Denver Art Museum and Museo de las Americas are going to let you play ancient Mayan instruments

Okay, so they’re replica instruments. But you can probably still try to play a Lizzo song.

Artwork from the upcoming exhibit "Rhythm and Ritual: Music of the Ancient Americas" on display at Museo de las Americas. (Photos courtesy of Denver Art Museum)

Artwork from the upcoming exhibit "Rhythm and Ritual: Music of the Ancient Americas" on display at Museo de las Americas. (Photos courtesy of Denver Art Museum)

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photo

Jared Katz fell in love with Mesoamerican art in San Bartolo, Guatemala. It’s an archaeological site once home to the Mayan civilization.

The site includes some of the oldest murals in the Mesoamerican region, which stretched from Mexico to Central America, and was home to several civilizations. Researchers at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard came came across the site by accident in 2001.

The art led Katz, Mayer postdoctoral curatorial fellow for art of the ancient Americas at the Denver Art Museum, to grow interested in ancient people’s everyday experiences.

“I fell in love with this idea of ancient music,” Katz said.

It just so happened that DAM has an extensive collection of Mesoamerican art, which prompted him to develop and curate an exhibit called “Rhythm and Ritual: Music of the Ancient Americas.” It premieres in late March at Museo de las Americas, which is located at the Art District on Santa Fe.

Artwork from the upcoming exhibit "Rhythm and Ritual: Music of the Ancient Americas" on display at Museo de las Americas. (Photos courtesy of Denver Art Museum)

Artwork from the upcoming exhibit "Rhythm and Ritual: Music of the Ancient Americas" on display at Museo de las Americas. (Photos courtesy of Denver Art Museum)

The exhibit will include 3D-printed version of ancient instruments that will be displayed at the Museo. Katz said people will be able to touch and play the instruments, which were created by a process he said included taking hundreds of photographs.

The exhibit will also include contemporary pieces by local artists. Some Latin music groups have recreated similar instruments and play them in performances. A composer is using some of the replicas to create a piece that will be used in the exhibition. It’s all part of the exhibit’s goal to take a closer look at the sonic and musical cultural experiences of ancient Mesoamericans. It will explore music from this region, as well as from South American cultures.

“I want people to think about the rich and vibrant lives the people of the Americas lived,” Katz said.

Too often, Katz said the past can seem static. This exhibit gives people a chance to experience the sounds, music and even smells people centuries ago lived through every day.

Claudia Moran, Executive Director of Museo, said in a release it’s important the museum’s programming brings awareness to the “history and present issues of the Latino community.”

“We are very excited to present Rhythm and Ritual, which is a unique exhibition that takes an in-depth look into the ancient civilizations’ relationship with music,” Moran said. “Museo is deeply thankful to the Denver Art Museum for their colossal efforts to showcase their exceptional collection in our galleries, underlining their commitment to Latino culture.”

Katz said DAM has been working closely with the Museo to bring the exhibit to life. He said DAM’s goal is to reach a larger audience and give regular DAM attendees a chance to see another local museum. DAM is loaning out more than 60 objects to the Museo for display. They included pieces dated from 1000 BCE to 1530 CE.

Artwork from the upcoming exhibit "Rhythm and Ritual: Music of the Ancient Americas" on display at Museo de las Americas. (Photos courtesy of Denver Art Museum)

Artwork from the upcoming exhibit "Rhythm and Ritual: Music of the Ancient Americas" on display at Museo de las Americas. (Photos courtesy of Denver Art Museum)

Denver Art Museum Director Christoph Heinrich in a release called Museo “a vital pillar in our cultural community.” He said he was thrilled to partner with them.

“This is also an ideal opportunity for us to showcase works from the Denver Art Museum’s Ancient Americas collection while the Martin Building is under renovation,” Heinrich said.

“Rhythm and Ritual: Music of the Ancient Americas” will run from March 26 to Aug. 15 at the Museo de las Americas, located at 861 Santa Fe Dr.

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