Friday, April 28, 2006

Nammy Nomination for Scott August and New Fire

I wanted to send a congratulations out to our good friend, Scott August. His excellent album "New Fire" has been selected for a Nammy in the Native Heart catagory. I wonder if the Nammy Board of Directors has been reading my blog... I've had "New Fire" on my recommended listening (see the left side of the blog) for the last 6 months. It's a great album.

You can find a listing of this years Nammy nominations here.

Admittedly I am torn this year, it's tough decision for me between Scott August's album and Elysium Calling's album in this category. They are both great albums, great artists and I listen to both on a weekly basis. I count Scott, Kenneth and Garth all as great friends.

Alas, I can't make a decision yet. I expect that any of you who own both albums from these artists are in the same dilemma. If you don't own these albums, then you are really missing some great Native American Flute music.

The folks who attended last falls NCFC camping trip had the awesome opportunity to hear Elysium Calling play live on Friday night and then spend the day in a workshop with Scott August on Saturday, followed by an evening concert with Scott. WOW, it's fun to think back to that weekend.

Anyhow, regardless of who wins the Nammy this year, the nomination of both Scott August and Elysium Calling validates what we (in California) have known for some time, and that's that we have some great talent on the West Coast!!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Flutemaker Discount Program

The Northern California Flute Circle is in the process of formalizing a Flutemaker Discount program as a benefit for our members. We already have close to 10 flutemakers signed up, and we're planning to announce this program in the upcoming Spring Voice of the Circle newsletter.
If you are a flutemaker and would like to learn more about the program, please contact Mike Oitzman or Dan Ricketts or email: ncfc AT naflute DOT com

NAF Playing Tip #17: Follow the leader

This is the second exercise in the series of duet exercises, designed to provide you with some new ideas when playing with another flute player. This is an easy exercise.


One person leads, the other person follows. Play short phrases holding the last note.

Lead Role

The lead plays a short phrase of 3-4 notes and holds the last note. When the follower gets to the note that the lead was holding, the lead then plays another short phrase, holding the last note. Repeat. Breathe as necessary.
Note that as the lead role, the idea is not to play a phrase so difficult that the follower can't repeat it. Depending on the skill level of the two players, it's up to the lead to stay within the skill of the follower.

Follower Role

Follow by repeating the exact same phrase played by the lead, holding the last note. When the follower gets to the note that the lead was holding, the lead then plays another short phrase, holding the last note. Breathe as necessary.

After a while, switch roles. You can either stop and switch or discuss some nonverbal trigger like a nod or wink to signal the switch.

Note: in this exercise it's important for each player to hold the last note of the phrase while the other player plays. This not only builds your lung capacity but is the first step in learning to do something on the flute (i.e. play a note) while listening and memorizing the notes being played by the leader. Sounds easy? Try it...

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Performance on 5/7


I will be performing a new composition in church on 5/7. I wrote a duet piece for piano and flute based on the melody for Zuni Sunrise. If anyone is interested, I'll be playing at the both the 8:30 AM and 10AM services at the Grass Valley United Methodist Church (on Church street in downtown Grass Valley). It's Native American Sunday and the donations go to support Native American charities.

NCFC Bay Clan Flute Circle April 30th

EVENT: April Bay Clan Flute Circle and Historical Flutes Presentation
DATE: Sunday, April 30th, 2006
TIME: 1 to 4 pm
LOCATION: Morgan Hill, CA (send e-mail to bayclan AT naflute DOT com for details)
HOST: Diane Dobson
ORGANIZER: Frankie Sierra 1-408-204-FLUTE, f dot sierra at comcast dot net

We have a special treat for those who could not make it to Musical Echoes in Florida this weekend. We will have our own mini flute retreat on the hills of Morgan Hill. Our April meeting will be hosted here:

1:00 PM: Arrive, setup, flute talk and play (30 minutes).
1:30 PM: Historical Native American Flutes (30 minutes).
  • 1 early whistle bone (from Doc Payne's collection).
  • 1 Anasazi replica flute (made by Coyote Oldman).
  • 1 Hopi replica flute.
  • 1 Papago flute (1800s, from Doc Payne's collection).
  • 3 NAF flutes (1900s, from Doc Payne's collection).
2:00 PM: Video presentation: Toubat (60 minutes).
  • Get a visual tour of Doc Payne's collection, and see and hear from the man himself, about the evolution of the native american flute.
3:00 PM: Social time for talk and refreshments (30 minutes).
3:30 PM: Open flute time.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

INAFA Convention Registration

Time is running out! If you haven't submitted your registration for the upcoming INAFA convention, you need to do so soon. It's especially important if you want to stay onsite, as the onsite housing is almost gone.
Why would would want to stay onsite rather than at a local hotel? Well if you're like me and you are planning on jamming with lot's of folks then you'll want to have someplace (other than your car) to lock up all of your instruments. I plan on bringing a whole variety of flutes, drums didj's and other musical toys to provide some variety for the week.
Folks in the bay area: if you are planning to stay at home, you should submit your registration for your convention fees now as it's almost a month away from the deadline (May 31st).

