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PostPosted: Sun Jun 30, 2019 12:30 pm 
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"Authenticity" is nearly always related to nationalism. It's part of a claim to difference. Sometimes the colonizer describes the colonized as authentically inferior and therefore worthy of colonization. Sometimes the colonized use a claim of authentic difference to support their right to independence. Sometimes it used to image an alternative set of values within a nation, for example "folk authenticity" often serves to imagine and alternative nation with presumably better values.

Authenticity and nationalism are closely related


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 30, 2019 12:44 pm 
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"Authenticity" is nearly always related to nationalism. It's part of a claim to difference. Sometimes the colonizer describes the colonized as authentically inferior and therefore worthy of colonization. Sometimes the colonized use a claim of authentic difference to support their right to independence. Sometimes it used to image an alternative set of values within a nation, for example "folk authenticity" often serves to imagine and alternative nation with presumably better values.

Authenticity and nationalism are closely related


You will be hard pressed though to find players in Ireland calling either the flute or the whistle 'Irish'. That is american usage, and post Riverdance at that, that has spread on the internet.

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 30, 2019 1:21 pm 
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PB+J wrote:
Authenticity and nationalism are closely related

It's true that I've become more attuned to the question of cultural appropriation than I ever was, and I think it's a good thing to be aware of. I also think that music introduces grey areas that a white man wearing a war bonnet does not. My question when it comes to music is, at what point is the issue of cultural appropriation valid or invalid? I know a fellow who studies Persian music and plays the rabab, and he's no more Iranian than a chili dog. There's a group of Minnesotans - mostly white, from what I could tell - studying the Okinawan sanshin. By that token, is it cultural appropriation when East Asians play Western Classical music, or when Czechs play jazz? Why not?

Just tossing a fox into the chicken coop, here. I will go so far as to say that I think people can go overboard when they accuse others of cultural appropriation for playing musics not ethnically their "own". IMO there is a weaker case for cultural appropriation if I take up Mongolian throat singing and playing the morin khuur, than if I parade around in traditional Mongolian attire.

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 30, 2019 1:51 pm 
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The main thing is not to be bogged down by these considerations if you are a maker, or even a player. Simply enjoy the music!

I wish we had vacuum impregnated Acrylic technology back when I started out. The best we could do usually was lining bores with sealers ranging from polyurethane, liquid waxes, epoxy and superglue with various degrees of success. Or we simply didn't worry about it. In terms of data many of us had to search far and wide, grabbing the data off actual instruments in collections and in the players' hands. Many of us were self taught, or learned techniques from fellow makers (Rod Cameron has always been a big influence on me). Now in Internet makes abundant data including measurements available and our wood technology is expanding as some woods become rare. Wood rarity is nothing new - witness what happened to Cocus in the early 20th century as it was harvested to commercial extinction.

In terms of cultural appropriation I do have some personal limits. I will never do anything with Native American flutes. I used to get asked by so and so to teach them flute making and in many cases they wanted to make these. Really, they all wanted to be Kevin Costner in Dances with Wolves. I always turned these people away. I don't have a single bit of French DNA in me yet I love making the pipes and playing the music. Same with Galician though if the 23 and Me results are to be trusted (I don't) I do have a little bit of Iberian blood in me. These also said I was more Irish than Scottish and they totally missed the 1/8th Czechoslovakian. I knew my great grandmother from Prague and she taught me some rather shocking phrases. I would like to investigate some of the rural flutes from that country and my friend Radim Zenkle knows a bunch about them. He unfortunately lost most of his extensive collection in the Paradise fire last year.

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 30, 2019 2:09 pm 
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Casey Burns wrote:
In terms of cultural appropriation I do have some personal limits. I will never do anything with Native American flutes. I used to get asked by so and so to teach them flute making and in many cases they wanted to make these. Really, they all wanted to be Kevin Costner in Dances with Wolves. I always turned these people away.

I totally get that, and in your position I would be similarly disinclined. It's too sensitive an issue.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 01, 2019 10:58 am 
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Mr.Gumby wrote:
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"Authenticity" is nearly always related to nationalism. It's part of a claim to difference. Sometimes the colonizer describes the colonized as authentically inferior and therefore worthy of colonization. Sometimes the colonized use a claim of authentic difference to support their right to independence. Sometimes it used to image an alternative set of values within a nation, for example "folk authenticity" often serves to imagine and alternative nation with presumably better values.

Authenticity and nationalism are closely related


You will be hard pressed though to find players in Ireland calling either the flute or the whistle 'Irish'. That is american usage, and post Riverdance at that, that has spread on the internet.


