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A Flute Maker/Player Dyad, Part 3
4. The Instrument
The final outcome in a long process, the instrument itself offered many aspects for consideration:
- The power of the flute to consume
- The need to have it respected
- The finishing point
- The flute as a spiritual and social instrument
Most powerful of all was the image of the flute consuming the maker's very being. He identifies this power to consume from a player's point of view also, when he mentions that he feels the flute is the most physically demanding instrument to play, due to the demands on the breath of the player.
With reference to the actual making of the flutes, the maker says:
I used up my resources, my eyes, I made myself tired doing it. I think if I didn't make flutes, I wouldn't have to wear glasses. It takes a lot of concentration.
Hand in hand with this powerful notion is the need to have this personal loss, the personal investment respected. As the maker is connected to the instruments he makes, respect for the instrument also implies respect for the maker's work.
Another remarkable comment on the power of the flute to do things, was the idea that the flute itself could indicate its own finishing point. Rather than bring a flute to the point of being "as good as it could ever be and [perhaps] beyond," the maker waits for the flute to indicate its own level. "It may be where that [the flute] is coming out."
The social characteristics of the flute were recognised. "Flute players are attracted to each other." In part explanation of this fact, was the idea that, as the notes on the flute are very flexible, it caused the players to be particularly aurally aware of each other.
Finally, some profound meditations were offered on other powers the flute possessed. The power of the flute to connect the whole person, in a spiritual manner, was explained:
I believe a flute is a very spiritual instrument. The breath is the bridge between the mind and the body. A flute player is always aware of their breath, even when they're not aware of their breath.
The power of the breath itself, as a life-giving force, was also spoken of:
You are putting what's keeping you alive into an instrument and by doing that you're making a sound.
The idea of a one hundred per cent connection to the instrument emerged at this point:
You have to be one hundred per cent with it for the flute because... the sound is coming from the pit of your stomach. There's nothing between you and the instrument. It actually becomes part of you.
In conclusion, the maker's song of praise to the enchanting power of the flute:
It never ceases to fascinate me. I'm amazed at this simple instrument. I'm amazed by what it can do.
The Player's Themes
The player's themes emerged with some overlapping of the maker's themes. The themes, and the order in which they emerged, were slightly different:
- the instrument
- as a player
- the music
1. The Instrument
Foremost in the player's mind were concerns about the instrument. Throughout his interview, he held my flute (which is keyless and made from cocus wood by the same maker) in his hands. His immediate response to the instrument, both visual and practical, was enthusiastic and positive.
It's very nice. It's very responsive. I really like that colour. It's nice and light. If it's like this, yeah, I think so [that I will really like it].
About as instantaneous as these positive reactions were his concerns about the possibility of the key work on the future flute diminishing the tone of the instrument or creating an irritating clicking sound.
He hoped it would be easy to play and described how he had to work hard to get his other flutes to play as he wished.
He said that he would rank the range of expression a flute could offer him most highly on his wish list. "I'm looking for a responsive instrument, that can play different types of music." He expressed his high expectations in anticipating a new instrument:
I'm expecting this flute to take me to another level. I'm expecting the instrument to allow me to play out of my skin, to make me a better flute player.
He spoke about wanting a flute to suit him. He wanted to recreate the feeling when he got his first flute. He hoped the instrument would call him to play. He expressed his respect for the maker's ability.
He also touched upon the power of the flute to consume:
I know that playing the flute is affecting me, in a negative way, physically. I wouldn't have a pain between my shoulder blades if I didn't play the flute.
He declared the flute to be his favourite instrument by far.
2. As a Player
He felt that at this stage of his life, he would like to concentrate on the essences of flute playing. He thought that sometimes he might not achieve his desired effect because "sometimes, you can be doing too much."
I'd like to think only about flute playing and not effort now. When you're young, you have a lot more energy to dissipate and as you get older, you've got to be a lot more circumspect with the energy you've got and concentrate it into things you enjoy doing and not waste it.
