Here's one to think about. Talking drums.
This describes the talking drum in the village of Peri on
the south coast of the Great Admiralty Island in Papua New
"The drum language the children understand but make
no attempt to execute. This language consists of formal
phrase beginnings which mean 'Come home =' or "I am now
going to announce how many days it will be before I do
something,' etc. The first one will be followed by the
individual combination of beats which is the call of a
particular household for any of its members.
"The second is followed by slow beats, interspersed
with a formal spacing beat. Every one in the village
stops work or play to count these beats, but only a
knowledge of who is beating the drum and what he is
planning to do in the near future make it possible to
interpret the announcement.
"The children stop their play to hear which house call
follows the formal introduction, and go back to their
games if it is not their own. They seldom bother to
further identify the call. If a date is announced they
mechanically count the days and may stop to guess who is
beating the drum. There their interest ceases. One
ceremony is too like another to matter.
"But there are three drum calls which do interest
them, the beats announcing that some one is about to die,
that some one is dead, and the drum beat which means
'Trouble,' = theft, or adultery. For these they will
pause in their play and possibly send a small boy to
inquire into the cause. The drum beat for death is so
simple that children can make it and are sometimes
permitted to do so in the event of the death of an
I guess that the people of Peri don't use talking drums
anymore. Or do they? Perhaps it's not a dead medium
after all. Just medium dead.
Bill Crawford (firstname.lastname@example.org)