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Ianuaria, a Celtic/Gaulish Goddess. The information about her is extremely limited but intriguing. At a healing shrine in Beire-le-Chatal, France she was pictured as a young girl with curly hair, wearing a pleated coat and playing panpipes. The site also had images of Apollo, bulls and doves. No one knows if she was associated with music, healing or birds and bulls outside of this site or not. Her name is related to Janus the Roman God of beginnings, doorways, gates, the new year and January. Jana (or Iana) Luna, a moon Goddess, is Janus’s consort and the only other female version of the name Janus (as far as I know).

Music goes back to our beginnings as various finds of 30,000 year old flutes show. Music and healing are often paired and music was sometimes used as a form of healing. Many of the Gaulish deities mixed and matched roles, attributes and even names with other cultures. The ancient Celts traveled so far they couldn’t help but run into other Gods and see similarities to their own. Meanwhile, the Romans were quite prone to creating Roman names for local deities and pairing them up with a Roman God, just to make everything seem Roman to them. All this makes it quite likely that there was a local deity connected to healing or music or both who was simply renamed.

Ianuaria’s roots are long gone but close your eyes and listen for the sound of flute music drifting over the hills on a chilly day and you just might catch glimpse of where she went.

Adkins, Lesley and Roy A. Adkins. Dictionary of Roman Religion
Theoi, Roman Myth Index: http://www.mythindex.com/roman-mythology/J/Janus.html
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The Native American flute is held vertically and actually has more in common with the recorder than the concert flute. In some stories, the Native flute was “invented” by a young man who heard music on the breeze coming from a hollow branch with holes made by a woodpecker.

Woodpecker Outside My Window


Native flutes were often used as courting instruments and to lure girls outside and away from their parents. R. Carlos Nakai has said that unmarried girls from Native societies are still sometimes not allowed to attend his concerts and there are still far fewer women who play this instrument than men. Mary Youngblood is one of the more famous exceptions. Kokopelli (there are several different spellings) is possibly the most famous flute player from the Americas. The hunched figure playing a flute or pipe is found in ancient rock art all over the Southwest and Central America. There are often lines coming off of Kokopelli’s head that remind some people of antenna; a flute playing insect.




Kokopelli is also one of the katchina figures-a masked dancer who chases the women while his wife Kokopelli-mana chases the boys. Some stories say that the hunched back is a sack and Kokopelli is a traveling salesman who plays flute to attract customers. Some say the sack is full of seeds, music or babies. In the Andes today, travelers still sometimes play flutes to announce themselves and show they are peaceful as they travel from village to village. Kokopelli is generally considered a fertility god (like nearly all flute players in mythology). He often brings rain with him when he travels and helps crops grow. Some scholars say that the Kokopelli myths can be used to track the spread of maize or corn throughout the Americas. Katherine Hoover’s “Kokopeli” is a very popular piece for the concert flute (an instrument more often played by women than men) meant to represent Kokopelli as a leader of the migrations of the Native Americans.
Jabuti (again, spellings vary) is a character in folktales from the Amazon rain forest. He is a small tortoise who plays pranks on all the other creatures and usually outwits them, though (like most tricksters) he sometimes manages to outwit himself as well. In Gerald McDermott’s story, Jabuti plays a flute and makes the creatures in the jungle all dance and sing. When the birds go to sing for the King of Heaven, Jabuti wants to go and play his flute. Vulture (who is not happy with the sneaky turtle) offers to carry Jabuti to the sky but then drops him on his back, shattering Jabuti’s shell. The other birds help patch his shell back together (Humpty Dumpty could have learned a thing or two from this tortoise) and Jabuti lives to play music and tricks another day.


