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PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2019 6:59 pm 
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Just bragging on my new Geoffrey Ellis flute in another thread, but I thought this might deserve a topic of its own. Maybe Geoffrey himself will chime in on it. I love this instrument, but I was a bit surprised to find it has a thumb hole. I certainly don't mind, but it was unexpected. I understood these were modeled after the flutes found in Arizona in 1931. I know Geoffrey and some other makers modify the mouthpiece with a notch, similar to that on a shakuhachi or quena, but I hadn't heard of the addition of a thumb hole. I'm certain there wasn't one on the flutes from the cave, because I scrutinized the descriptions on Flutopedia.

Anybody have any further information?

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Last edited by michaelpthompson on Fri Jan 04, 2019 8:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2019 8:10 pm 
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Hi michaelpthompson,

A flute making question! Now you have introduced Anasazi flutes to me, I have been reading about them. How on earth did they bore the long body in that time? I am astounded at the sophistication of these early instruments. Incredible skill in making.

You mentioned you had your reasons for calling them Anasazi. Don't many groups find that offensive or incorrect? [This sounds like a long thread...]


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2019 8:46 pm 
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Andro wrote:
A flute making question! Now you have introduced Anasazi flutes to me, I have been reading about them. How on earth did they bore the long body in that time? I am astounded at the sophistication of these early instruments. Incredible skill in making.


I'm not sure anybody knows for sure. We can extrapolate from more recent Native American flutes, but there are so few of the ancient Anasazi flutes in existence, and they're too fragile to study carefully, that it's difficult to tell. One possibility, explored on Flutopedia, is that the maker would cut a branch and allow either rot or insects to consume the heartwood, leaving the sapwood amenable to scraping smooth. Hard to say though, really. The extant examples are made of Box Elder wood, a species of soft maple (Acer negundo), which does not have a pithy core like some other native woods of the area, but was common around the Four Corners when these flutes were made.

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You mentioned you had your reasons for calling them Anasazi. Don't many groups find that offensive or incorrect? [This sounds like a long thread...]


Some people do, that's true, but a long thread, as you say. Perhaps I'll start a separate one for that.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2019 9:24 pm 
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My understanding from discussions with Scott August about this is that the thumb hole is another collaborative idea between him and Geoffrey. (or it could be Scott twisting Geoffrey's arm to make the Basketmaker with the thumb hole) I think that the most recent batch of his flutes are the first to feature the thumb hole. The ones that I've played in the past were all only 6 hole flutes.

One area that some players of the rim blown flutes have difficulty with is to play the 2nd octave of the root note, especially to play it cleanly regarding transitions. My understanding is that the thumbhole on the Basketmaker is designed to allow easy playing of the first octave of the root note cleanly. It has to do with physics and sound waves. The intent is that the thumbhole is opened when the octave of the root is played.

My two cents. Adding the 7th hole is pretty much of a natural extension of various modifications that have been made to the design of the artifacts. In addition to the change of the blowing end to have a style like a shakuhachi, there have been modifications to tunings, extra holes added, bore sizes changed, etc. I think that the Rainmakers made by Butch Hall are probably closest to the some of the actual artifacts.

I hope that this helps. (And maybe Geoffrey can jump in with more info.)

Chris


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2019 9:43 pm 
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That makes sense, Chris. I should note that the barrel of the flute is stamped Ellis/August, so I presume Scott also had some input to the design.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 05, 2019 2:10 am 
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Hi michaelpthompson,

Now you have me interested very much in getting or making an Anasazi flute. Are the ends on the originals just a circular rim, with no notch? Rounded or flat? Are there any photos of the ends of the ones in the museum? if I make one, or purchase, I'd like it as close to the original as possible.

What sort of music do you make on this wonderful flute?

I have to say, that everything I have read about boring the tube doesn't sound quite right to me. Seems a mystery like the building of the Pyramids. :)


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 05, 2019 12:48 pm 
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Andro,
I'd suggest looking through some of the historical sections on Flutopedia. I believe that they still have photos and descriptions of the artifacts.
If wanting to purchase one close in design to the originals, Marlon Magdalena and Butch Hall are the makers that I know of who make them. All other makers that I know of use a notch to varying degrees for the blowing edge.
If you want to make one yourself, I strongly suggest starting with 3/4" pvc for practice. Use the pvc for learning about making the edge, and for tuning. Its cheap and can make a pretty decent sounding flute. After that you may want to venture into making one (or some) out of wood or bamboo. I've made quite a few out of pvc, bamboo, and various woods. It is not hugely difficult if you have the right tools. If interested in making one, it may be best to start a new thread so as not to hijack this one.
Chris


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 05, 2019 2:10 pm 
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What's this about no pith? I went out to a sample of acer negundo (Manitoba maple, in these parts) in the back yard and broke off a few dead shoots. All had pith cores. I have in hand a cross section of one, 1.6 cm in diameter without the bark, that has a 4 mm hole in the centre after removing the soft pith. It is certainly conceivable that a warmer climate and a coppicing technique would produce long, straight, young shoots thick enough for the flutes found, with a thick enough pith core to work with.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 05, 2019 3:45 pm 
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Tunborough wrote:
What's this about no pith?


That's what I got from the article on Flutopedia. He states that acer negunda has no pith, but is often confused with elderberry, which does. He does use the term Manitoba Maple in connection with acer negunda, so if your identification is correct, it certainly calls this information into question.

Andro wrote:
Now you have me interested very much in getting or making an Anasazi flute. Are the ends on the originals just a circular rim, with no notch? Rounded or flat? Are there any photos of the ends of the ones in the museum?

