Tag Archives: instrument

Finding Your Instrument

We recently received a message from our Kiwi friend Shardul that ran thus:

“Hi Martin,
The attached article was posted on a blog that has now gone the way of the dinosaurs, struck by the asteroid of disinterest. It is about my own experience and views on music, the importance of finding an instrument that suits ones nature, needs and abilities, and how I got started playing the flute – which is where you come in to the picture. Anyway, if you feel that it is a story worth telling, perhaps your blog would be a good home for my humble scribblings. I shall leave it in your hands to do with as you wish.
Kind regards,
Shardul.”

And so, we present…

Finding Your Instrument

Instrument bazaar in Morocco

Instrument bazaar in Morocco. Photo: Fez – themazzons

Have you ever noticed that some people seem to be blessed with the wonderful ability to get music out of just about any musical instrument they lay their hands on? (I have a friend who I swear could wring a tune from a damp sponge if he wanted to!) Then there are those of us who, though devoted music lovers, struggle to express ourselves even on one instrument. The later is my category – or so I thought.

“Music; the greatest good that mortals know, and all of heaven we have below.”
    – Joseph Addison.

For those who are left in awe of the musically gifted creed, we may be doing them and ourselves something of a disservice. First of all, we have not witnessed the many hours of practice that these ‘fortunate maestros’ have put into their music training. Some survive on raw talent but most have to work hard at it. Secondly it is a fatal mistake to compare oneself to others – probably the numero uno inspiration killer – because we develop the ‘Oh, I could never ever be like that’ syndrome! We are all unique and carry within us the quintessential seeds of creativity. Thirdly, for those of us whose creativity-seeds are still in the early stages of germination, there is the thought that we may not yet have found our instrument – that divine implement that was made ‘just for me’, perfectly suits our personality and allows the creative outlet that we have always yearned for. There is truth in this – I know it for a fact because it took me some four and a half decades to find the instrument that I did not even know I was looking for!

So I write with the intension of encouraging kindred-souls who are still holding to the hope that they may yet get a chance to play the music that they hear and feel inside their hearts and minds. Here is my story …

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The Flute Maker And The Cittern

As always, I was very pleased to receive a call from Martin Doyle via Skype this morning. The distance between Martin in Ireland and myself in New Zealand is very close to 12,000 miles. Skype allows us the illusion that we are sitting across the kitchen table from each other and so we chat regularly and sometimes play music to each other. Today our conversation went something like this:

“Good morning Martin.”

“Good evening Shardul – just a minute…”

… Martin disappears briefly and reappears with an instrument that I at first thought was a bouzouki …

Nikos Apollonio

Luthier and boat builder Nikos Apollonio with one of his bell citterns.

“No, it’s a cittern. Just got it. The maker, Nikos Apollonio, who is from Maine, dropped it off himself this morning and I haven’t been able to put it down since!”

Martin proceeded to play some lovely tunes on his brand spanking new cittern – a beautifully made ten string instrument with a spruce sound board, walnut body and rosewood fretboard. It looked stunning and sounded amazing! Martin commented on its quality and simplicity.

Over the years I have watched and listened to Martin sing, play whistle, Irish flute, baroque flute, concert flute, banjo, mandolin and bouzouki – now the cittern. In my opinion, he is a very good musician who plays music from his heart and soul with a real love for quality of sound.

“What attracted you to the cittern”, asks I.

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Three Instrument Makers In Ennistymon

3 Instrument Makers (and their music)

3 Instrument Makers (and their music).

The west of Ireland is particularly strong in the tradition of music and County Clare is no exception being liberally blessed with gifted musicians and artisans – past, present and, no doubt, into the future. As a result, the county is host to many events that reflect, celebrate and perpetuate this living tradition of music.

One such event (which Martin Doyle is very honoured and excited to be part of) is soon to be hosted by the The Courthouse Gallery – Ennistymon. Opening from the 19th to the 26th of November, 3 Instrument Makers (and their music) is an exhibition featuring the work and music of Martin Doyle (flute), Davey Spillane (Uilleann pipes) and Paul Dooley (harp) who all live within a bulls roar of Ennistymon.

In conjunction with the year of the craft, this unique exhibition will offer the visitor a multi media experience of film, photography, audio, as well as a chance to see a display of the exquisitely crafted instruments made by each of these musicians.