Meanwhile, in the Brer Rabbit tales from N. America, Brer Turtle uses Brer Vulture’s feathers to make “quill pipes” after tricking Brer Vulture out of some honey. Brer Fox hears the wonderful music and steals the pipes from Brer Turtle. Brer Turtle sneaks up on Brer Fox, bites and hangs onto his toe until Brer Fox gives the pipes back.
It is believed that both the Brer Rabbit and Jabuti tales have a link to West African folktales, mixed with Native American stories that have taken on a life of their own.
The image of a turtle with a round shell playing a flute looks a great deal like the basic Kokopelli image to me though I know of no direct connection between the two.

Uncle Remus: The Complete Tales told by Julius Lester (a more recent version of the Brer Rabbit stories and my personal favorite)
Kokopelli: The Magic, Mirth and Mischief of an Ancient Symbol by Dennis Slifer
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Amaltheia's Lullaby---program notes

In Greek Mythology, Amaltheia is a nymph or a goat who raised Zeus the God of thunder. Pan, half God half Goat, is the God of the wilderness. There are many different stories of Pan’s birth and antics. As the son of Amaltheia’s goat, Pan was raised in a cave with Zeus. Another story says Pan and Arcas were the twin sons of Zeus and Callisto a nymph who was changed into a bear. In yet another story, Pan helped Zeus after his sinews were stolen by the guardian of the sacred oracle at Delphi. Pan often plays a panpipe or a syrinx that can put anyone to sleep. A Labyrinth is a maze with only one path in and out. The version often seen in Crete, where Zeus and Pan were said to have been raised, has seven corridors.
The four notes F G C and E-flat are a call to Pan according to some. All the pieces on this album relate to these notes.



Waking the Devas---program notes

A while ago, a friend of mine was telling me about her new garden. It was in the country across the road from a forest. It made her happy just seeing it. It overflowed with life as if little spirits were peeping out around the tomatoes, morning glories and grass. Even the bugs that ate plants down to the ground had a magic to them although that didn’t make them less of a nuisance. The garden became a nursery for nature devas, a safe place for them to gain strength as they step, roll and rush out into the world. This got me thinking about waking the devas, fairies, nature spirits in the world around us. Drawing them into the cracks in our lives and letting them run wild. Messy sometimes but more than worth it for all the joy they bring.

Take a listen.
 