You'll also be hard-pressed to find anyone outside of the united states complaining about 'cultural appropriation.' There are some funny videos out there of US "identity zealots" showing people from Japan, China, Africa, and Latin America people in the 'states doing or wearing something from their culture. They were expecting the viewers to respond negatively, but pretty universally they were thrilled someone outside their country took an interest in their culture, even if the execution wasn't great.

Now, that's not to say that people in a majority-anglo country can't produce some pretty tasteless, offensive, or racist stuff, or that the better visibility of white musicians and artists could lead to them profiting more from cultural art than descendants of said culture. But that's just racism and poor taste. There's nothing inherently wrong about exploring the culture, art, and music of another society. In fact, it's a very positive thing.

Casey - I'd concur with that. I think it would fall in to the "poor taste" category to make native instruments on what's essentially stolen land, especially when there are native artisans who could make those.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 01, 2019 11:29 am 
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MadmanWithaWhistle wrote:
I think it would fall in to the "poor taste" category to make native instruments on what's essentially stolen land, especially when there are native artisans who could make those.


I spent years making Native American style flutes and running a forum that was (initially) dedicated to them. I stopped making them many years ago from a combination of dissatisfaction with the murky issues around non-natives making these flutes, and more commercial reasons. I've been deeply engaged in many discussions (and outright arguments) on this topic and have a certain degree of insider perspective from many talks with hardcore native activists, flute historians, and non-native enthusiasts. My immersion even led me to an illuminating conversation with some folks at the Indian Arts and Crafts Board.

I will go so far as to say that this is not a clear-cut issue in many ways. The number of native tribes that had a flute culture was very limited in both scope and history (time). And according to some historians, it was dying out. It was (allegedly) the enthusiasm of a few non-native historians and amateur researchers that actually brought the tradition back to a great extent and which is responsible for the massive surge of interest in these flutes that has spread globally. When they became a hot commodity from a commercial perspective, then suddenly the issue of appropriation became a big thing. Before the commercial boom it was a non-issue and many natives expressed pleasure that anyone was interested in them and that the flute tradition was being kept alive. As famous Native flute player R. Carlos Nakai said at one point (and I paraphrase): "When the flute became popular in recorded music and had commercial potential, suddenly every tribe had a flute tradition!" There is strong evidence that this style of block flute that we call the Native American flute has a very short history and was actually simply a native take on European flagolet and whistles that the natives got in trade from early settlers. This is a controversial subject and many natives would angrily refute this. I don't have a position on it because I honestly don't know what the truth is. But when in doubt I'm inclined to side with the Native view. They have plenty of grounds for being angry at their ongoing treatment, and I'm leery of history that is written by the "conquerors".

But Native American art is a billion dollar a year industry now, and understandably the many Native artisans are conscious of not wanting non-Natives exploiting it (which happens a LOT). There are laws to prevent this, and while they may limit the degree to which non-natives can profit by native culture, they are not what I would call culturally sensitive laws. For example, it was perfectly fine for me to make and sell this style of flute so long as I called them "Native American style flutes" and not "Native American flutes".

And I agree that our modern U.S. is built on stolen land, but I would also take note of that big picture view. From that long-range view, is there any land that has not been stolen? Don't imagine that I'm making any excuse for the brutal colonialism (genocide) that took place in this country such a short while ago. To what degree are the modern descendants of the original settlers of this continent accountable for history? We can't undo history, so what is the best position to take about the present and future? Is loving the Native culture and wanting to connect with it a bad thing? Where is the line?

The line was never clear for me and it eventually led to me abandoning that part of my craft and moving on to less murky waters. But the question still remains every time I run across one of these conversations.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 01, 2019 12:33 pm 
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Geoffrey Ellis wrote:
There is strong evidence that this style of block flute that we call the Native American flute has a very short history and was actually simply a native take on European flagolet and whistles that the natives got in trade from early settlers. This is a controversial subject and many natives would angrily refute this. I don't have a position on it because I honestly don't know what the truth is. But when in doubt I'm inclined to side with the Native view. They have plenty of grounds for being angry at their ongoing treatment, and I'm leery of history that is written by the "conquerors".


Fascinating stuff, Geoffery. Thanks for sharing your insider knowledge about these flutes!


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 01, 2019 2:33 pm 
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Casey Burns wrote:
The main thing is not to be bogged down by these considerations if you are a maker, or even a player. Simply enjoy the music!


As a player, that's my take on this. I play NAF and whistle in very non-traditional ways and have gotten some flack from traditionalists in both camps like "OMG, is he trying to play jazz on that thing?" :poke:

I don't consider what I'm doing to be "cultural appropriation" at all. I'm not trying to pass myself off as Native American or Irish or whatever. I'm just making music.

