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Native American Sound Instruments

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Autor:  anton  02 September 2010
Tags:  Native,  American,  Instruments
Words: 1717   |   Pages: 7
Views: 328

"Native American Sound Instruments"

Through my own personal experiences and teachings from Native Americans, that have offered to enlighten me, I've gathered that there is a sacred nature rich in spirit and soul to them. The Native American lives religion as a way of life. Children of the tribe grow up in this world of spirituality and learn from example that religion can come as easily as taking a breath every day. This is no attempt to lead into the topic of religion, yet it needs to be known that the Native American sound instruments are used as a part of that religion or spirituality. There are many sound instruments used by Native Americans, but they vary accordingly from tribe to tribe. The Native American sound instruments are considered a way to almost imitate the processes of nature to attain their level of spirituality during ceremonies as well as every day life. The drum and the flute are just a few of the sound instruments used by Native Americans, yet the drum stands out as of major importance.

The drum provides a center for the tribe because it tends to represent a symbolic importance. Black Elk of the Oglala tribe was once quoted as explaining that symbolic importance as, "a drum's round form represents the universe. The steady strong beat of the drum is the pulse, the heart, throbbing at the center of the universe. As the voice of Wakan Tanka, it stirs and helps us to understand the mystery and power of things." (The Spirit World, page 149) Wakan Tanka is the name given to the Great Mystery, also known as the Big Holy or the Great Spirit, and this Wakan Tanka is considered as the one ruling power known as "Good." The First Nations consider, no, they believe that every thing has a soul or a life force and that they are also dependent on each other. The drum

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beats as if it is representing a heartbeat, this heartbeat could signify our beginning as if being safe inside a mother's womb. The drum is also believed to posses a "medicine" quality.

A drum can be made of many types of wood as well as many types of animal skin, yet there is only preference because of each individual tribe or person making the drum. Drums can be made in a various array of sizes, again depending on preference. Sizes can range from small enough for an individual to large enough for twelve people. The average size is suitable for six or eight people like the ones you find at PowWows. There are basically two reasons for suggesting that the drum has medicine.

One reason a drum is thought of having medicine is when the drum is made from cedar. The Cedar tree has been known as a powerful healing tree and thus this medicine is passed on to the drum as a sort of healing energy. The other reason that a drum is thought to have medicine is because of what type of skin is used. Elk, deer, buffalo, horse, and moose, just to name a few, all have some kind of significance when it comes to being used on a drum.

To the First Nations, deer is considered to have a connection to the circulatory system. To be more precise, the Heart, the heart can be left unattended for long periods of time. This lack of attention can lead to high poverty in the sense that there is never enough time, never enough money, or never enough love. Native Americans believe that Deer opens the heart to allow them the teachings of trust and to allow them to empower the

power of love and wisdom. They feel that drumming with Deer has the medicine to

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remind them that they live in a universe filled with more than enough of every thing that

is needed. Drumming with Deer helps when the feeling of being unloved engulfs someone, it in turn reminds them of the laws of circulation. In other words, when one is feeling unloved then its time to love others and all things, and soon that love will be returned tenfold.

Drumming with Buffalo is used when one seeks to gain wisdom and guidance from their Ancestors by opening the door to that vibration. Native Americans associate Buffalo with Wisdom and Abundance and is the source when joining the masculine Sky energy with the feminine Earth energy. Drumming with Buffalo is an ally in reminding them of the connection of Spirit or prayer to form or the Physical.

The examples of drumming with Deer and Buffalo are just a few of the ideologies or should I Say beliefs that have been handed down from generation to generation. Next comes another sound instrument used by the First Nations, and that is the flute.

The Native American flute is quite unique in many ways especially its design. It is one of the few flutes that is end-blown and is two-chambered and is often made of cedar. While its origin remains rather obscure, legends give it an early existence. Relying on legends is not enough so thanks to past documentation it seems that the presence of flute and/or whistle instruments in the Americas has been documented for approximately 1500 years. ("The Plains Flute", The Flutists Quarterly, 1988, Vol. 13, no.4) The Native American flute started its existence as an instrument to produce love music. Legends state that the flute was used by warriors to produce their courting songs. The flutes did

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all the talking for the warrior because customs did not allow for him to publicly show his affection for the one he loved. First there had to be the courtship.

Before marriage came a most interesting courtship. When parents considered a daughter ready for marriage, the father would casually let it be known that any suitor may approach. As interested young men visited the family to make formal overtures to the daughter, the parents would pretend to be politely indifferent. If the suitor was thought worthy by the family, the suitor would conceal himself at night near the girl's tipi and serenaded her with traditional, yet original love songs played on a sweet-toned courting flute. If the suitors musical overtures were met with favor, he would then proceeded to the next stage of the courtship. The suitor would then wrap himself in a two-colored courting blanket and walk near the girl's tipi at dusk, hoping she would come out and speak with him. If she did, he wrapped the blanket around them both and together they promenaded about the camp, this signified as an act equivalent to a public announcement of their engagement. For the final step in the courtship, the suitor, his father and the girl's father would meet to agree on the exchange of gifts, which would then solidify the marriage. This was the role of the flute in the days of old but now it takes on a new role.

The role of the flute has gone through a dramatic change and giving it a new role. The Native American flute has basically become primarily an instrument of expression or a way to connect to the Spirit World. It has also taken on the new role of connecting to the spirits of all things. While some Native Americans may play it for the beautiful sounds that emit from it, there are those that need it to focus their inner self. Many Native

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Americans use the flute to pay respect to Wanka Tanka each morning of a new day as well as at the coming of night giving thanks for the day and the promise of a new one. But traditions do live on and surly there are those times when today's warrior still may want to serenade the woman that has filled his heart with love.

While there are many instruments available to the Native American, the drum and the flute seem to take on a type of solid significance because of their link to all that is of the universe. Native American performer named Kevin Locke explains Indian music as a way to nurture and sustain the soil of the human heart. Kevin Locke goes on to mention that the drum and the flute are, "counterpoints to the powerful, elemental forces of the thunderstorm." " The beat of the drum is the thunder that shakes the human heart out of its slough of despondency." " The melodies of the flute (its six holes being the four cardinal directions, along with the earth and the sky) are the "wind that purifies and breathes life into the heart." (The Spirit World, page 29) The one interpretation being that there is a connection to all living things and the Native American sound instruments may be a key to reaching the center of the spiritual universe.

Works Consulted

DeBelius, Maggie, "The Spirit World." The American Indians Series, ED. Henry Woodhead, Time-Life Books, 1993.

Edmonds, Margot. and Clark, Ella. "Voices of the Winds:Native American Legends". New York: Facts on File, 1989.

Erdoes, Richard. and Ortiz, Alfonso. "American Indian Myths and Legends", New York:

Pantheon, 1984.

Frances Densmore. " The Study of Indian Music", Smithsonian Report, 1941, Facsimile

Reproduction, The Shorey Bookstore, Seattle, WA, 1996.

R. Carlos Nakai. and James Demars. " The Art of the Native American Flute", Canyon Records Productions, Phoenix, Arizona.

Richard W. Payne, M.D. "The Plains Flute",The Flutists Quarterly, 1988, Vol. 13, no.4, The National Flute Association, Ind. Ann Arbor MI.

Richard W. Payne, M.D. "The Native American Plains Flutes", Toubat Trails Publishing Co. Oklahoma City Publishing Co., 1999.

William K. Powers. "The Art of Courtship Among the 0glala", American Indian Art, Spring, 1980, Vol. 5, No.2, PP 40-47.



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