Essay on the Native American Flute

Published: 2021/11/23
Number of words: 1352

Arts play a significant role in the transformation of the society, socially, technically, economically, and politically. Spanning, from visual arts, through literature, and musical compositions to dramatic performance, the contribution of arts in the transformation of the entire society is substantial (Nakai, DeMars and McAllester, 6). A great level of innovation has been key to the evolution and adoption of arts in the society for centuries, beginning from the use of primitive, large, and less durable instruments to technically advanced instruments with the advantages of usability, reduced size, tenability, and durability. This paper seeks to explain the origin of the Native American Flute and its uses and impact on the sociocultural organization of the Native American communities.

Myths and social beliefs were valued heritages in most of the societies of the ancient times. Different communities had different beliefs and religious affiliations. Therefore, this variation influenced their social ways of life and the description of the meaning of leisure (Murphree, 124). The making and usage of entertainment instruments greatly depended upon the culture and beliefs of the particulate community. For instance, the discrepancies in the cultural beliefs and practices of the Native American tribes greatly influenced the evolution of the Native American Flute.

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In the ancient time, the motivation of the human beings to develop musical sounds and instruments depended on the variations in their climatic, geographical and ecological surrounding. In most cases, human beings imitated the sounds made by animals, birds or even vegetation. Most communities, generally agricultural at this time, practiced the production of the sounds similar to those produced by the agricultural tools used (Lippert and Spignesi, 358). Consequently, with the gradual pace of modernization, some societies sought to refine the crude instruments to improve the quality of the sound produced and to significantly enhance their handling and longevity. It is important to note that the measure of performance of the instruments produced during these periods depended on a society’s belief in innovation and level of creativity.

Though significant archeological and anthropological evidence indicate the history of the evolution of the Native American Flute, the several coined theories attempt to illuminate further the development of the flute and its relation to the myths, legends and beliefs of the Native American societies. This is because the native tribes of North America did not have a formal language during the development and use of the Native American Flute. The oral traditions used to pass the information regarding the development of the Native American Flute are subject to alterations and attenuation therefore influencing their reliability. However, the development and refining of such instruments aimed at the satisfaction of the ever-changing culture of the societies and the varying desires of the people (Crawford and Grendahl, 99).

In many societies, courtships and marriages were valued and well defined in the moral codes of conduct. The approach towards handling issues of courtship varied from a native society to another. However, courtship was an official occasion that took place with the witness of the entire village. According to some communities, the primacy of using the flute as a courtship aide was greatly preserved (Mayhew, 18). Young men could make their own love flutes and compose their own unique love songs that they played together with the flute as a musical seduction to their women in order to capture the bride’s attention.

Moreover, this show of artistic skills and prowess enhanced the appeal made by the suitor on the woman’s decision. To improve their chances of victory, the making of flutes called for more artistry and improvements in the tuning and enhancement of the flute. With this, the variations in the design and performance of the Native American Flute broadened. Modern tools progressively developed due to the increase in the number of flutes produced. Moreover, according to some cultures, like the Ute (Mayhew, 71), the sound of the flute was important in the identification of every community from the rest. Every community had a particular sound pattern used to identify every member. To produce these variations in the quality and pitch of the sound produced, the flutes were to be different in the design and level of artistry used in the maintenance and performance (Nakai, DeMars and McAllester, 6).This further contributed to the development of the flute and the enhancement of their performances. Further, certain tribes used feathers to beautify the outer surface of their flutes. The addition of ornamental painting completed the complexion of the flute. Since identification was an important cultural practice amongst ancient communities, it developed a strong sense of belonging. Apart from dressing, myths and beliefs, the Native communities used the flute as a mode of identification.

The flutes were widely used during cultural ceremonies such as dances and entertainment. Every flute was designed with the ability to produce a special sound effect to add to the rhythm of the songs or dance. These social functions strengthened the bond amongst members of the same community. Moreover, music cheered travellers, relieving them of the This study source was downloaded by 100000826864749 from on 07-09-2021 08:49:36 GMT -05:00 This study resource was shared via CourseHero.comInsert surname4 boredom due to long journeys. In addition, another common use of flutes was during religious and spiritual ceremonies, and during sessions of meditation. Finally, flutes were widely used during burial ceremonies (Mitchell and Brunson-Hadley, 157) to produce special sounds to communicate with the spirit of the dead: provoke or appease the living dead.

According to Crawford and Grendahl (101), most cultures designed and produced musical instruments in favor of their own cultural affiliations and musical tastes. With the increasing quest for civilization, several movements emerged in the United States with an aim of unifying the diverse native ethnic melodies. With the introduction of modern schools, Native American children were enrolled in Indian Schools from where they were inhibited from speaking their native language or practice their native dressing code. During this time, the decline in the cultural practices almost wiped out the tradition of making and playing the flute. However, some native artists, such as Naka Carlos, and village elders significantly contributed to the restoration of the making and use of the flute. They restored the popularity of the flute amongst the indigenous and exotic tribes of the United States. Carlos’ primary desire was to articulate a strong emphasis on the value of the Native American culture (Murphree, 58).

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The flutes made during this time used the measurement of the human body parts such as the arms. After the 1970s, artisans adopted a large-scale manufacturing of flutes for other members of the society, contrary to the predominant practice of using an individual’s own measurement. These flutes were much simpler to play since they neither required enhanced expertise to operate nor any special location of the lips on the flutes. Moreover, they were made from common materials such as bones, wood and reeds, which were readily accessible (Crawford and Grendahl, 54).

In conclusion, art has played a significant role in the transformation of all aspects of the society – education, transport, entertainment, or governance. Most of the cultural and social practices of the Native American tribes had significant influences on the evolution, design, and use of the Native American Flute. Religion gatherings, entertainment, identification and social ceremonies in the Native American communities involved the use of the flute. Therefore, the Native American flute is one of the heritages of the ancient Native American communities.


Crawford, Tim and Kathleen Grendahl. Flute Magic – an Introduction to the Native American Flute. Mel Bay Publications, 2010.

Lippert, Dorothy and Stephen J. Spignesi. Native American History for Dummies. John Wiley & Sons, 2011.

Mayhew, Jim. Songs of the Nations: American Indian Music Adapted for the Native American Flute. Mel Bay Publications, 2012.

Mitchell, Douglas R. and Judy L. Brunson-Hadley. Ancient Burial Practices in the American Southwest: Archeology, Physical Anthropology, and Native American perspectives. illustrated, reprint. UNM Press, 2004.

Murphree, Daniel. Native America 3 Volume Set: A State-By-State Historical Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO, 2012.

Nakai, R. Carlos, James DeMars and David Park McAllester. The art of the Native American flute. Canyon Records Productions, 1996.

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