The Flute of Nature

The Flute of Nature is one of two improvisations inspired by the Lakota tribe origin story for the Native American flute. In this improvisation, I was interested in exploring the initial encounter with the woodpecker who created the flute-like branch with the momentwhen the flautist starts learning to play the instrument. This founded my vision of having an abstract opening section evoking the natural world through bird calls, followed by a traditional sounding melody. In my other improvisation, Call of the Flute, I wanted to focus more on exploring the moaning tones of the wind through the flute-like branch. 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. 

Although the Lakota story focuses on the moaning sound of the wind, the flute-like branch had been shaped by a woodpecker and so in this improvisation I wanted to experiment more with emulating bird calls in the opening section. Note bending, moving up and down harmonic series and changing speeds of vibrato are all significant features to the sound that I created. The only electronic effect that I used was an echo generator on the input channel.

© 2020 Megan Wheeler