He spoke of the possibility of improving on the flute, his openness to other types of music and players. His fascination for different perspectives and continuous learning was expressed:
You've got to try and put your musical mind into a different drive. Go down the other road and see. You've got to be imaginative and try to put yourself in different shoes when you're trying to play good music.
He also mentioned the total connection to the flue, as a player:
I mean, the instrument's completely connected to you, from the word go. You haven't got a reed, you've a blowhole.
He acknowledged the power of the flute to affect his mood, in the sense of the instrument being "an extension of who you are," and offering him increased possibilities to amplify his feelings.
If you're sad, and you can express it on the flute, it has to be good for your sanity, along the line.
3. The Music
He identified two opposite poles in approaches to music: he lamented the way Irish traditional music is being relegated to smoky pubs and expressed a dislike for any kind of pretence with the music. He felt that the world of classical music was riddled with pretence and formality. He stressed honesty of intention as being of the utmost importance for him.
Particularly irritating for him were "vacuous pop music" and "modern jazz". He felt that in the case of modern jazz, the approach to it was out of balance and it had become too "intellectual." Becoming too removed from the heart was a danger to the communication power of the music. He said:
If you're not sitting in a dingy bar in New Orleans, with about five people who think exactly the same as you do, that music isn't going out to catch anybody.
At this point he was perhaps approaching the idea of the power of like-minded musicians to communicate non-verbally, not only with each other, but also with their listeners.
He seemed to be concerned about the difficulty of maintaining one's independent point of view in the world of music as he could identify a lot of constant "media-blasting."
He concluded his interview by expressing curiosity about the maker's feelings. "How does he feel about it so far?" he asked.
If it be the case, as Moran (2002) argues, that the main contribution of phenomenology has been the manner in which it has steadfastly projected the subjective view of experience as a necessary part of any full understanding of the nature of knowledge, perhaps I could consider myself in a good position, as a flute player, to understand the experiences revealed in this study. We have to cope with people's lived experiences since a person's knowledge influences what he or she does Spaccozocchi (2001).
What first became apparent from the content of the two interviews were the resonances within this dyad and the common ground they shared. Their entrainment of ideas included a preference for similar styles of playing, a desire for the same qualities and characteristics in the instrument, a desire to constantly learn and develop their skills, the idea that the flute demands one hundred per cent connection to the player, and a mutual admiration for one another's work.
Perhaps significant is the order of themes which emerged for both participants. That the question of material was foremost on the maker's mind may not seem so unusual on reflection. The player's first concern was, of course, the instrument.
The extra "ingredients" contained in the flute, apart from cocus and silver, could be identified as the positive energy the maker used while working, his very being which was consumed as he worked, and the depth of knowledge acquired from the continuous process of learning. Being a maker, teacher and player gives this craftsman many channels through which to gather information.
Whether the player is aware of these intangible elements contained in the flute could be argued. It is likely that the player will appreciate the quality of the workmanship, the suitability of the materials and the experience the maker brings to his work. There is no doubt but that the standard of workmanship is affected by the response to the precious nature of the material.
The overall phenomenological flavour of the project made an impression on me. The nature in which the initial idea for the study almost suggested itself to me, I found to be quite fascinating. The manner in which both participants began their interviews quite spontaneously, also pleasantly surprised me and enabled me to listen and discover what topics emerged as being most significant for each.
I especially liked the player's phenomenological approach to flute playing when he expressed his desire to concentrate on the essences of flute playing at this stage of his career. The maker also had paradoxical, existential ideas in his philosophy of flute playing when he alluded to flute players always being "aware of their breath, even when they're not aware of their breath."
From a music therapy point of view, the player had already discovered what is close to the heart of any music therapist. He felt that the manner in which he could express his feelings on his flute was good for his sanity and general well being. Perhaps the maker can be implicated in the therapeutic context here as he supplies the medium through which the emotions can be expressed and amplified.