The Native American Flute
Next to the drum, the most important Native American
instrument is the flute. The instrument evolved from traditional uses in
courtship, treatment of the sick, ceremony, signaling, legends, and as work
songs. During the late 1960s, the United States
saw a roots revival of the flute, with a new wave of flutists and artisans.
Today, Native American style flutes are being played and recognized by many
different peoples and cultures around the world.
According to Ute-Tiwa shaman Joseph Rael, “The flute is
an instrument connecting the two worlds, the non-physical with the physical.
The breath of the flutist is the breath of God coming through a hollow reed;
the sound is that of the invisible lover courting the visible lover, the metaphor
of the lover and the beloved.”
The flute opens a path of communication between the
spiritual and earthly realms. The flute is related to the soul, which extends
far beyond the physical body, connecting us to the symphony of the universe.
Something transcendent happens when you begin to play a flute. You journey deep
inside yourself and bring out the cosmic music of your soul. Nothing
matters—audience, place, time—you just get lost in the music. You become the
music—notes, rhythm, and melody.
The flute is akin to the breath, which is spirit. Its sound is like the wind, which is dispersive, changeable and unpredictable, yet it has the capacity to permeate anything. The flute is also akin to the birds and flight. Its chirp, warble, and bird-like notes make your heart soar. The flute is like the air; you cannot hold it or contain it, and yet you can never separate yourself from it. Everything needs the air and so the flute represents the voice of the soul and the voice of the wind, and the voice of the birds—those things that are free, free to move.