There are photos of the flutes, but they don't focus on the ends specifically. It appears the ends have a rim all the way around, with no notch. That's a more modern innovation that makes the flute easier to play. The fellow from Raven Wing Flutes (couldn't locate his name) demonstrates a method of playing on the side of the mouth, which he says is the way the original notchless flutes were played.

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What sort of music do you make on this wonderful flute?

I wouldn't say that what I do is music quite yet, but I'm working on it.
Quote:
I have to say, that everything I have read about boring the tube doesn't sound quite right to me. Seems a mystery like the building of the Pyramids. :)

You're probably quite right. Clint, on Flutopedia, also describes it as a mystery.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 05, 2019 3:50 pm 
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Hi4head wrote:
If you want to make one yourself, I strongly suggest starting with 3/4" pvc for practice. Use the pvc for learning about making the edge, and for tuning. Its cheap and can make a pretty decent sounding flute.

That's good advice Chris. I made my first one out of PVC and I was quite proud of the fact that I could get three octaves by overblowing. I did use the notch, which seems to help for placing the mouth. Never did get it to play in tune very well though, which is why I purchased the Geoffrey Ellis. With this experience, perhaps I can make a better one myself. Just need to find a source for the boxelder wood, once I've got the skills on PVC.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 05, 2019 4:32 pm 
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michaelpthompson wrote:
He states that acer negunda has no pith, but is often confused with elderberry, which does.

They are probably confused only in name if you go by the term Box Elder (which is the standard term in my neck of the woods; I have one or two in my back yard and they're as common as dirt around here, being native to the region; Elder, which gives you the berries, is less common). The leaves and habit of Elder and Box Elder are quite different and easily told apart, and don't let anyone tell you differently; if they try, trust me: they don't know, and are talking bollocks. If you need more convincing than just my word, all you have to do these days is check Google Images, and all shall be revealed. Box Elder is a tree, whereas Elder is more of a big shrub. Elder's pith is really only notable in its smaller stems, but this is true of a lot of so-called pithy woods, just as Tunborough has informed us with his sample. I don't think Elder would be suitable for flutes unless you trained it to within an inch of its life, because its branches naturally tend to grow in a curved fashion. Tunborough has suggested coppicing Box Elder. I just did a quick search, and it is indeed a tree that can be coppiced, so Bob's yer uncle, because coppicing tends to produce straight shoots. The downside is you have to wait however many years it takes for them to grow to the right size if you want to make the flutes you're talking about. It's possible you could find a supply source instead.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 05, 2019 7:05 pm 
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Nanohedron wrote:
[Box Elder] is indeed a tree that can be coppiced, so Bob's yer uncle, because coppicing tends to produce straight shoots.
The particular sample in the back yard was vigorously engaged in coppicing all on its own, sprouting shoots from every available adventitious bud, which was why I thought of the practice. The natural growth pattern of Manitoba maple, as far as I've observed, is much less likely to produce long, straight sections.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 05, 2019 7:18 pm 
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Tunborough wrote:
The natural growth pattern of Manitoba maple, as far as I've observed, is much less likely to produce long, straight sections.

Cut it down, then, and find out! Maybe coppicing makes all the difference. :wink:

Just kidding. On a side note, there's lore (probably faulty) that says that the Dakota called it "good-for-nothing tree". Apparently they never made flutes out of it...

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 05, 2019 7:28 pm 
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Here's some cut Acer negundo:

Image

Don't know if it was coppiced, or just cut off a tree. Looks coppiced, though. There's fluteworthy stuff there, all right.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 05, 2019 7:59 pm 
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Regarding the end blown nature of the Anaszai flutes, and my query about the exact design, which seems to be notchless on the artefacts, Mr michealpthompson and others relate the high degree of difficulty learning to play this type of tube initially. So I came across this writing about the discovery from Earl Morris the archaeologist, reprinted on flutopedia:

Quote:
The body was that of an old man, surely once a priest or chief. Beside the usual offerings of beads, baskets, and sandals, there lay above his buckskin wrapping a flute, one end beneath the chin, the other between the thighs. …

Along the left side was a mass of wooden objects, all readily perishable, hence extremely rare in perfect condition. Conspicuous among them were bone-tipped flint flakers with whch knives and projectile points were made, several spears, four handsomely wrought spear throwers, and three more flutes.

I picked up one of the flutes, shook the dust and mouse dung out of it, and placed it to my lips. The rich, quavering tones which rewarded even my unskilled touch seemed to electrify the atmosphere. In the distance Navajo workmen paused with shovels poised, seeking the source of the sound. A horse raised its head and neighed from an adjacent hillside and two crows flapped out from a crevice overhead.

Our little group was motionless for a dozen heartbeats, which seemed as many minutes. In the weird silence it was as if time had been halted in its flight — nay turned back — for in swift array there crowded through my consciousness the scenes of grief and mourning, of savage pomp and ceremonial, amid which the tones of that instrument had last echoed from the selfsame cliff that now glistened under the rays of the setting sun, which for a brief moment had broken through the dark clouds masking the November sky.

I have to say that it seems highly improbable that an archaeologist could just pick up one of these and start playing, and produce the tone described. Isn't this just completely fictitious romantic writing, perhaps typical of the period? Sometimes this sort of stuff was published in newspapers. Was Morris known as an expert in native American flutes and playing?

Well, I suppose these wonderful instruments are about dreaming, and the spirit, and are more than simply tone generators. But the report strikes me as imaginary, although wonderfully evocative.


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