Once upon a time, a young man developed some interest in a particular lady. The girl was very beautiful. This man tried every tactic to get her attention but in vain. Every thing he did seemed never to interest her. A time came when the girl went down to a river to fetch water and the man followed her. After he tried again to get her to notice him, he was left dejected and decided to go into the forest to pass time (Bear, par 1). While there, a wood pecker came and landed on a limb which was hollow just above his head. The hollowness developed overtime due to several environmental factors like the wind.
The bird started to make holes on this limb and later the limb just broke and fell next to him. The man picked it up when he had music voices coming from it as a result of the wind passing through it. He decided to blow it and good mournful music came from it. The girl for the first time noticed him and fell in love. This is the legend that surrounds the first Native American flute (Bear, par 5). This essay seeks to explore on events that characterize this flute right from its history, how it has evolved overtime and its significance to the Native American culture. History behind the flute
The Native American flute is said to be the oldest musical instrument known to the world with the oldest dating back to 60,000 years ago. Drum is said to be the first one followed by rattles and later by whistles made from bones (Bear, par 1). As time went, these whistles were enlarged and more holes were added. These are the steps that led to the invention of the flute. The first flutes were made from bones but they evolved overtime with various materials being used ranging from hard wood to soft wood. The numbers of holes have also increased from 2, 3, and 4,5,6,7 to 8 holes.
River reeds have also been used to make the flutes in some parts of southern United States. These flutes from reeds are somehow easy to make and they have led to the invention of a design called plain style flute. These types of flutes are the ones commonly used today by flute players (Bear, par 1). In early days, these flutes and whistles were used for various reasons depending on the tribe. The NW Coast tribes used whistles made from bones and cedar for dances and in ceremonies of calling spirits. These tribes also used flutes for entertainment especially when traveling.
A tribe called Hopi had society of flutes and they could use them to perform ceremonies of powerful prayers. Another tribe of Lakota, used their flutes to make songs for courtship and love (Bear, par 2). Just like many aspects of native culture, these flutes were not allowed to be used in many parts of the US for some time. This happened at the onset of 20th century when strict assimilation laws were enacted. This went on until 1930s and 1940s when the practice started picking up again (Raney, par 7). However, those elders who lived on the reservations continued with the tradition, keeping it alive and some people like Dr.
Richard Payne did their best to re-introduce the tradition back to the native societies. Today, the flute is widely used and accepted in northern parts of America. The instrument has so much developed to advanced stages to the extent that no more changes have been done to it for the last 150 years (Bear, par 3). Flutes are the second most important musical instruments to the Native Americans next to the drum (Raney, par 1). The most common flute in modern Native America is a duct flute which has two chambers, a short one found in the head and the other one in the body and which is a longer one.
Modern ones often have 5-6 holes but some historical ones had three holes. Another thing that characterized these early flutes is that they had only one chamber (Raney, par 4). This is contrary to the modern ones which have two chambers. How are they made? The flutes are made from old-growth cedar which has been fire killed. The first step in making them is by spitting wood into two halves. The halves should be hollowed out very carefully. The next step is to plane each half until they are smooth before joining them together using glue.
The joints which have been glued are so exact such that most people cannot identify where the two halves have been joined. In finishing the flute, one is supposed to use organic linseed oil. When tuning, it requires indexing of a very small hole while blowing into the tuner. The hole is enlarged gradually to the point where the tone is perfect (Webmaster, par, 1-3). How does it work? The flute has precisely two chambers which are separate. The first one is filled with air by blowing into the mouth piece. Under the Totem animal, the air is then guided up. This totem animal has a slot cut into it, which is very narrow (1/16 inch).
It compresses air into a stream which is usually thin. This stream then hits the edge of the second hole, creating the tone by splitting the air. The musical notes can be played by opening and closing these finger holes which have various combinations (Webmaster, par. 4). Always ensure before playing that, the totem animal is flush with the edge of the sound chamber of the divider. Adjustments can be made on the pitch by moving forward the totem animal slightly to sharpen the pitch or backwards to flatten it. Lastly, securely tighten the totem animal and enjoy your music (Webmaster, par 5)
Significance of the flute to the Native Americans culture This music instrument has been a tradition thing in North America to many indigenous cultures. The flute is mostly called “the love flute” due to its sweet quality that is usually potent. Most young men in the community often used it in courting. The flute was also used as a sacred instrument and this is being upheld even up today. It is used to offer prayers through songs which are regarded to be powerful (Blackburn, par 8). Styles of Native American flutes As mentioned above, the Native American flutes are made from cedar and they come in different styles and keys.
The first one is the deluxe crow flute which has a tradition design of five holes with a fancy whistle block. It is 26 inch long and it is painted. The flute is available in the keys of A, G, F, and F# (Blackburn, par 2). The second one is the deluxe five-hole flute which is a satin finished flute with excellent pitch. Standard flutes are also available. They also have five-hole tuning. Lastly is the back packer flute which is 22 inch long characterized with an eagle wing. It is also available in the keys of A, G, F# and F (Blackburn, par 2).
Others include flutes, moonlight, Yazzie G, Wood songs G and Halk little John E (August, par 1). In conclusion, from the time it came into existence, the Native American flute has really evolved, undergoing major changes in regards to styles and materials used in making them. Although it started so many years ago, it is still significant to the Native Americans’ culture. Visual images Moonlight creek Wood songs G Yazzie G Halk little John E Source: http://www. cedarmesa. com/instruments. html Work Cited August, Scott. Visual images. Cedarmesa. Web, 15 May 2010
http://www. cedarmesa. com/instruments.html Bear, Philip . History of the Native American flute. Wind Dancer Flutes. Web. 14 May, 2010 <http://wind-dancer-flutes. com/History_of_the_native_american_f. htm>. Blackburn, Zacciah. Traditional cedar flutes. Sunread. 2010. Web. 14 May, 2010 <http://www. sunreed. com/NatAmFlutes. htm>. Raney, Abigael. Native American Flute Traditions. Ehow, 2010. Web. 14 May, 2010 <http://www. ehow. com/about_5332153_native-american-flute-traditions. html>. Webster. How Our Native American Style Flutes are Made. Native American Flutes. Web. 14 May, 2010, <http://www. native-american-flutes. com/making-flutes. htm>.