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Improvisation is one of my favorite ways of performing live. And comparing different styles of improvisation gives some interesting insights to the different approaches the various genres of music use.
Baroque and Classical improvisation is based (these days) on a very strict method of comparing how melody and harmony interact. There are frighteningly thick books on how to improvise correctly in these styles, mostly full of examples that look like simple little ornaments (turns, trills, runs and so on). However where they are placed in the melody and harmony is critical and very quickly turns into something much more complex than just adding ornaments. The way I learned was to go through these books and find examples that supported each and every single note I added to what the composer had written. Every week I would go to my lesson with the page covered in pencil scribbles and my teacher would demand that I support ALL my choices and added notes from one of the 2,000 page books or start over. Then tell me to go add more. Before too long, what I was playing was so different from the original music that other people had to ask what piece I was working on even if they were familiar with it.
Jazz improvisation is also based on leaping off from the melody and/or the harmony but the style of learning is quite different. Students are often told to listen to other players' solos and learn them note by note then try to figure out how those solos relate to the original music. Then compare different solos on the same music and different solos by the same performer. The theory is that after learning enough solos this way, you will begin to be able to create your own in a similar style.
In many ways, Classical works from the outside in by studying exactly where and how to place tiny additions until it builds into something musical. Jazz comes at it from the inside out, learn musical solos until you figure out the patterns and rules that are being used (or broken). One more interesting point is that, back in the day, Classical music was actually studied in a similar fashion to the Jazz approach. J. S. Bach famously transcribed other composers music to learn voice leading. But of course now we have the rules written out, learn them first and worry about making them sound musical later.
In Middle Eastern music (which I freely admit I am less familiar with) improvisation has a different spin. Setting aside the fact that many of the harmonies and scales use micro-tones, there is more of an assumption that the audience will be somewhat musically educated and the performer is expected to make them work to follow their improvisation. This can be interesting when you are familiar with this style but it can also make it difficult for people who haven’t studied this style to get into the music. One form of improvisation from the Eastern style that does intrigue me is to take one note, ornament it more and more then add another note or two and ornament them together. This creates a nice build to the music and often combines well with other improvisation styles.
I find that looking at these and other methods of improvising expands my ability to use them all. I enjoy the way the different styles expand on each other and how they change my view of the musical world they are creating. I may not master every single style I study but I always take new ideas away from them and every new idea changes how I use the styles I am already familiar with and sometimes allows me to use an idea I had trouble understanding before.
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I am dyslexic. Except that I may not be. The label of dyslexia still covers an incredibly wide range of issues and I suspect a number of learning disabilities are still lumped in together. In my case, some of the descriptions for dyslexia are very accurate and others might as well be talking about my cat rather than me. In fact, no one realized I had a learning disability until I was being tested for the gifted program. But I stopped worrying about what the exact word for me should be a long time ago. Most people are familiar with the term dyslexia even if they don't understand it and I have been officially labeled as dyslexic at least once so it is convenient to use.
Why am I talking about this in a music blog? Well, one of the issues of dyslexia is reading symbols and being able to apply the correct meaning to them. Music notation is not exempt but it is also not quite the same as reading language. My biggest difficulty is that I can’t look at a word and see the letters that make it up without moving very slowly and deliberately from one letter to the next but if I read the word by how it is shaped I have little or no problem. In music, there aren’t nicely separated words to lump together but at the same time the graph that the notes are laid out on helps keep the notes from mixing themselves up as badly as letters. Another thing that seems to make a difference is that the musical notation has a very direct connection to physical actions (fingerings). It has been shown that a number of dyslexics can read or spell better if some kind of movement is linked to reading. Using the sign language alphabet was my saving grace on spelling tests! Still, reading one note at a time can be a very slow process for me. But there is in fact an upside. Once I’ve played through the music a few times, I don’t have to work so hard to know what note I’m looking at partly because I have a loose memory of the piece, melody or phrase as a whole. The result is that my sight reading is only so-so but I improve by leaps and bounds each time I go through the music.
I learned to read fairly slowly but as time passed, I eventually became not only fluent but a speed-reader (possibly a result of reading entire words rather than letters). Music was a similar experience. The more music I learned, both scores and memorized scales, the less difficulty the jumping of the notes on the page gave me although I do still label the notes with ledger lines fairly frequently. There was surprisingly little that I had to do to work with my dyslexia in music but I have found that simply understanding some of what was going on in my twisted brain reduced a great deal of the strain and stress. And sometimes I could use tricks that worked on other areas in music as well.
Because of the odd mash of issues mixed in with dyslexia, it is unlikely that other dyslexic musicians will all have exactly the same experiences as me. And I have talked with musicians with no learning issues who found this interesting and sometimes helpful to hear about for their own practice. Really what I hope you’ll take away from this is there is no one way to approach the world. If you see things differently, work with it. Find the advantages as well as the difficulties.
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I play several different flutes, some unusual. Each flute requires slightly different adjustments in how they are played but I love the changes of tone the different materials and designs have on the basic flute sound.
-The concert flute is my first love and the flute with the most flexibility in scales, accidentals and the widest range. I play a Sankyo Prima.
-The alto flute has a wonderful lush sound in its lower register. Its also the heaviest flute I play. I play a Trevor James alto.
-I play 2 different sizes of glass flutes. The one in C is similar to a piccolo or a fife. The one in G is halfway between a regular flute and a picc. Their sound is bright and cheerful and a kick to play in the rain. These are both from Hall Crystal Flutes.
-The one-keyed Baroque flute sounds soft and quiet up close but always surprises me with how far its sound carries. Mine was made by Daniel Dietz.


Glass Piccolo

 
Baroque Flute

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Gwyneth Whistlewood the Feral Flute

October 2012

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