Category Archives: Music

A time before flutes…

I’m still practicing with my Native American flute now that I’m getting comfortable with the notes I most likely will watch the DVD that accompanied the flute. Some of the techniques mentioned will make more sense to me now.

Mr. Bentley has accompanied me in some of my flute playing. I’ll be sure to post videos of him howling along while I practice the flute.

About a week ago, I stumbled upon the above store about how the Native American flute was discovered, since the story appears to be public domain, I’m posting it here.

There was a time before flutes . . .
History of the Native American Flute: Where Spirit Takes Form

Many generations ago, the people had drums, gourd rattles and bull-roarers, but no flutes. At that time, a young man went out to hunt. The people in his camp were hungry as meat was scarce.

He found the tracks of an Elk and followed them for a long time. The Elk, wise and swift, is the one who owns the love charm. If a man possesses Elk Medicine, the girl he likes can’t help liking him, too. He will also be a lucky hunter.

This young hunter had no Elk Medicine. After many hours, he finally sighted his game. Although a skilled hunter, the Elk always managed to stay just out of range, leading him deep inside a thick forest. The tracks had disappeared and so had the Elk. There was no moon. He realized he was lost and, it was too dark to find his way out.

He came upon a stream with cool, clear water.where he stopped to drink and eat food that he had brought with him. He rolled himself into his fur robe, propped his back against a tree and tried to rest. But he couldn’t sleep because of the strange noises that filled the forest, the “groaning” of trees in the wind, and the cries of night animals such as the owl. It was as if he was hearing these sounds for the first time.

Suddenly, he was aware of an entirely new sound, one that neither he nor anyone else had ever heard before.The sound was mournful and ghost-like; it made him afraid, so he drew his robe tightly about himself and reached for his bow, making sure it was properly strung and ready for immediate use.

As frightening as the sound was, it was also like a song, sad but beautiful, full of love, hope and yearning. Before he knew it, he was asleep, dreaming of the bird called wagnuka, the redheaded woodpecker. In his dream, wagnuka appeared singing the strangely beautiful song and telling him, “Follow me and I will teach you.”

The sun was already high when the hunter awoke the next morning. On a branch of the tree against which he was leaning, he saw a redheaded woodpecke who flew from tree to tree, but never very far, looking back all the time as if to say, “Come on!” Suddenly, he heard that wonderful song again, and his heart yearned to find the singer. Flying toward the sound, leading the hunter, the bird flitted through the leaves, while its bright red top made it easy to follow.

At last, the woodpecker lighted on a cedar tree and began hammering on a branch with his strong beak, making a noise like the fast beating of a small drum. A gust of wind arose, and again the hunter heard that beautiful sound right above him.

Looking up, he discovered the song came from the dead branch on which the woodpecker was tapping his beak. He realized it was the wind which made the sound as it whistled through the hole the bird had drilled.

The hunter took the branch, a hollow piece of wood full of woodpecker holes that was about the length of his forearm. He walked back to his village bringing no meat, but happy with his discovery.

In his tipi, the young man tried to make the branch sing for him. He blew on it, he waved it around, no sound came. It made him sad. He wanted so much to hear that wonderful new sound. He purified himself in the sweat lodge and climbed to the top of a lonely hill. There, resting with his back against a large rock, he fasted, going without food or water for four days and nights, crying for a vision which would tell him how to make the branch sing.

In the middle of the fourth night, wagnuka, the bird with the bright red top, appeared, saying, “Watch me,” turning himself into a man, showing the hunter how to make the branch sing. In his dream, the young man observed very carefully, as instructed.

When he awoke, he broke off a branch from a cedar tree and, working many hours, hollowed it out with a bowstring drill, just as he had seen the woodpecker do in his dream. He whittled the branch into the shape of the birds with a long neck and a open beak. He painted the top of the birds head with washasha, the sacred red color. He prayed. He smoked the branch up with incense of burning sage, cedar and sweet grass. He fingered the holes as he had seen the man-bird do in his vision, meanwhile blowing softly into the mouthpiece. All at once, there was the song, ghost-like and beautiful, that drifted all the way to the village, where the people were joyful to hear it. With the help of the wind and the woodpecker, the young man had brought them the first flute.

Resources
  1. Crazy Crow: Native American Love Flute Legend

Time to move on…

In  the DVD that accompanied my Native American Flute, Odell Borg (owner of High Spirits flutes) mentioned that it might be time to move on from scales when you got sick of playing them. I might be at that point… but I’m still playing “scale like tunes” since I do find it helpful with familiarizing myself with the sounds made depending on which hole is covered/uncovered. I’m familiar with them now since I’ve played them so much. I’m also sticking with the scales while I get used to proper breathing and fingering techniques. That’s coming along nicely too. You know (for met at least) breaking free of the piano playing mentality is not as hard as I thought it would be, and for that I’m thrilled.

