mellon University, as well as a joint convention of the Acoustical Society of America, and the Iberoamerican and Mexican Congresses of Acoustics. Ms. Rawcliffe has also lectured three times for the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, as well as for the Smithsonian Institute, the Metropolitan Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, in addition to colleges, universities and museums.