To Geoffrey, I do find it sad that these issues led to you having to stop making those instruments. As I understand, the Ellis NAFs were very well received, and I would have liked to have played them, I'm sure.

Were similar issues behind the dropping of wooden whistles from your catalog? I was fortunate to have acquired a used low F whistle in buying a (I think) from C&F somewhat recently and it is very nice. I wouldn't hesitate to acquire others if they were available.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 01, 2019 3:50 pm 
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If you look at the long span of Native American history in North America it's awful to contemplate in so many ways, but at any single point in the long history you get a very different view. You often see different tribes competing against each other, or some Native cultural groups bargaining for real advantage of better circumstances at one point only to lose a generation later. It's not simply a narrative of steady victimization. And of course Native societies frequently and often eagerly make use of non-native things like the horse, metal implements guns etc. I would avoid playing native American flutes because the subject is too highly charged. I'd have to approach it with a lot of care and self- education. it's be a lot of work.

In general though the idea that you can't do X unless you are X is pretty dumb. But so is the idea that you can do it without learning something besides the notes. In my exerience musicians tend to be drawn to the history and culture of the musicians they admire and emulate.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 01, 2019 4:25 pm 
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PB+J wrote:
In general though the idea that you can't do X unless you are X is pretty dumb.

You might get some blow-back on a value-laden statement like that—even if it's "in general."

Just to continue with the NAf example, Native American flute songs can fall in several categories including sacred songs, personal songs (used to express a single individual's persona or used in courting in some groups), or social songs. While the latter may be fine for a non-Native to play, the first two categories might well be considered off limits for either non-Natives, non-tribal members or any other person depending on the song-type. The Native American issue is pretty tricky, both for the history of the indigenous peoples and for the cultural misunderstandings of what is and isn't appropriate/courteous for others to attempt to become involved with.

Not sure how this sort of thing applies between something like a native Irishman, an Irish-American, and a "got no Irish in me" American or other nationality.

Just sayin'

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 01, 2019 6:04 pm 
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Steve Bliven wrote:
Not sure how this sort of thing applies between something like a native Irishman, an Irish-American, and a "got no Irish in me" American or other nationality.

I figure I'm safe on that front. Even though most of my family history is Sassenach British immigrants to the USA dating back to the 1700's, I do have one Irish great grandmother that married into the family up there in the Appalachian hills. I'm still firmly a member of the diaspora though, so I would never look down on anyone from any other background who took up the music. The music is too compelling to leave to the natives. :)

On the other hand, the 20 years or so I played Blues guitar as a middle-class suburban white boy, might be a little more problematical on the cultural appropriation front. That discussion is nothing new of course. It goes back to the British Invasion of the 60's, "rescuing" the old black Blues guys so they could have a career. It's as fraught a topic as the Native American music scene, especially due to the amount of money involved in the Blues/Rock heyday of the 60's and 70's.

To bring it back to materials, I do enjoy a link to the past with "Irish flutes," so I would always want to play a wooden one. Even if it takes a little more care than synthetic or ebonite. I'll take every modern innovation in intonation or tuning slide design, maybe even resin stabilized wood. But I enjoy playing something that hasn't fundamentally changed in 150 years or so. It's sort of the vibe that I imagine fiddlers get with an instrument with that kind of history, and why the design is so resistant to change. It just works, and then you can concentrate on the music.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 01, 2019 7:20 pm 
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jimhanks wrote:
To Geoffrey, I do find it sad that these issues led to you having to stop making those instruments. As I understand, the Ellis NAFs were very well received, and I would have liked to have played them, I'm sure.

Were similar issues behind the dropping of wooden whistles from your catalog? I was fortunate to have acquired a used low F whistle in buying a (I think) from C&F somewhat recently and it is very nice. I wouldn't hesitate to acquire others if they were available.


My decision to leave those particular flutes (NA flutes) behind was only partly based upon the politics, but I won't deny that was prominent factor. I still make a type of rim blown flute that is roughly based upon artifacts that were found in the Four Corners area of the Southwest, so I still do some work based upon "native" instruments. But in truth, they are so different than the artifacts that they are not even recognizable as such. They have the same scale as a couple of the artifacts, but that is where the similarity ends and for whatever reason they are not nearly as controversial.

It is the "plains" flutes (aka "Love Flute", "Courting Flute", etc.) that seem to be the focus of controversy, and I had built my reputation making those flutes. By the time I quit making them, I had become a bit weary of them in many ways. That's not a shortcoming of the flute--they simply didn't mesh with my personal growth as a maker. I had pretty much hit the quality ceiling with them--I couldn't make them any better or more consistently than I had been doing for years and I was feeling some ennui. Added to that was the realization that the overwhelming majority of players who took an interest in these flutes were not really musicians. In fact, the flute tended to attract people who actively denied being "musical" in the formal sense, but they wanted a simple, accessible instrument that could play mellow, sweet sounding phrases. The NA flute excels at that.

