Tag Archives: Music

The Mystery Behind the Ancient ‘Death Whistle’


‘Death Whistles’ appear as skulls – models created by Roberto Velázquez Cabrera

Last week, I discovered a fascinating video clip through Facebook featuring the ‘death whistle’ that creates some very unsettling or disturbing sounds that immediately convinced me to down the volume on my computer. This YouTube video features Xavier Quijas Yxayotl holding a skull shaped whistle and I was completely surprised when I listened to the noises from this particular instrument and I was alarmed by the loud, unpleasant sounds.1

There is something fascinating, yet mysterious about this instrument and the noises convinced me to undertake some further research in order to discover the purpose behind the Aztec ‘death whistle.’ This is something I haven’t seen or heard of before until now and I decided to delve deeper in the spiritual, cultural and historical speculations relating to the death whistle. 

I have recently discovered a very interesting article from Mexicolore featuring a Mechanical Engineer, Roberto Velázquez Cabrera who reproduces ancient, Aztec instruments in order to evaluate various sounds or noises.2


Xavier Quijas Yxayotl with a death whistle

Over the past couple of days, I have wondered why the death whistle features the shape of a skull? Cabrera explains that the skull shaped whistle may feature a connection to certain “death rituals,” as well as ancient aztec mythology, including Ehecatl (the wind god) and Mictlantecutli (the god of death)3 There is limited information in regards to this ancient instrument and it has been rather difficult to find academic research that is written in English, however Cabrera cites the only ‘archaeological’ publication that was produced by Salvador Guilliem Arroyo in regards to these death whistles.4

In reference to Cabrera’s written article from Mexicolore, these death whistles were extracted from the skeletal remains of a sacrificed victim and the young man was “buried in front of the Ehecatl (wind) temple of Tlatelolco.” Cabrera suggests that these ‘archaeological’ discoveries may feature a connection to certain Aztec gods including Ehecatl, as well as Mictlantecutli and the whistles may have been used for “the ritual of sacrifice.”5


Sacrificed victim buried with death whistle

After further research, I discovered a historical image featuring Ehecatl and Mictlantecutli side by side that has invited me to question the relationship between these two ancient gods. In ‘A Pocket Dictionary of Aztec and Mayan Gods and Goddesses,’ Clara Bezanilla suggests that Ehecatl travelled down to the underworld and ‘tricked Mictlantecutli’ in order to gather the skeletal remains from the people that have died from the ‘fourth sun.’6

According to Bezanilla, Echecatl “mixed these bones with his blood and gave life to the humans who inhabit the fifth sun or the present world.”7 I’m not entirely sure if these stories or mythologies feature a connection to the whistle, however it is interesting to uncover the stories behind Ehecatl and Mictlantecutli.

I have also wondered whether the ‘death whistle’ was used for anything else in particular and Cabrera’s article compares the noises from the death whistle with the Chichtli that is believed to create a ‘chich sound’ and this particular instrument was used during ‘banquets’ where slaves were sacrificed. Cabrera suggests that the ‘death whistle’ may have been used during these ceremonies or banquets.8


Image featuring Ehecatl (god of wind) and Mictlantecutli (god of death)

I tried to search for an audio recording of the sounds from the Chichtli; while I have discovered some articles and books online, I was unable to find any recordings. I have found this discovery rather interesting, as I’m able to listen to the Aztec Whistle through the internet, although I struggled to find any written information.

Cabrera suggests that many ‘resonators’ have disappeared and the ‘death whistle’ is quite a rare instrument; I have wondered whether the lack of information or research regarding the ‘death whistle’ were destroyed during the Spanish Inquisition, this is just a speculation I have anyway.9 Cabrera’s article also features an audio recording from the ‘death whistle’ that successfully produces some disturbing sounds and the noises remind me of a person screaming for help.

I decided to revisit the youtube video clip with Xavier Quijas Yxayotl who suggests that the ‘death whistle’ was used by tribes in order to scare their rivals during war.10 I tried to search for additional information online, however I was unable to find any other sources relating to the use of the ‘death whistle’ in warfare.

Youtube clip featuring Xavier Quijas Yxayotl playing the ‘death whistle’

I decided to compare Cabrera’s audio recording of the ‘death whistle’ with Xavier Quijas Yxayotl video clip and I have realised that the sounds are slightly different. From a personal perspective, Quijas Yxayotl ‘death whistle’ does sound very sinister or intimidating compared to Cabrera’s recording and I have wondered whether each individual ‘death whistle’ creates a different sound.11

I also noticed that Yxayotl’s instrument features a different shape compared to Cabrera’s models. According to Yxayotl’s website, the musician recreates the whistles in order to provide a sinister or ‘intimidating’ appearance.12 

Examining the ‘death whistle’ provided some very interesting, yet fascinating research that I haven’t discovered before. I was surprised that I discovered this ancient instrument through Facebook and I’m hoping to find some additional information in the future. Please click on the links below for further details.


