World Flutelore

World Flutelore: Folktales, Myths, and Other Stories of Magical Flute Power

DALE A. OLSEN
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 224
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5406/j.ctt3fh5j2
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  • Book Info
    World Flutelore
    Book Description:

    In many places around the world, flutes and the sounds of flutes are powerful magical forces for seduction and love, protection, vegetal and human fertility, birth and death, and other aspects of human and non-human behavior. This book explores the cultural significance of flutes, flute playing, and flute players from around the world as interpreted from folktales, myths, and other stories--in a word, flutelore. A scholarly yet readable study, World Flutelore: Folktales, Myths, and Other Stories of Magical Flute Power draws upon a range of sources in folklore, anthropology, ethnomusicology, and literary analysis. Describing and interpreting many examples of flutes as they are found in mythology, poetry, lyrics, and other narrative and literary sources from around the world, veteran ethnomusicologist Dale Olsen seeks to determine what is singularly distinct or unique about flutes, flute playing, and flute players in a global context. He shows how and why world flutes are important for personal, communal, religious, spiritual, and secular expression and even, perhaps, existence. This is a book for students, scholars, and any reader interested in the cultural power of flutes.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09514-6
    Subjects: Anthropology, Music, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. PRELUDE
    (pp. xiii-xxii)

    This book is about the cultural significance of flutes, flute playing, and flute players from around the world as I interpret it from folktales, myths, poems, song texts, ethnographies, and other stories—what I call “flutelore.”¹ I draw upon primary and secondary sources in folklore/mythology, anthropology/ethnology, ethnomusicology/historical musicology, and literature to attempt to answer the following question: What are the distinct or unique characteristics about flutes, flute playing, and flute players in a world context? My intent is to show how and why flutes around the world are important for human/non human personal, communal, religious, spiritual, and secular communication, expression,...

  5. STORY 1 Raman’s New Flute Vellore, India
    (pp. 1-3)
    ASHA NEHEMIAH

    Raman the flute-player lived in a village [in India]. He was the best flute player in the whole village, and he played the most wonderful tunes on his flute. The tunes Raman played were so wonderful that the crows would stop cawing and the village dogs would stop barking just so that they could listen to his music. Whenever Raman played a happy tune on his flute, babies would stop crying, and even the saddest person in the village would start smiling.

    That’s why whenever there was a wedding or a birthday or a festival, Raman would be asked to...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Flute Types and Stereotypes
    (pp. 4-12)

    It is not known if Raman’s flutes were horizontally, diagonally, or vertically held when played, cross-blown or end-blown, ducted or ductless. Because there is an innumerable amount of flute types in the world, as explained in the prelude to this book, there is also an inestimable amount of oral and written literature that mentions flutes. Often, however, specific flute types are not distinguished in folklore, and sometimes flutes are just called “pipes” (see chapter 11), oboes are called “flutes,” trumpets are called “flutes,” flutes are called “trumpets,” and so on.¹ For those reasons of ambiguity, it is important to discuss...

  7. STORY 2 The Turtle, the Monkey, and the Jaguar Apinayé (Gê) culture, Brazil
    (pp. 13-14)

    A monkey was up in a tree eating inaja fruit when a turtle came by and asked him for a piece of the fruit. The monkey told him to climb up. The turtle answered that his legs were too short to climb trees. The monkey then went down, brought the turtle up, and put him on top of a bunch of inajas. Then, from sheer meanness, the monkey left him there and went away.

    At that moment, a jaguar passing by the inaja tree saw the turtle and asked him to come down. The turtle realized that the jaguar wanted...

  8. CHAPTER 2 The Making of World Flutes
    (pp. 15-29)

    All cultures have their specific ways of constructing their flutes, which fit within their particular and usually unwritten music theories, aesthetics, and practices. Folktales and mythology, like music iconography, however, offer very little reliable descriptive information about flute construction techniques or even flutes as material objects; artistic license, such as exaggeration, understatement, ambiguity, hyperbole, deception, exists in both the narrative and visual arts. To understandwhycultures construct their flutes in the ways they do, however, the narrative arts with their use of metaphor, symbolism, double entendre, and other ways of saying (and writing or singing) things often provide indigenous...

