Inca Music, El Condor Pasa, Machu Picchu

Inca and Pre-Inca Music: El Condor Pasa, The Flight of the Condor

Peruvian music and geometry have a rich history that dates back to the Inca and pre-Inca civilizations. The Inca Empire, which existed from the 13th to the 16th century, was known for its highly developed music, which played an important role in religious and social ceremonies.

Inca music was based on pentatonic scales, with instruments such as the quena (a type of flute), panpipes, and drums being commonly used. In addition to traditional instruments, the Inca also used natural sounds such as the chirping of birds and the sound of wind to create music. The music was often accompanied by singing, with lyrics in the Quechua language.

In terms of geometry, the Inca were skilled architects and engineers, using precise mathematical principles in the construction of their buildings and roads. They used a system of knotted strings called quipus to keep track of important information such as taxes and census data.

Prior to the Inca, the pre-Inca civilizations of Peru also had a rich tradition of music and geometry. The Moche civilization, which existed from the 1st to the 8th century, created intricate pottery designs that incorporated geometric shapes such as triangles and circles. The Nazca civilization, which existed from the 1st to the 6th century, created large-scale geoglyphs that also incorporated geometric shapes and patterns.

In terms of music, the pre-Inca civilizations used a variety of instruments, including panpipes, drums, and flutes. They also incorporated singing into their music, often using call-and-response patterns.

Overall, the Inca and pre-Inca civilizations of Peru had a deep appreciation for music and geometry, using these art forms to express their beliefs and values and to create beautiful and functional works of art and architecture.

Inca Music: El Condor Pasa, Flight of the Condor

Inca Music, El Condor Pasa:
Espiritu Andino

Condor Pasa Mind map

El Condor Pasa, Mind map.

See also: The Incas


"El Condor Pasa", see an example of the sheet music or a video, is a typical Inca dance, based on authentic Incan folk melodies. Around 1916, Peruvian composer Daniel Alomia Robles notated this popular traditional melody and used it as the basis for an instrumental suite. The English Lyrics, 'If I could, I surely would' words, are by Paul Simon (Simon & Garfunkel)!
The Andean Condor is the world's largest bird of prey that lives in the mountains,  The adult height of this enormous bird is four feet, and it has a wing span of 10 feet. It usually weighs between 20 to 25 pounds. The Andean Condor’s cousin is the California Condor.

"Inca music often accompanied ritualized religious dancing. Musicians used repetitive rhythms and dissonant tones to induce an almost hypnotic state in the dancers. Inca instruments were made of wood, reeds, pottery, bone, shell, and metal. The Incas played two basic kinds of instruments: wind and percussion. Wind instruments, such as horns and flutes, produce a sound when a musician blows into a tube or hollow chamber. Percussion instruments, such as bells or drums, produce a sound when a musician strikes the instrument. Drums and flutes were the most common instruments used by the Incas. Flutes came in many varieties. The panpipe—a series of cane or pottery flutes tuned to different notes and tied together in a row—are still common in the Andes today." MSN Encarta.

Inca Music according to Inca Garcilaso de la Vega
Inca Music: The New York Times 1920
El Condor Pasa: Lyrics
El Condor Pasa: Music Sheet
El Condor Pasa: Index


Inca Music: from the writings of Inca Garcilaso de la Vega (1609)

Inca Garcilaso de la Vega (1609), historian and translator"The Colla Indians and all those in their district had a certain knowledge of music. They played reed or cane instruments, made by joining four or five tubes together, each one of which furnished a higher or lower note than the preceding one, as in the case of organ pipes. There existed four such instruments, each keyed to a higher or lower scale, in the same way as the four human voices: soprano, tenor, contralto, and bass.
When one Indian played, a second answered him, shall we say, in fifths, then a third on another harmony, and the fourth on still another, each one in time. These were professional musicians, who practiced in order to give concerts for the king and nobles of the Empire.

They also had flutes with four or five holes, like those played by shepherds. But since these were never played on in concerts, each player carved his own in his own manner, according to what suited him best. With this flute he accompanied his love songs, which recounted, in even meters, the favors or disfavors of his ladylove.

In the year 1560, when I left Peru, there were five Indians in Cuzco who played the flute so well that they could interpret any piece of organ music you put before them; and today, in 1562, I am told there still exists a considerable number of excellent musicians." The Royal Commentaries of the Inca, Garcilaso de la Vega, 1609. Book II.

Inca Garcilaso de la Vega (1539-1616) Peruvian-born Spanish soldier, historian, and translator. The son of an Inca princess, he vividly retold Peruvian history and folklore in his Comentarios Reales (1609).

Music of the Incas. The New York Times. Published: January 18, 1920

Carlos Valderrama, a Peruvian pianist and composer, will present some original folk music of South America at his first public appearance here on Wednesday afternoon in Carnegie Hall.

"Inca music," he explained yesterday, " is the natural melody of s great, lost race of Americans, telling the story of their joys and sufferings. To find it I went to the placed where thousands of native Peruvians retreated in the days of the Spanish invasion which destroyed the civilization of the Incas."

Senor Valderrama was born in Trujillo. Peru, and :knew of the existence of this music, for generations sung only by savages in their remote villages. To these he journeyed. He had a guide to take him to the first two tribes, but after that ye went by himself through the almost impenetrable forests. "where one might travel for weeks without seeing the sun."

At every village he persuaded the Indians to play for him their tribal music. Inca music, he said is based on only five notes, played on hollow bamboo rods resembling flutes but yards in length. As the natives play the sound for miles in the high Andes.

El Condor Pasa Lyrics: Quechua, Spanish, English

El Condor asa
A folk lyrics version from the Quechua, the official language of the Inca Empire:

Oh mighty Condor owner of the skies
take me home, up into the Andes, Oh mighty Condor.
 I want go back to my native place to be
with my Inca brothers,
that is what I miss the most, Oh mighty Condor.

Wait for me in Cuzco, in the main plaza,
so we can take a walk in Machu Picchu and Huayna-Picchu


El Condor Pasa (If I Could)
Lyrics by Simon & Garfunkel

I'd rather be a sparrow than a snail.
Yes, I would.
If I could,
I surely would.
I'd rather be a hammer than a nail.
Yes, I would.
If I only could,
I surely would.

Away, I'd rather sail away
Like a swan that's here and gone.
A man gets tied up to the ground.
He gives the world
Its saddest sound,
Its saddest sound.

I'd rather be a forest than a street.
Yes, I would.
If I could,
I surely would.
I'd rather feel the earth beneath my feet.
Yes, I would.
If I only could,
I surely would.

El Condor Pasa (Si pudiera)
Letra de Simon & Garfunkel
Spanish version

Preferiría ser un gorrión que un caracol.
Sí, lo haría.
Si pudiera,
Seguramente lo haría.
Preferiría ser un martillo que un clavo.
Sí, lo haría.
Si tan sólo pudiera,
Seguramente lo haría.

Lejos, preferiría navegar lejos
Como un cisne que está aquí y se fue.
Un hombre está amarrado a la tierra.
Le da al mundo
Su sonido más triste,
Su sonido más triste.

Preferiría ser un bosque que una calle.
Sí, lo haría.
Si pudiera,
Seguramente lo haría.
Preferiría sentir la tierra bajo mis pies.
Sí, lo haría.
SSi tan sólo pudiera,
Seguramente lo haría.

The lyrics are copyright by their respective owners. They are used here for educational purposes only.

El Condor Pasa: Sheet Music

Example of Sheet Music
El Condor Pasa
by Daniel Alomia Roble


Home | GoGeometry Education | Search | Email
Last updated: Sep 20, 2014