1.Quijas Yxayotl, ‘Death Whistle,’ Jan 15 2013, Youtube, accessed 15/12/14, http://youtu.be/I9QuO09z-SI
2.Roberto Velázquez Cabrera, ‘The Death Whistle,’ Mexicolore, accessed 15/12/14, http://www.mexicolore.co.uk/aztecs/music/death-whistle
3.Cabrera, ‘The Death Whistle.’
4.Cabrera, ‘The Death Whistle.’
5.Cabrera, ‘The Death Whistle.’
6.Clara Bezanilla, “A Pocket Dictionary of Aztec and Mayan Gods and Goddesses” (United Kingdom: The Trustees of the British Museum, 2006) p.10
7.Bezanilla, “A Pocket Dictionary of Aztec and Mayan Gods and Goddesses” p.10
8.Cabrera, ‘The Death Whistle.’
9.Cabrera, ‘The Death Whistle.’
10.Yxayotl, ‘Death Whistle.’
11.Cabrera, ‘The Death Whistle.’
12. Xavier Quijas Yxayotl, ‘Instrument,’ accessed 15/12/14, http://www.yxayotl.com/instruments/

Image References

Images can be found through the Mexicolore website via Cabrera’s article, http://www.mexicolore.co.uk/aztecs/music/death-whistle


Lollipop Chainsaw: Part II


Suda 51’s Lollipop Chainsaw

Skulls, Zombies and Multicoloured Love Hearts Work Hand in Hand

In the previous post, I mentioned the outlandish visual aesthetics, the style and the absurd narrative in Lollipop Chainsaw, however I have discovered additional elements that do compliment the overall gaming experience including the soundtrack, the pop culture references as well as the constant use of skulls.


The musical compositions do provide a very unique aspect to the game and the player is able to customise the overall soundtrack. To be honest, I didn’t even know this was possible until I watched a review on Youtube from Angry Joe; this is a useful feature that allows the player to adjust the order or the sequence of the music. According to IGN, the musical compositions were conducted by Akira Yamoaka, an influential video game producer who is renowned for the ‘sound direction’ in Silent Hill.

Lollipop Chainsaw features a mixture of rock and roll as well as 80’s pop music including Hey Mickey by Toni Basil and Lollipop by the Chordettes. The music provides a humorous element to the overall game and how could I forgot to mention Juliet’s sparkle hunting? This unusual power allows the character to kill multiple zombies in one hit along with Hey Mickey playing in the background.


Juliet’s Sparkle Hunting

When Juliet’s Sparkle hunting is activated, the player is bombarded with multicoloured sparkles, love hearts and rainbows; both the visual and the audio effects compliment the character’s outgoing personality. The soundtrack is catchy and I couldn’t stop signing the lines to Hey Mickey for a couple of weeks, while I’m not a huge fan of rock and roll, I thoroughly enjoyed the 80’s pop music.

The enemies appear to be inspired by musical genres including punk, goth, heavy metal, electronica, 80’s pop as well as rock and roll. It’s hard to forget the very last boss, a gigantic Elvis Presley look-alike with pink laser eyes who attempts to kill Juliet with an army of explosive zombies or abandoned vehicles. All these different genres / influences are blended together in order to create a unique, dynamic and interactive experience for the player.

The Depiction of the Skull

The skull frequently appears throughout Lollipop Chainsaw in all different shapes and sizes; they’re incorporated into the enemies clothing or instruments, they’re displayed within the background, they’re displayed on the very top of Juliet’s Lollipops, there are skulls everywhere!

The game heavily refers to contemporary music, design and popular culture; the skull in particular does have a strong connection to these genres or styles and it would be absolutely absurd to disregard such a prolific symbol. It’s interesting to see the combination of skulls, zombies and multicoloured love hearts, these particular styles are merged into one in order to deliver something random, surreal and artistic.


The five dark purveyors / bosses 

I began to wonder whether video games change our perceptions of the skull? From a personal opinion, I view the skull as a visual style or a popular symbol that adds substance and context to a video game. The connection between the skull and immortality is something I wouldn’t even consider while I’m playing a game on the Playstation. As a matter of fact, this is a really interesting question that I will revise in the next few weeks.

