Playing flute for myself, I find it to be an instrument that calms and centers me, based as it is on the breath, the prana, qi, ki.
This is my first flute:
Not the first flute I ever owned, which was a flute of lesser quality that was a gift from a relative. This is the first flute I ever bought for myself, and which I taught myself to play. It has shown up on more than one recording over the years.
It's a large instrument, sounding in the alto flute range, with limited pitch range, a unique tuning, and very sensitive to breath pressure. It's called a Zen Flute, and was made by John Niemi in Hawai'i, in the early 1980s. I have three or four bamboo flutes made by John Niemi, all of superb quality, and all possessing a soul, an earth spirit. That's not just my opinion; other players and listeners have made similar comments to me, unsolicited.
In December 2011, when I was commissioned to record a new CD to be used for meditation, yoga, Reiki, and/or massage, which I titled Darshan, this flute was one I wanted to use on the recording. But I couldn't find it anywhere. I tore the house apart looking for it. I looked all through the studio, all over the basement, I looked in travel bags from my last camping trip last year. I thought with horror that it had somehow been lost, that I would never see it again. I had given up hope. I went ahead with the recording project, and was well satisfied with the music I was making, but there was a hole where this old friend had been.
Just this past week, it was returned to me. I had last used it on a recording project at the studio in Chicago, when I was living out in California, and in the turbulence of recent years I had lost track of it. Without remembering, I had left it in Chicago intending to record more with it later. My friend found it when he was cleaning out his place in Chicago, a few months ago, and had been waiting for the right time to return it to me, along with a half dozen other flutes all bundled together.
Having this flute given back to me is the best thing that's happened to me all month. It's like being reborn. Now that I have my Zen Flute again, I can hardly wait to make new music with it. I have plans to record more music for meditation, yoga, etc., and this flute will be featured prominently, you may be sure.
Here are the first two flutes I ever bought for myself:
Alongside the Zen Flute is my first shakuhachi. (Japanese end-blown flute, with a long and important musical tradition to its name.) It's a rough-hewn example of the breed, also made by John Niemi. This shakuhachi is featured prominently on Darshan, appearing on several tracks. It's my first shakuhachi, and even though I have acquired other shakuhachi of officially better quality, this instrument has a special place in my heart.
Here are several of my best-quality bamboo flutes, including three shakuhachi:
Three of these flutes were just returned me on the aforementioned occasion. The evening after I was reunited with these flutes, I spent a fair amount of time playing, caressing, just getting reacquainted. To have them all back again is inspirational. I am finding new music in them, each voice being as fresh as if never heard before. It's been long enough that I am rediscovering each old friend with great pleasure.
I spent some time tonight just getting to know all these flutes again, looking for new melodies. Each of them will appear on the next recording project, and I'll be sure that they are not parted from me again.
The three shakuhachi above grouped for a family portrait:
Making these photographic portraits of some of my favorite flutes from among my collection of musical instruments was an exercise in more than one photographic technique. All of these were made using a tripod and long exposures, with directional lighting from more than one source. It was a late-night photo session made in celebration of their return. These are all relatively long exposures. I used narrow depth of field to create the close-ups, desiring to emphasize the parts of the flutes where the mouth is placed, where the breath gives life to the music. One or two of the resulting images are iconic enough to be enlarged to poster size, and printed as decoration for the recording studio walls.