Monthly Archives: June 2010

Eastern Sounds

This is a picture of my Chinese Ocarina, also called a xun – or less simply, a Chinese Globular Flute. I first heard the amazing sounds of this instrument on a Yusef Lateef record called Eastern Sounds. I bought the record because I was talking with a guy at a record store about impulsively buying ethnic instruments and never learning to play them. He said one instrument he always wanted was a Chinese Globular Flute that he had heard on the aforementioned Yusef Lateef album. I impulse bought the album, and the next day I was at Musideum impulse buying the flute.

I know. I have a problem.

The flute languished in a corner with the many other ethnic flutes I have impulse bought over the years. But I kept thinking about it. And I kept thinking about hockets.

This weekend, amidst the terror and trouble of the G20 summit in Toronto, Herbie Hancock played a concert at Nathan Philip’s square. Herbie has done everything – he has played out, he has played in, he charted the first turntable sounds on his hit record Rockit – but Herbie also used a hocket in the introduction to his song Watermelon Man. It’s a sound one doesn’t forget, and today I finally made a piece of music using both my Chinese Globular Flute and a hocket:

It isn’t as funky as Herbie’s, but no one is perfect. I wouldn’t feel comfortable playing something funky under it, feeling like I was appropriating music that didn’t belong to me. Yet I have no problem poaching from Chinese, Balinese and pygmy music. Influence is funny that way.

Ethnic music – not including C&W and African-American Vernacular music – has always been an idyll for me. A strange, embarrassing respite best represented by the homoerotic paradise seen below:

I wish I could be there right now.

shut up and play yer guitar

My friend Tom sent me some very beautiful music he made. Tom is good at keeping things simple, being direct with his melodies and not overwhelming his music with unnecessary sounds. I felt envy when I heard it.

Here is something simple I made with that envy:

For Four Guitars

Why wind?

The wind band I have been talking about is changing. Here it is in a new form:

4 recorders

2 flutes

2 euphonium

with guitar, bass, mandolin and accordion.

Whisper the Wind