The language of music is universal and timeless. Even the earliest primitive societies used melody and rhythm for communication with the visible and invisible worlds, for celebration and for honoring life and death. Music instrument artifacts teach us that the native peoples of North America, and shamans every where used music for thousands of years to express feelings and emotions. The human voice in chanting and singing was also used as a musical instrument.
Today, those who are drawn to the compelling sound of American Indian flutes, Hawaiian nose flutes, drums, and rattles, often speak of the power of these instruments to draw forth sacred personal and communal experiences.
Much curiosity exists about the strength of these gentle, yet haunting, simple instruments. It is the wood, the modes, the simplicity of so many native melodies, that seem to awaken primeval memories locked deep within our souls.
These basic instruments were all designed to work together, without the players having to know any music theory. They just knew what sounded good. Many instruments were made from using proportions and measurements of the human body.
Listeners often speak of feeling drawn into a trance-like state by the native flute's power to invoke altered states of consciousness. Some speak of responses that include relaxation, visionary processing, space and time travel, memory regressions, improved states of physical/mental/emotional health, an abatement of strife, a feeling of inner balance and acceptance, and an overwhelming feeling of universal love for all life forms.
The sounds of the flute with its natural pentatonic minor scale, which has no tension or resolve, unlocks the gate into our subconscious mind. The encounter with the flute's tones opens our personal psyche into awareness, allowing us to have deeper opportunities for clarity and understanding.
The power of the quality of the sound shifts one into connected states of meditation which can be described as prayerful. Being lead into the awareness of a spiritual presence beyond, and also within, occurs due to the natural ability of the brain to "entrain" to the sounds around us, lock on to these sounds, and flow with the frequency of the sounds.
The wood from which these instruments are made came from the earth. A tree grew and gave us oxygen to breathe the very air which produces sound as the air flows from our own bodies into the wooden flutes. This makes for a very interesting bi-lateral communication device with nature.
There was no written music in most ancient cultures. The natives simply played the environment and the trees. If the landscape ascended, they played higher pitch notes. If the tree lines or mountain landscapes descended, they played lower notes. Thus their written music was nature itself.
Sometimes it is almost as if the air remembers the sounds. Our hearts are filled with songs that only we can bring forward, with gentleness and passion, into the world.
Ancient Elders of many tribes say that the sacrament of playing the Native American flute is the experience of being tethered to the Great Spirit. The earthy wooden flute's quality helps us to connect with our soul in slowly unfolding yet magnifying ways. The native flutes bring us face-to-face with the Great Spirit, offering a glimpse into immortality as we cross the space that Thomas Merton has described as the abyss that separates us from ourselves.
The tones and rhythms of these instruments, according to many tribal elders, relate tone quality as the soul, and the breath as the animating spirit which not only propels the sound outward, but vibrates (rhythm) and expands the psychic entity known as soul. The native flutes, along with the rattle and the drum, respond to our innermost longings and our most celebrated joys.
The native flutes, along with the rattle and the drum, put us in deeper contact with our hearts, allows us to live life more fully, and to uncover deeper and more fulfilling levels of joy. Life is a divine dance, being immersed in the rhythmical pulsations of music, made by our own breath through wood grown up out of the earth, Mother Earth, our Turtle Island.
If, as scientists inform us, everything is composed "simply" of light and sound, and that everything is in a state of vibration, then the sound that passes into and through each of us has the potential to transform. This is what these ancient instruments give us in the vibrational frequencies that we know as music.
The alchemy of the native flute's resonance is profound. Shifts in consciousness, accompanied by relaxation, occur as we allow ourselves the gift of a vibrating tone, shifting in pitch and played with pulsating vibrato and rhythmical underpinnings. Our consciousness expands, and we become one with the music.
Throughout our world, for thousands of years, we find that music is constructed in a variety of ways. Based on different scale models, using a wide variety of musical instruments and vocal techniques in solo or ensemble presentations, music thrives as a vivid voice of cultures. The native flute's timbre has a metaphysical root. The quality of sound, offered by breath and wood, opens us into wider possibilities of knowing. Somehow this instrument transcends time and space to enter our heart, and we experience the sense of coming home, coming back down into the very core of our own creation where we know love.
Music "says" what we are unable to express in words, and the Native American flute-call sounds forth longing, warmth and envelopment. We are summoned by its yearning, seeking voice. As we are enveloped by the beauty of the sound, our bodies warm. We have arrived back at our inception; we have followed the leading sound down, down, into our soul's memories. We have come home.