I’m including a clip from last evenings practice sessions. If you listen, you can tell that I’m not polished with my Native American flute playing.

Since purchasing my Native American flute from High Spirits, I’ve made an effort to play daily. No… it’s not always easy. Some days, it’s only a few minutes and other times I’ve been able to practice for at least an hour.  I still take the time to play. In time, that dedication will pay off, and the clips I share here will be miles ahead of where I am now.  I’ve already seen progress from the first clip I shared last weekend.

I still have so much to learn about the Native American flute, and I’m fine with that.  There’s always a beginning, at times, some people forget that and set something aside because they aren’t as “accomplished” as others they have heard. That’s a bit silly, right? Do you really think you should be amazing if you are learning something for the first time?  Instead of setting unrealistic expectations, just enjoy the journey.

This work in progress flute player will keep practicing, because I know in time I will improve.

First time picking up the Native American flute

About an hour ago, my Native American Flute arrived from High Spirits. Of course, I’d been waiting for it most of the day, but it did not arrive until almost 5:00 p.m. No fault of High Spirits or even the delivery company for that matter. I imagine they had a busy day.

Since then, I’ve been acquainting myself with the sounds it makes… I’m stumbling along the and enjoying every moment of this journey. My daughter has been encouraging and has even hopped onto the piano to following along with the sounds I made and eventually branching off on her own little musical world, where she composed her own pieces.

red-tailed-hawk

Red Tail Hawk

 

I’ll have to post pictures of me unwrapping the flute. I purchased the High Spirits Red Tail Hawk. This flute is made with cedar and I can faintly smell it whenever I play. It’s purely coincidental that the name of the flute I chose is also the name of one of my favorite birds; Red Tail Hawk. I see them often right around our home.

First time playing a Native American flute

The above video (really an audio since you don’t see me) are the sounds I made after picking up my Native American flute for the first time. The flute literally went from the box to my hands and my daughter started recording. I’m not embarrassed at the fumbles I make and can even laugh at those mistakes. You really got to keep your fingers over the holes, if not it squeaks in a most unattractive way!

When trying something new, it’s important to not become discouraged! You’re learning, so relax and enjoy the experience.

 

 

On flutes and weaving…

mouse with fluteRecently my free time has been focused on learning more about the Native American flute and loom weaving. Both have captivated me for several years…

Anything that interests me, receives a lot of research. Which, if you think about it, is how it should be since the more information (pros and cons) you have on a topic, you’re more likely to make a better choice.

I will say that internet, has made that aspect so much easier, since much of the information needed is available, I just need to take the time and read the sources.  It’s much easier to search online than physically go to a library; which is something I did often before the internet was so common. And while the internet has opened up a awesome new world for anything that interest me, I still find that I enjoy having a physical book that I can reference when I want to disconnect from technology devices.

This morning, you could find me on Amazon purchasing two books on my newest interests. Of course, I researched them both before making the purchases. Mel Bay Flute Magic: An Introduction to the Native American Flute. I chose next day delivery; so it should arrive tomorrow; the same day as my Native American flute. My second book, The Weaver’s Idea Book: Creative Cloth on a Rigid Heddle Loom is scheduled to arrive this coming Tuesday.

Also, I purchased a 32″ Kromski stand from The Woolery for my 32″ Kromski Rigid Heddle Harp. Based on its awesome customer service, I should be receiving the stand early next week. The thing is, I already have someone making me a custom stand but since I know I won’t be receiving it soon I decided to purchase one now. Because it’s well made, I can easily sell it once it’s no longer needed. My 32″ Kromski Harp easily fits on the table, but many times I’d prefer to weave somewhere else. The stands gives me that opportunity.

I’m really looking forward to receiving the flute tomorrow; weather permitting of course. I’ve already set aside time to devote to getting acquainted with the new instrument.

Pied_Piper

Playing music with others…

I’m looking forward to eventually playing with others. My daughter has already promised she’ll accompany me in duets. She plays the piano. I’m also looking forward to playing with others who play the Native American flute. Because of the internet I’ve been able to connect with other Native American flute players. They’ve been very helpful. Recently, I’ve had an ongoing chat with one (also a newbie) about the flute videos they’ve posted. He even suggested playing on Skype sometime. I look forward to accepting the invitation and playing music with him… on Skype.