I have discovered another interesting fact about Suda 51 and his previous occupations that did surprise me. In an interview with Matt Casamassina, Suda explains that he previously worked as an undertaker before he pursued a career within the video game industry and I have often wondered whether these experiences inspired Suda’s recent creations including Lollipop Chainsaw and Shadows of the Damned.


Juliet with Skull Logo

Pop Culture References

Well there are plenty of influences or references in Lollipop Chainsaw that I am yet to mention, where do I even begin? In the third level the game appropriates some classic arcade games including Pac man and space invaders, this was one of my favourite aspects of the game!

When I played Lollipop Chainsaw for the first time, the game reminded me of Sailor Moon and Dawn of the Dead, quite an unusual combination right? Well this is the most interesting part, the school is named San Romero High and the director for Dawn of the Dead is named George Romero, I didn’t even notice this particular element until the very end of the game. I wondered whether the name was intentional and Game Font mentions that the George Romero has inspired Lollipop Chainsaw.

Throughout the game, the high school students mention Bruce Campbell’s name, the main protagonist from Evil Dead who replaces his infected hand with a chainsaw; there appears to be parallel between Ash and Juliet Starling from Lollipop Chainsaw. According to Esperino, the player is able to unlock a costume that is influenced by Ash from Evil Dead, however this is a ‘exclusive bonus’ from EB games in Australia. Here is another interesting fact, I bought a pre-owned copy of Lollipop Chainsaw from EB games, I’m tempted to play the game again to see if I am able to unlock the costume.


Ash Costume in Lollipop Chainsaw

These are the most recognisable pop culture references, however there are plenty of others that I properly haven’t mentioned or discussed. Angry Joe for instance compares Lollipop Chainsaw to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Scott Pilgrim, to be honest I would need to write a list with all of the references / influences within the game. It’s hard to recognise the references all at once, you properly need to play the entire game in order to notice all of them.

These particular elements successfully engages the viewer and the references invites the player to pay attention to every minor detail. It’s quite impressive to see how these ideas are applied or executed within Lollipop Chainsaw; the overall concept is clever, imaginative and seriously addictive! While the gameplay is often slow and unresponsive, Lollipop Chainsaw successfully invites the viewer into a gory, multicoloured universe filled with stylised visual effects, catchy tunes and an absurd narrative.

If you are interested in popular culture and you enjoy a decent soundtrack, I would recommend Lollipop Chainsaw for sure! Check out the first review for Lollipop Chainsaw for additional information or you can browse through the Black Calavera Facebook Page.




IGN Entertainment Inc, “Lollipop Chainsaw: Official Soundtrack,” http://au.ign.com/wikis/lollipop-chainsaw/Official_Soundtrack

Angry Joe Show, “Lollipop Chainsaw Angry Review,” Youtube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-e6XQMCeXqY

Matt Casamassina, “Interview: Suda 51 on No More Heroes,” IGN Entertainment Inc 2014, http://au.ign.com/articles/2007/02/17/interview-suda-51-on-no-more-heroes

Hang Veng Ly, “Lollipop Chainsaw EB Games Preorder Bonus Costume, DLC and Keychain,” Esperino, 2014, http://www.esperino.com/lollipop-chainsaw-eb-games-preorder-bonus-costume-dlc-keychain

“Lollipop Chainsaw,” 2012, Playstation 3, Warner Brothers, Interactive Entertainment & Kadokawa.


Image References 






Poster advertising Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson, Wreck & Ruin

9/1/12 – Day of the Dead Skeletons within Music Poster 

The other day, I was walking through the city centre of Geelong and I had recognised a poster that was attached to the side of an old building. The poster features two Mexican Day of the Dead skeletons holding a rooster; it’s quite hard to actually see the poster as the majority of it has been ripped. The poster features Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson’s latest album, “Wreck & Ruin”, I am assuming that the poster is promoting some sort of music concert. All the details have been ripped off the poster so I cannot actually see what the poster is advertising.

The various patterns and designs do remind me of the Mexican sugar skulls; it is interesting to see how an Australian country singer has appropriated the Mexican Day of the Dead skulls. From my own personal opinion, the poster and the album cover demonstrate the growing interest in the Day of the Dead celebration within Australia.


What I do find interesting is the fact that the poster has been printed in black and white, as the original album cover is very colourful and illustrative. For me personally the black and white poster adopts a western approach towards the Day of the Dead celebration. This then leads me to my next question, is colour an important element within the Mexican Day of the Dead?

All the skulls and skeletons that I have seen so far usually feature very colourful designs; the use of colour may reflect a positive attitude towards death.
Chambers new album “Wreck & Ruin” feature a creative and illustrative design that may represent the artist’s fascination with the Mexican Day of the Dead. This is the first time I have seen a poster advertising Kasey Chambers, I’m hoping to actually find a poster that isn’t ripped or damaged!

