(Folks who have followed this blog for a while know that I am of mixed European and Cherokee Indian descent. As an American Indian, and a composer, the study of my people’s music is of great value to me. I think it will be of great value to you as well. Enjoy.-Derek)
The presence of the flute has been in Native American culture for centuries, far before the Europeans ever came into contact with American Indians. As it is known today, flute music serves many roles, courting, ceremonial in healing societies (although this is rare), instrumental accompaniment of dance (again, a rare occurrence), and a signal of peaceful intentions upon approaching a settlement (Lecture “Flutes in Native North America”). Many changes have occurred throughout the years with regards to place that flute music has had in American Indian culture, it is this that will be discussed further.
Flute music first originated, at least according to tradition (there are alternative stories, such as in the Lakota tradition), in the forests of North America pre-European contact (Lecture “Flutes in Native North America”). The Natives heard a strange whistling sound in the forest, and attempted to mimic it with carved wood of the trees (Lecture “Flutes in Native North America”). The first major usage of flute music was in courting music. What would occur is a man would site outside a woman’s tipi, and play the flute with hopes of attracting her (Lecture “Flutes in Native North America”). If the woman enjoyed the song, the chances of her becoming the man’s mate increased (and vice versa, she would reject the man if she did not like the song) (Lecture “Flutes in Native North America”). The rejections gave rise to another style of song, specifically one that could be considered “insult songs” directed at the woman who rejected the man (Lecture “Flutes in Native North America”). The courting songs eventually suffered demise (although they were not totally destroyed) upon European contact, leaving only several people who kept the tradition alive (Lecture “Flutes in Native North America”). Such individuals include Belo Cozad (Kiowa flutist who plays “dirty notes” in southern style and has an incipit) (Lecture “Flutes in Native North America”), Richard Fool (Lakota Bull flutist who sold hand-crafted flutes to tourists and played old songs of the northern tradition) (Lecture “Flutes in Native North America”), Doc Tate Nevaquaya (Comanche flutist who played southern tradition, sought to make albums and profit from them) (Lecture “Flutes in Native North America”), and R. Carlos Nakai (Navajo/Ute flutist who bridged the gap between traditional Native flute music and New Age music) (Lecture “Flutes in Native North America”).
The modern era (20th Century and on) has given rise to numerous avenues of pursuit for modern American Indian flute music. One such avenue has been its adaptation into New Age music(Lecture “Flutes in Native North America”), a music that is known for sampling various cultural music styles and adapting it to electronic, ambient music. Another area that the flute has been present in the modern era is in the western classical world, with Native American composers creating a syncretic style of American Indian and western classical music (Lecture “Flutes in Native North America”). One composer is the Chickasaw composer Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate, who is known for composing traditional American Indian music alongside music (using the flute as well as other instruments) (Lecture “Flutes in Native North America”). In Tate’s opinion, composing traditional Native music with an orchestra enhances his culture, stating that “through the medium of ‘fine art’” he feels more Chickasaw (Lecture “Flutes in Native North America”). Another syncretic composer was the Cherokee and Quapaw composer Louis Ballard, who “utilized the courting flute in two of his compositions, Ritmo Indio and Mid-Winter Fires (Wapp Jr., 56).” The piece Ritmo Indio was written for a woodwind quintet, and specifically features the Sioux flute in the second movement alongside “imitative counterpoint in canon form…in combination with flute, Bb clarinet, oboe, bassoon, and F horn (Wapp Jr., 56).” His other well-known piece, Mid-Winter Fires, does not draw from any American Indian melodic or rhythmic ideas, but nevertheless features Sioux flute alongside the “Bb clarinet, and piano (Lecture “Flutes in Native North America”).” This makes an interesting point about the presence of Native flutes in the modern era, that they are increasingly being used, as is the case with New Age music and some syncretic western classical music, for their aesthetic quality as opposed to strict adherence to traditions. It will be interesting to see what occurs as flute music of American Indians continues to have an influence within the modern music world.
The master at work.
As promised, here is part 2 of the conversation with Terry. Once again, click the link, then another link to access the audio.
Hey guys, so as promised here is my conversation (in two parts, first one here, the next one in a new post directly following this one) with Terry Bozzio. I really did not know what to expect going into this interview, as I only knew Terry by his music, not on a personal level. The conversation, however, revealed him to be an intuitive and kind man, with great interest in who I was even though the conversation was really about him. As it was a Skype/mobile phone discussion that was live, the call has static in one portion (but Terry says interesting stuff in this part so I didn’t delete it). We talked about anything you can imagine involving music, and what makes the talk so special is Terry’s wealth of life experience which he shares in story form. He is a fascinating person to listen to, and I am humbled to say I know him. Terry, I look forward to many discussions in the future.
(click the link below, then another link…WP is weird…to access the interview)