The earliest archaeological evidence found so far that involves a flute in the Americas dates it back to more than two thousand years ago. The mellow and mystical music from this enchanting instrument has been filling the air ever since.
It’s likely no one will ever know how this instrument ever came to be invented but the music it makes is enjoying resurgence in popularity with the New Age movement in America. One charming story suggests that woodpeckers inspired the making of the instrument.
The story goes that we have Native American flute music to enjoy today because someone long, long ago was intrigued by the sound the wind made as it passed through the hollow branches of trees where woodpeckers had been pecking holes in their search for food. Many flutes are adorned with carvings of birds, including the woodpecker, perhaps in honor of the muse that brought us the music.
Native American flute music has a soothing and timeless sound that is unique from all other instruments. They are traditionally made from wood but some of the flutes made today are made from plastic. The different kinds of wood affect the sound.
Soft woods such as juniper, redwood, and cedar are used to give Native American flute music a softer sound. The aromatic qualities of these woods are an added attraction. For a more clear and crisp sound, harder woods such as walnut and cherry are used.
River cane and bamboo are traditionally used, too, in addition to the local woods but as travel between the continents has developed, woods from trees of the rainforests of South and Central America are used, too.
Perhaps one reason Native American flute music is so unique and distinctive is that it’s the only flute in the world that is constructed with two air chambers. The air hole, or window, varies in placement between flutes made by woodlands musicians and those made by plains Indians. The placement of the air hole alters the sound, giving each type of flute a different sound.