Please click on the URL below to visit Chamber’s Website.


Day of the Dead Skulls in Ke$ha’s Performance, Die Young

26/11/12 – Ke$sha at the MTV Awards

The other day, a colleague at work had mentioned the Mexican Day of the Dead makeup that was used for Ke$ha’s performance “Die Young” at the 2012, MTV Awards. I must admit the makeup and the costumes are pretty amazing, although the signing wasn’t exactly the best. The back up dancers featured a unique and  make up style and the performance was very interesting to watch. The back up dancers displayed some incredible moves and the choreography was very compelling, although I wasn’t to impressed with Ke$ha’s own singing.

Other than that, the performance was quite create in terms of the makeup and the props that were used on stage. It would have been really cool if Ke$ha also had the Mexican Skull makeup, although her costume did contrast with the colourful dancers in the background. The performance does indicate that the Mexican Day of the Dead skulls are becoming increasingly popular in today’s visual culture. After recognizing the Mexican hand crafted skulls around the city of Melbourne, I am beginning to notice them in all sorts of designs such as tattoos, visual merchandise, laptop covers, t-shirts and performances such as Ke$ha’s, “Die Young”. It will be interesting to see whether the Mexican Day of the Dead skulls increase in popularity over the next few months.

To see Kesha’s performance, please click on the link below.


Bom Bom: Sam and the Womp

7/10/12 – Bright Pink Misfit Jumper in Video Clip

Ok so I must admit, every time I hear this song I get excited when “Bom Bom” by Sam and the  Womp comes onto the Radio. I do get really strange looks from people when I’m sitting in my car and I’m yelling the lyrics to myself. Well anyway, I remember watching a music video clip on television for this song, a member of the bad was wearing a fluro pink skull jumper.

It’s quite strange when you’re not expecting to see the skull and there it is, in a video clip with flashing colours. When I watched the video clip on youtube, I realised that the jumper featured the logo from the misfits, only this jumper is bright pink. I’m not a huge fan of the misfit, although I do like this bright pink jumper in the video clip, it’s totally something I would wear.

The video itself is bright, loud and extremely colourful, your eyes do not know where to look next. If you can watch this video clip without feeling dizzy, I would recommend it, the music is rather cool and there’s a man wearing a bright pink misfits jumper!


Kasey Chambers

8/9/12 – New Album, Inspired by the Day of the Dead

Yesterday I was having a discussion with another family member who had mentioned Kasey Chambers’s and Shane Nicholson’s latest album, “Wreck and Run”  . The album cover does features similarities to the Mexican Day of the Dead Celebration. Kasey Chambers is a country singer and her latest album cover may demonstrate the artist’s interest for Mexican folk art.

The cover illustrates two skeletal figures and a rooster standing in the middle of the woods. Both of the skeletons feature vibrant and decorative outfits that definitely captures the viewer’s attention.

I don’t really listen to Kasey Chambers music although I am a fan of the album cover.


Facebook Updates

5/7/12 – Latest Facebook updates from Rick Genest and Lady Gaga

I am beginning to notice that my Facebook page is continually updated with images or photos of Rick Genest or Lady Gaga. Not that I’m complaining, It actually makes my Facebook page more interesting and worth while.

Every time I log into Facebook there is at least one photo of rick Genest that appears at the top of my screen, which begins to make me wonder whether Facebook is doing my research for me? In fact anything that is related to the skull appears on my Facebook page and as soon as I log into my account, the majority of my page is covered with skulls.

At least I’m up to date with recent photos or updates from Genest’s or Gaga’s page, although it is interesting to recognise that almost every photo of Genest is flooded with thousands of comments in different languages. Has Rico the Zombie become the latest trend in contemporary art, performance and fashion? I think so, what isn’t there to love about Genest’s tattoo’s and design?

# 1 Golden Chains

Here is a recent image from Genest’s Facebook page, which appeared my status updates a couple of days ago. The direction of the light contrasts with Genest’s tattoo’s, which also highlights the eyes, the nose and the mouth. The angle of the camera and Genest’s pose, directs to viewer’s attention to Genest’s facial features, which also displays similar characteristics to the human skull.

One could argue that the light projects Genest’s face and upper body, which immediately gravitates the viewer’s attention to the golden chains. The chains also create a chest plate or a shirt, which compliments Genest’s tattoo’s. The image is very creative and the chains also add texture and colour to the overall image.