Photographer Christy McNamara, well known for his photographs of traditional musicians will be collaborating in this exhibition with a series of commissioned photographs. Also included will be a short film made by Packmule Films documenting each of the musicians at work in their workshops. In conjunction with North Clare Historical Society there will be a lecture Monday 21st at 8pm by Eugene Lambe, maker of flutes and pipes, collector of tunes and stories from Kinvara in the County Galway. This exhibition will be held in the old courthouse building in Ennistymon which has been beautifully renovated into a new art space.

Read more: 3 Instrument Makers (and their music) »

Details will no doubt be posted on the The Courthouse Gallery website »

Martin Doyle Article On Sound & Fair

Sound & Fair – a campaign to realise a sustainable trade in African blackwood.Sound & Fair is an organisation that aims to realise a sustainable trade in African blackwood through a Chain of Custody linking forest-dependent people in Tanzania to woodwind instrument musicians throughout the world.

Martin Doyle has recently been featured in a Sound & Fair news item regarding a new batch of Irish flutes that he has produced from Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) certified African Blackwood – a ‘world’s first’ for the flute making community. Martin’s concern for conservation and the conscious use of timber goes back to when he first began working with wood. In the Sound & Fair article he comments:

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Martin Doyle Wins RDS National Craft Award

July 27, 2011

Martin Doyle receives the 2011 RDS Crafts Competition Award

Martin Doyle receives the 2011 RDS Crafts Competition Award (Musical Instruments category).

Martin Doyle has just received the honour of being awarded first prize in the ‘Musical Instruments’ category of the 2011 RDS National Crafts Competition. The award was for a nine key flute made of cocus wood that Martin finished in April.

Martin drove from County Clare to Dublin with his apprentice Gwenn Frin on Wednesday to accept the award and they were joined at the RDS ceremony by Martin’s long-time friend and Aikido teacher Sean MacRuairi (John Rogers).

Martin Doyle has previously entered his flutes in two craft competitions winning major awards on both occasions. He was awarded the Crafts Council of Ireland Medal in 1985 (with an eight key flute made from African Blackwood) and the prestigious RDS California Gold Medal (overall winner) in 1993 (also with an eight key flute made from African Blackwood). Delighted by the encouragement of winning this years award, Martin had this to say:

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The Tanzanian Adventure Unfolds

Martin Doyle in Tanzania.

Martin Doyle in Tanzania.

Martin Doyle is currently visiting Tanzania with Nina Perry of Falling Tree Productions to make a radio documentary called The Music Tree for the Irish radio station Newstalk. The Music Tree will feature Martin Doyle as an instrument maker visiting the area of East Africa where the Mpingo (African Blackwood) trees grow. Since the nineteenth century African Blackwood has been a timber favoured for woodwind instruments as its density, tonal properties, stability and durability are incomparable.

This trip is in its own way an historical occasion as many of the local people of Tanzania, some of whom are involved in burgeoning Mpingo conservation projects, have never before met a European craftsman who uses their timber to make musical instruments. Martin accomplished the task of making a flute with some of the local Mpingo carvers on the third day of his visit and by all accounts they were enthralled when it was played to them.

Nina Perry is kindly authoring a blog dedicated to the trip – Music Tree – so that we distant onlookers can keep abreast of events. No story, small or large, is complete without a picture or two, so here is one from Nina’s blog:

Street scene in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Street scene in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Martin Doyle, Tanzania And The Music Tree

Flutes for Africa

Mpingo logger, Tanzania.

Mpingo logger, Tanzania.

Martin Doyle is bound for the East African nation of Tanzania this coming August to take part in the production of a radio programme.

Tanzania is home to the famed Mpingo tree from which the highly valued timber known as African Blackwood is harvested. This wood has been one of the first choices for woodwind instruments such as clarinets, oboes, bag pipes and flutes for over 150 years now, but was also valued by furniture making as far back as the time of the Egyptians. It is a timber favoured for it’s density, durability and exceptional tonal qualities.

Martin Doyle is to feature in a radio programme to be called The Music Tree that is being produced for the Irish radio station Newstalk. The project is being headed by Nina Perry (who also produced Sounding Post which looks at the use of wood for instruments and featured several instrument makers including Martin Doyle) for Falling Tree Productions. This from Nina Perry:

Nina Perry

Nina Perry – music, sound and radio.

“The Music Tree is to accompany Irish flute-maker Martin Doyle from County Clare to eastern Tanzania where he plans to demonstrate Irish flute making so that accomplished local craftsmen might learn his skills to boost the economy surrounding this rare wood and, for the first time, hear the sound of instruments made from the local blackwood trees.”

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