Call of the Flute

Call of the Flute is one of two improvisations inspired by the Lakota tribe origin story for the Native American flute. In this improvisation, I was drawn to the idea of contrasting the initial experience of hearing the wind passing through the flute-like branch to when the flautist starts learning to play the instrument. This founded my vision of having an abstract opening section evoking the natural world through wind noises, followed by a traditional sounding melody. In my other improvisation, The Flute of Nature, I explored bird calls rather than wind noises to evoke the natural world. To find out more, please click here. 

 

To create the accompanying soundscape, I recorded around 50 different sound samples of wind noises, whistle tones on various harmonics and rhythmic beatboxing patterns. I then began the process of layering these sounds together. The opening section was the most difficult to construct and I largely used a process of trial and error, adding and removing samples until I found something that sounded organic. I limited my use of electronic effects to reverb, delay and fading because it was very important to me that the timbres of the original samples remained. 

 

Two avenues of research helped to shape my improvisatory line. To produce the hollow timbres of a wooden flute on my silver one, I experimented with unconventional fingerings. For the melodic content, most of my inspiration came from the recordings of the Native American flautist R. Carlos Nakai. I transcribed many of his solo flute melodies to get a better sense of the distinctive features. These only acted as inspirational models for me though; I did not intend to authentically replicate the traditional style. 

The moaning sound of the wind passing through the flute-like branch is a key aspect of the Lakota story, calling to the flautist in a voice which mirrors his heartbroken grief. Note bending, whistle tones and moving up and down harmonic series are the main techniques that I used to create this lamenting sound. The only electronic effect that I used was an echo generator on the input channel.

© 2020 Megan Wheeler