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Happy Earth Day

Happy Earth Day everyone!
I hope that you're planning to find some time this weekend to play your flute or drum and make a joyful noise for the planet! There are a ton of events going on and I encourage you to take a flute to any of these events and add some positive energy.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Nammy nomination for "Shapeshifter"

Elysium Calling are proud to announce that their debut album "Shapeshifter" has been nominated for a NAMMY award!! This award is the Native American Music "GRAMMY" Award, so the NCFC is very proud of our friends (and members) Garth and Kenneth for this distinction. Voting for the general public is now open!! Yes, YOU too can now vote for your favorite artist! (We hope that it's Elysium Calling)
Log on to...
Click on the "vote" button and follow the instructions!!
You can find Elysium Calling in the "Native Heart" category...
Also, be sure to visit their new website! Click on guestbook and let them know how you like it.
Be sure to check out their up-coming performances in your area...

Thursday, April 20, 2006

NAF Playing Tip #16: Echo Canyon Exercise

As the first duet exercise in this series of playing tips designed to provide you with some ideas to help broaden your playing ability, I wanted to start with the simplest exercise which I've developed called "Echo canyon". This exercise is designed for two flute players of any skill level, and I suggest that you start by selecting two flutes in the same key, especially if the players are beginners. Each of the exercises over the next 6 weeks will have a set of "rules" to follow which outline how the exercise is played. They will get progressively harder, so if you start with this first one and practice each week, you should be able to progress nicely. Each exercise will have a lead role and a follower role, but I expect that these roles can be shifted between the two flute players, either by discussing who's doing what or by the "look" that you be able to share with one another as you switch roles in the midst of playing.

The "rules" for this exercise are simple: One person leads, the other person follows. Play simple, short, mini-scales and repeat exactly.

Lead Role

The lead plays a short (3-4 note) “mini scale” where all the notes are contiguous either up or down the scale. After the follower plays the phrase, play a new one short phrase starting and ending somewhere else in the scale. The idea is not to out do the follower, in fact a good leader will shorten the number of notes if the follower is less skilled and having difficulty repeating the phrase.

Follower Role

Follow by watching the leads’ fingers and listening, and then playing the exact same notes as the lead played.

Note: If you don't have another friend to try this exercise with, then practice it by yourself. Play a phrase and then repeat it exactly. Try to create longer and longer phrases to test/push yourself and your memory.

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Monday, April 17, 2006

Native American Flute on Wikipedia

Did you know that the Native American Flute is now listed in Wikipedia? What's Wikipedia you ask? Wikipedia is an online "open source encyclopedia" in which all of the content is contributed by readers. It provides the capability for anyone to edit the content online.

That's where you come in. You should go online and read the content currently posted for the Native American Flute. If there is something which you don't agree with, would like to edit or if there is additional content which you would like to add, then you are encouraged to edit the content. Your edits become live immediately. The concept is that if someone adds content which is incorrect, it will be edited by someone else and verified by each new reader. With that in mind, you should be skeptical about the content posted on wikipedia, but research has shown that it's as accurate any any traditional encyclopedia, if not more up to date.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Spring Break this week...

Hi everyone, I am taking a break this week to spend some time with the family. I will return to posting on Monday April 17th. Keep playing that flute and praying for some sunny weather!!!

Friday, April 07, 2006

House Concert venue in Cupertino, CA

A friend of mine sent me a link for an upcoming house concert at the "Sounding Board". The Sounding Board is a venue at a private home in Cupertino. I haven't attended an event there yet, but my friend tells me that it is a nice venue. I really support the house concert idea, see my earlier posts for information on how you can participate in the house concert opportunity.
Primarily, the Sounding Board focuses on Celtic music, but are open to acoustic music of any genre. You can view a listing of upcoming concerts on their concert schedule page.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

NAF Playing Tip #15: Compatible Flute Keys

Playing with other instruments

While the Native American Flute was designed as a solo lead instrument, it can be played along with other instruments. In fact this is one of the funnest activities at a flute circle. Note however, that you cannot tune the flute so it’s important that the other (tunable) instrument(s) tune to your flute. Drums, on the other hand, don’t need to be tuned, and that’s one of the reasons why playing with a drum is an easy choice.