  9. STORY 3 Manwoldae Is Autumn Grass Korean Poem from the Late Fourteenth Century
    (pp. 30-30)
    WON CHUN SUK

    [*Manwoldae is the Full-Moon Hill, where the Wangs’ palace stood. The poet sang this song after the fall of the Wang dynasty and the removal of the royal palace from Songdo (Kaesong) to Hanyang (Seoul). Ha,Poetry and Music of the Classic Age,5. Won Chun Suk is a scholar/poet from the final days of the Koryo Period.]

    A monarch’s rise and fall is like the moon’s phases,

    O, Manwoldae, now crumbled on the grass!*

    The sad strain of the cowherd’s flute

    tells the secret story of five hundred years—

    Tears overflow this passing poet’s eyes

    for the Full-Moon...

  10. CHAPTER 3 Flutes That Talk
    (pp. 31-37)

    Many flutists in European-derived cultures often refer to their instrument’s sound as its “voice,” which is usually a reference to its tone color. In the jazz world, most notably with flutist (and saxophonist) Rahsaan Roland Kirk, humming into the flute while blowing it during improvisations creates very raspy tone colors. Flutist D. J. Sterling refers to his own playing/humming style as “the talking flute,” and others have imitated him.¹ This chapter does not, however, refer tothatparticular technique of talking flute—humming into the flute while playing it, although an African counterpart to the technique, which perhaps inspired Kirk,...

  11. STORY 4 Culture Heroes Discover the First Flutes Wogeo culture, New Guinea
    (pp. 38-39)

    A culture heroine of Maluk village became ill during pregnancy and died. Her parents buried the body under the house, as was the custom. The embryo in her womb did not perish, however, and when born it kept itself alive underground by sucking the sticky white sap from the roots of a breadfruit tree standing close by. The child grew and grew, and one day the old couple heard it crying. They at once exhumed it and recognized the little boy it had now become as a grandson, whom they decided to call Nat Karamwang (literally “man locust”).

    Sometime later,...

  12. CHAPTER 4 Flutes and Gender Roles
    (pp. 40-45)

    The title of this chapter is, perhaps, misleading because gender is not only a factor that determines flute players in many cultures but is also a factor pertaining to the flutes themselves. For example, while some cultures select which gender—male, female, or neuter—plays flutes, some also attach a gender to the musical instruments. This chapter begins with flute playing and gender specificity and concludes with flutes and gender specificity.

    In most world cultures during modern times, traditional flute playing is limited to men rather than women; North American concert music traditions are an exception, however. This has not...

  13. STORY 5 The Story of the Flutemaker Lakota culture, United States of America
    (pp. 46-49)
    JOSEPH M. MARSHALL

    Beneath the low branches of an old cedar he awoke to a cool breeze caressing his face. For a moment Cloud wondered where he was, and why. Then he remembered what had brought him to this grassy bed beneath the cedar, and the pain of remembering took his breath away.

    “My father has accepted the gifts brought by Hollow Horn,” Dawn Woman had told Cloud after he had waited for an entire evening by the trail to the river. “Hollow Horn is a fine man and a good provider. He will take good care of me.”

    “But you are always...

  14. CHAPTER 5 Flutes, Sexuality, and Love Magic
    (pp. 50-68)

    “The Story of the Flutemaker” (story 5), told by a Lakota storyteller, is a touching story of love lost, anguish, despair, love found, and the magical power of the Native American courting flute (Olsen category 3; figures 13 and 14) to provide comfort for the flutist named Cloud and, unbeknownst to him until it happens, the ability to enamor his beloved Dawn Woman and attract all the other women in the vicinity as well. This Lakota myth of loneliness, longing, courtship, and joy stresses the flute’s importance in the journey and transformation of the flute culture hero Cloud. Three epic...

