Research

Water Music of Vanuatu

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In the Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu, women have a tradition of water music, accompanying their singing with a percussive use of water. This video explores the physics behind this music. Performers use three basic motions – a slap, a plunge, and a plow – that each have distinctive acoustics thanks to the interaction of hand, water, and air. High pitches come from the initial impact on the water, whereas lower pitches come mostly from the collapse of the air cavity in the hand’s wake. By altering the rhythms and patterns of these three building blocks, the musicians create a rich harmony to accompany their singing. (Video credit: R. Hurd et al.)

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