You should also be aware that you can typically blow an individual note 'sharper' by blowing harder. This is essentually what happens when you are using vibrato (the note wavers a little sharper, a little flatter as the air velocity varies with the vibrato). This is important to understand, because even with two flutes in the same key, the individual flute players can force the individual notes to be out of tune. Always 'test' the scale of two flutes together by running up/down the scale a few times. Use this interaction with the other flute player to establish the proper breath control to keep the flutes in tune while you play together. The better the two players are, the better they will be at controlling the tuning of the individual notes. This hint really says that the better flute player in the duet has the responsibity to (attempt to) control the tuning during the song.

Duets: Flute keys that play well together

Before you can play along with another flute player, for the best results either play two flutes that are in the same key, or choose from the list below to help harmonize the flutes.

Over the next couple of weeks, I am going to concentrate my Thursday Playing Tips to help provide you with some ideas/exercises to use when playing a duet with someone else. To begin with we have to review the concept of compatible keys. This theory follows the idea of the "circle of fifths". The table below outlines which "keys" harmonize with other keys. While the suggestion of "lower key" and "higher key" is a recommendation, you can easily swap the designation - it's merely a suggestion.

Low FluteHigh Flute

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Monday, April 03, 2006

Rhythm Craft Instruments

I stumbled back into Matt Collins Rhythm Craft Instruments again today. I thought that Matt had packed up when his prior URL went dead, but as it turns out, Matt is still alive and making wonderful creations.

Mind you, I don't own any of Matt's toys, because most of them are rather pricey, but he is an incredible craftsman, and makes amazing things. His kalimbas are probably the best on the planet today. He also makes shakers, berimbau's, and slit drums (like the one shown at the right). Every piece is practically a museum piece. Wander around his website for awhile and you'll be truly amazed.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

AmerIndian 2192

I just finished listening to the podiobook: AmerIndian 2192, written by J. Scott Garbay.

AmerIndian 2192 is a science-fiction novel that explores the intriguing possibilities of Native Americans in mankind's star flung future. AmerIndian 2192 presents the story of two brothers, Wovoka and Keokuk, restoring the Native American people to a Homeland where their vibrant culture can thrive. Lodge ships, Cybershaman rituals and Tsimshian high technology are all elements in this action-oriented tale of interstellar politics and personal struggles.

I chose to listen to this podiobook first of all because of my love of science fiction, and second of all because of my love of Native American culture. This book, set in the future, has an interesting plot line and character development. I listened to new chapters each week during my weekly commute to the bay area and it made the commute pass quickly. The story had plenty of spaceships, political intrigue, cyber shamanism and cultural relevance. The story is read by J. Scott’s wife Leanne, and she does a great job with the reading. I could tell that she improved her skill as the story reading progressed.
Overall, this was an enjoyable podiobook. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys science fiction and Native American culture. It is a one of a kind story, as far I am aware. You can down load the MP3 files to your computer and listen to them, you can burn a CD an listen that way, or your download it to your iPod or MP3 player.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Native American Flute with built in digital recorder

Sloof Lirpa Spirit Flutes has just announced the development of the first Native American Flute with a built in digital recorder!!
According to Billy Coyote Raven, the flutemaker, new advancements in the miniturization of chip sets has enabled the creation of a Native American Flute with a built in microphone and digital recorder. Coyote recently retired from 40 years working for NASA where he help produce miniturized components for the Space Shuttle. His love of the flute and experience as a NASA engineer have come together in this unique creation. I met Billy at a conference last fall, where we got to talking about this idea.

The miniture microphone is embedded in the totem of the flute, virtually invisible. Also hidden under the totem is a battery compartment which powers the recorder.
I hear that initially it's only available in a 64MB version, which will provide about a half hour of recording time. But the 96Khz samples are near CD quality, making your flute recording as simple as possible. Good enough to capture a few songs when the spirit hits you. A USB 2 port on the totem provides the ability to connect to a computer to download the songs in WAV format. Billy is sending me a prototype to test next week, I hope to bring it to a flute circle and share this unique creation. Billy hopes to go into production in the early summer, initially producing just individual totems which will fit any existing flute.