We recently received a message from our Kiwi friend Shardul that ran thus:
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.
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 …
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:
Over the last week since I wrote Listen and Learn with Ronan Browne, memories have been seeping back in through the defences of time; I’ll return to that trip to the Proitzer Mühle in 1995 for a further thought, this time about de-blinkering.
After the listening class, one of the participants came up to me, introduced himself and informed me that he was available to accompany me on guitar at the recital that night; I answered, as kindly as I could, that I was fine and, being self-accompanying, I wouldn’t need any backing. He asked was I sure, saying that he had accompanied the guest piper on other years and that it was a nice thing to do. I realised it would be right to say “yes, of course” so we arranged to meet later and run over a few tunes in preparation.
In every generation there are those who feel the urge to carry forward the essence of the culture, land and peoples that they are born into and amongst. Ireland’s Ronan Browne is such a person. A renowned piper, musician, composer, teacher, writer and historian, Ronan is not only making efforts to record and promote the traditional music of Ireland but, as the article below exposes, is also discovering and teaching new ways to hear and appreciate the beauty that lies at the core of Irish traditional music, language and culture. The grandson of the renowned Irish singer Delia Murphy, Ronan lives in Conamara with his wife and two children. For more information, kindly view the Ronan Browne links at the bottom of this page.
In the following article, which was originally published on the now defunct Gandharva Loka blog, Ronan Browne writes about the evolution and aims of his music appreciation and listening courses. We are very grateful to have this inspiring article on the Martin Doyle News blog – go raibh maith agat a Rónáin!
Essentially Learn to Listen – Listen to Learn is a “music appreciation/listening class” (using sound recordings, pictures and videos) where the students teach themselves how to interpret any piece of music they come across. Instead of lecturing the participants as to what they are listening to, they tell me, learning quickly to think on their own.
I have been running the course in varying lengths from 45 minutes up to 3 days – the longer you do it, the more fun you have…!
Elizabeth Petcu playing a Martin Doyle simple system wooden (Irish) flute.
Arminta Wallace has recently published an article for the Irish times about Martin Doyle’s good friend Elizabeth Petcu who resides in the coastal town of Bray in the County Wicklow. For over 25 years Elizabeth served as the principal flautist with Ireland’s RTÉ Concert Orchestra until a hearing problem (otosclerosis) sidelined her career. Despite this impediment, Elizabeth has gone on to record a solo flute music album, Just Me, and has formed the inspirational music ensemble Rune with Martin Doyle (flutes) and Deborah Armstrong (piano). Here are two excerpts from Arminta Wallace’s article:
The ability to hear plays such a crucial role in making music that it’s almost impossible to imagine how a professional musician feels when they’ve been diagnosed with a condition called otosclerosis, or progressive deafness. “I’m in good company, apparently,” says the flautist Elizabeth Petcu with a wry smile. “Beethoven is thought to have had it as well.” […] Petcu formed a trio with the pianist Deborah Armstrong and the traditional flutemaker and player Martin Doyle. They call themselves RUNE, and they take an innovative approach to live performance; their concerts blend visual imagery, poetry and prose with various different kinds of music, from baroque to improvisation via the slow air. “I wanted to keep playing. But I didn’t want to do the very conventional, formal kind of classical recital,” she says. “So what we do is, we pick a theme and tie the music together with words and the beautiful visual imagery of Martin’s photographs.
Martin Doyle (flute maker), Desi Wilkinson (flute player) and Elizabeth Petcu (essayist).
In 2002, as the final semester essay undertaken to gain her Masters Degree in Music, Martin Doyle’s good friend Elizabeth Petcu wrote ‘A Phenomenological Study into the Experiences of a Flute Maker/Player Dyad’. With her kind permission, this essay has been reproduced on Martin Doyle Flutes.
This phenomenological study is an interesting and illumining insight into the relationship between a flute maker, Martin Doyle, and a flute player – in this case the renowned Irish traditional musician and music scholar, Desi Wilkinson.
The following are excerpts from Elizabeth’s essay.
From the introduction:
Discovering a flute maker’s workshop in my local town a few years ago enabled me to combine my lifelong fascination for woodwork and wood turning with my love of flutes and flute playing. Under the allure of the atmosphere in the workshop and listening to the philosophising of the maker, caused me to be curious about the “ingredients” contained in the instruments. I wondered if the experiences of the maker, as he worked, could be converted into a more tangible form. The phenomenological approach, also recently discovered, suggested itself as being a possible way to reveal the powerful, unspoken psychological processes and energies which I could palpably feel in the workshop.