# 2 Rick Genest and the Day of the Dead Skeleton

The black & white image at the top also appeared on my Facebook page and I was instantly attracted to the Day of the Dead figurine. Genest appears to be biting into the skeleton, although his facial expressions are quite sinister. The image does feature an interesting comparison between the Day of the Dead skeleton and Genest’s tattoos. One could argue that the image features two different depiction of death and the skull, which creates a really interesting composition.


 # 3 Lady Gaga Skull T-Shirts 

This is the last photo that appeared on my Facebook page and Lady Gaga has released some new t-shirts. The t-shirts replicate Gaga’s latest hit, Born this Way and the design also features a cartoon version of Gaga herself. The cartoon Gaga also features similar characteristics from the video clip, such as skull makeup that also replicates Rick Genest’s tattoos. I wouldn’t mind one of these t-shirts and I appreciate the design.


Gaga’s SceiBe: Music Video Clip

2/5/11 – Lady Gaga: ScheiBe 

I decided to research other Gaga videos featuring Rick Genest and ‘SchieBe’ is a recent music video clip, which may refer to different styles. One could argue that the clip features similar aesthetics to a horror film, which combines black and white, with bright red that simultaneously flashes onto the screen. There is also an apple that is positioned on top of Genest’s head, which may refer to the Vanitas paintings from the 1600’s that composed the skull with other objects or images.

The clip is quite gothic, although the lighting does enhance Genest’s form, which almost makes the performer look like an actual skeleton. Genest’s sensual interaction with the silver beads may position death as an’ fetishistic subject’. Foltyn’s article also analyses the subject of death within contemporary fashion and photography, which is also applied to Lacan’s theories of the ‘imaginary’. Lacan suggests that the human population are intrigued with grotesque or macabre imagery.

Perhaps Lacan’s theories may suggest that contemporary society is attracted to the unknown or the ‘other’. One could argue that the unknown or the familiar immediately gravitates the viewer’s attention to the image, which may emphasise Capitalism’s inclination to mass produce the image of death in order to target society’s desires or interests.

Foltyn argues in the article (To Die For: Skull Style and Corpse Chic in Fashion Design, Imagery  and Branding) that the “corpse and it’s simulated versions is the new fetishised body” p. 10- 13 Foltyn’s article also questions whether the mass produced image of the skull creates a different genre and perhaps the subject of death has lost it’s connection with the skull, which transforms the image into an everyday product that is infinitely manufactured for a mass audience.

Foltlyn, Jacque Lynn. “To Die For: Skull Style and Corpse Chic in Fashion, Imagery and Branding.” Scan Journal 7 (2010)

Ravenal, John. B. Vanitas Meditations on Life and Death in Contemporary Art.  Virginia Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 2000.

Cadafalch, Antoni. The Day of the Dead: El Dia De Los Muertos.  London: Koreno Books, 2011


Rick Genest

1/5/12 – Body Art

A friend had also mentioned Rick Genest, who becomes a real life skeleton through the application of makeup. It could be argued that style of the makeup becomes a sinister representation of the Mexican Skulls. Genest is also featured within Lady Gaga’s music video ‘Born This Way’ and there is a tinge of light pink, which adds colour to the sequence.

One could argue that the tuxedo’s compliment the makeup and the style could be interpreted as similar to Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas. The music and the reference to skull may also refer to the Dance of Death.

Zombie Boy, http://rickgenest.com/index.php?option=com_hwdvideoshare&task=viewvideo&Itemid=112&video_id=8 (Accessed 1/5/12)

Magliozzi, Ron He, Jenny & Warren, Kate. “Tim Burton: The Exhibiton “. Melbourne: Australian Centre for Moving Image, 2010

Image, http://swabble.me/rick-genest-das-lebendige-skelett/

“….though you’re dead and gone, believe me, your Memory will carry on, we’ll carry on” (My Chemical Romance)

The film clip features a young man in a hospital bed who appears at the Black Parade. Perhaps the young man is dying at the hospital and his soul departs from the living and unites with the dead. The main character also features dark circles around his eyes, which also features similar qualities to a skull, which is juxtaposed with the singer’s black and white jackets that also appear similar to a ribcage.

The other characters also feature very pale faces, which may resemble the shape of the skull and each participant begins to walk along with the ‘black parade’. The music clip is quite dark and there is a hint of red, which contrasts with the other elements within the video, which appear desaturated.

Lyrics, http://www.metrolyrics.com/welcome-to-the-black-parade-lyrics-my-chemical-romance.html

Youtube Clip, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6q0VcgOfIQA

My Chemical Romance, http://www.mychemicalromance.com/blog/mcr/tourdates-australia-announced (Accessed 26/4/12)