But the other problem for me was that most of these players could not tell the difference between a finely made NA flute that was a good musical instrument and a hyped-up, over-decorated "wall hanger" that barely played, but was hung about with lots of cool, native-looking bling. I aspired to make instruments, not something you'd find on the wall of a new-age bookstore :-) So I was routinely frustrated by that. I'd craft a really good musical instrument and someone would say, "I love your flutes! They are my favorite! Yours and ___________'s flutes!" And they would name some other maker who turned out total schlock. Sort of takes the shine off the apple a bit when your customers can't tell the difference between your work and a table leg with holes in it :-) Needless to say this did not apply to everyone--there were plenty of great musicians into these flutes, but it happened frequently enough to irritate.

So there was this aspect as well as the culture issue that made me uncomfortable about my role in manufacturing those flutes. And to top it off, the NA flute market was saturated with those amateur makers and it was collapsing on itself. This all coincided with my own change of direction, which was toward world flutes of all kinds. One of the reasons I wanted to make conical bore flutes and headjoints for Boehm flutes was because in both cases the bar was raised very high. The players into Irish trad and similar styles of music would not be satisfied with a sub-standard flute (think of those "Irish" flutes from Pakistan on ebay). They would know the difference between a real flute and a wall-hanger. That appealed to me, so I walked away from the NA flute and never looked back. I'll take working with fussy, perfectionist players any day :-) Much more challenging.

My wooden whistles were dropped simply because they were not marketable. They took a lot of work and the price I asked was too rich for the whistle market. And they are not as loud as metal whistles. I put some on tour through C&F many years ago and got really nice feedback. Players liked them very well, but they could get good quality metal whistles for a much lower price that would play louder. So since I was already over-extended, I let them go.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 01, 2019 7:59 pm 
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Steve Bliven wrote:
PB+J wrote:
In general though the idea that you can't do X unless you are X is pretty dumb.

You might get some blow-back on a value-laden statement like that—even if it's "in general."

Just to continue with the NAf example, Native American flute songs can fall in several categories including sacred songs, personal songs (used to express a single individual's persona or used in courting in some groups), or social songs. While the latter may be fine for a non-Native to play, the first two categories might well be considered off limits for either non-Natives, non-tribal members or any other person depending on the song-type. The Native American issue is pretty tricky, both for the history of the indigenous peoples and for the cultural misunderstandings of what is and isn't appropriate/courteous for others to attempt to become involved with.

Not sure how this sort of thing applies between something like a native Irishman, an Irish-American, and a "got no Irish in me" American or other nationality.

Just sayin'

Steve


I’m fine with blowback. Discussion is good. Insisting you can’t play x unless you ARE X is an extremely dubious policy. What is your boundary test? Who are your authenticity police? It’s pretty manifestly an agenda that’s going to end up shrinking the number of participants and killing the art form.

I don’t want to be cast as some sort of imperialist here, I argued above for the centrality of knowing the tradition you’re participating in.

Most of the claims for the pure authenticity of, say the blues to take one example end up not holding any water. The famous account of the blues WC Handy gives is really fascinating and makes you ask yourself why one of the first commercially recorded blues songs was inspired by a guy playing guitar in the manner of Hawaiians and why it began with a tango beat. St. Louis blues starts with a tango. African Americans very likely got slide guitar from Hawaiians. Handy himself played for over a decade in a blackface minstrel troupe. The origins of the blues are messy, muddled, and contaminated by commerce, not pure and isolated.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 02, 2019 2:41 am 
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Not sure how this sort of thing applies between something like a native Irishman, an Irish-American, and a "got no Irish in me" American or other nationality.


Some time during the mid eighties I was playing music inside Hillery's in Miltown Malbay with some fine Swedish fiddlers. A good chunk of piping establishment was at the bar, drinking and discussing the issues of the day but all the time keeping an ear out for the music: Pat Mitchell, Breandán Breathnach, Muiris O Rochain and their group. Anyhow, after some time some Dublin student types, non players, started questioning why some of our group didn't 'go home to play your own music'. Right there and then Breandán Breathnach stepped in and told them in no uncertain terms that if there was anyone to go, it wasn't the musicians ; this was fine music and it belonged to the musicians, each and every one, wherever they were from, not to narrowminded nationalists. That took care of it very nicely. :D

Nationalists and bloody racists, feck the lot of them.

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