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Listen to a sample from the Collections audio guide.
Eric Kjellgren: I'm Eric Kjellgren and I'm the curator of Oceanic art at the Metropolitan, which is the art of the Pacific Islands, and I am talking with my colleague, Ken Moore, who is the curator of musical instruments.
Ken Moore: Well, this is actually one of my favorite instruments from this area, because it is very unique to New Ireland. But the way it's played is incredibly unique. Here we have a kind of oval-shaped piece of wood that is carved with three to four tongues that sort of are suspended over the main body of the instrument. What do you do with that? You don't strike it. What you actually do is to moisten your hand, and rub it across these tongues, and it gives you very distinct pitches.
Eric Kjellgren: These instruments are used in particular in association with a type of ceremony called "Malagan." . . . And the sound of the instrument is actually said, in some areas, to represent the voice of the spirits of the dead.
Ken Moore: And birds, in this particular part of the world are very often connected with spirit, with otherworldly kinds of activities or communications. And, it's very interesting that this instrument really is concealed from the population at large, and that only the initiates are able to see it. It's another one of those instruments that are hidden away from view, and that hold a mystique and mystery about them.