  15. STORY 6 Aniz the Shepherd Uyghur culture, China
    (pp. 69-71)

    Once upon a time a landlord hired a shepherd boy whose name was Aniz. He was very well liked. What people liked most of all was to listen to him playing the flute. His flute looked very simple, no more than a length of bamboo, but in his hands it became a wonderful instrument. Whenever they were free, people would sit around Aniz and entertain themselves by listening to him play. The landlord was heartily sick of both the boy and his flute. He was constantly finding fault with him and scolding him, “You little wretch! Do I pay you...

  16. CHAPTER 6 Flutes and the Animal Kingdom
    (pp. 72-89)

    Animals are recurring motifs in many flute-related stories because flutes are often made from animal bones, flutists are often hunters of animals, animals are often protectors and helpers of flute-playing humans, they are often messengers of the gods, and so on. In this chapter, in addition to stories about relationships between human flutists and animals, many of the flutetales are also about flute-playing animals, which are often anthropomorphized: They talk, live in villages, have wives and children, and sometimes play musical instruments. Some of these types of folktales and myths are examples to which the concept or theory of “indigenous...

  17. STORY 7 The Origin of Maize Yupa culture, Venezuela
    (pp. 90-92)

    In early times the Yupa possessed no maize [a type of corn]. They atemakáhka(a tuber which grows in the mountains. It looks somewhat like wildokumoand is also just about as sharp.)

    One day Oséema, in the form of a small boy, appeared in the village of the Yupa and asked for shelter. The woman of one of the households bade him enter: They invited him to live there and setmakáhkabefore him. The boy, however, did not care for this particular food. Therefore, he was constantly scolded when he refused the share apportioned to him....

  18. CHAPTER 7 Flutes and Nature
    (pp. 93-99)

    In story 7, “The Origin of Maize,” a food origin–culture hero myth of the Yupa Indians of western Venezuela,¹ a pair of duct flutes (Olsen category 3) calledatunsehave magical power for growing and harvesting maize (corn). These flutes are types of fertility symbols, not because of their shapes but because they represent male and female—that is, one is male and the other female. That symbolism is applied to the growing and harvesting of agricultural products, as seen in the story. Indeed, all life (of animals, humans, and plants, its creation and continuation) is assured by fertility,...

  19. STORY 8 The Fluteplayer China
    (pp. 100-104)

    It once happened, in days long since past, that a young daughter was born to a Prince of Tsin. And when she was born a rock was brought to the prince that, when it was split open, disclosed a lump of green jadestone. When the little daughter’s first birthday came around, a table laden with a great variety of gifts, including the precious jade-stone, had been prepared for the child; but the stone was the only thing that she would take from the table, and the only thing with which she would play. And since she would not allow it...

  20. CHAPTER 8 Flute Origin Myths and Flute-Playing Heroes
    (pp. 105-112)

    In story 8, “The Fluteplayer,” Schao Sche is a spirit being who took human form, as he said: “In the upper world I was a spirit. Then the Ruler of the Heavens sent me down. . . . The Ruler of the Heavens commanded me to rule in the Hua Hills as a mountain spirit.” Schao Sche was also predestined to marry the beautiful mortal Toys-with-Jewels, who through her love became immortal like her husband. Their love and marriage were “brought . . . together by means of the tones of the flute”—both characters in this lengthy story play...

  21. STORY 9 Yoshitsune’s Voyage among the Islands Japan
    (pp. 113-116)

    And so [Yoshitsune] rowed off in his ship, and after many days of travel, on the seventy-second day he reached another island. Approaching the shore, he saw a crowd of women coming up, led by some of about forty years of age, though there were others of seventeen or eighteen. They swarmed around him, calling out delightedly, “Oh, what luck! A protector for our island has arrived,” and they made as if to attack him. “Good people of the island,” he cried, “please listen to what I have to say,” but they paid no heed to his words, jabbering to...

  22. CHAPTER 9 Flutes and Protective Power
    (pp. 117-128)

    Just as many of the flutelore examples from around the world seem to pertain to the spirit world, even though I have discussed them within other categories, so, too, many of them are also about protective power. Both the above story 9 and the Japanese folktale given below, for example, are about flutes and protective power, as are some of the folktales about flutes and animals.

    Protection, as suggested by folklore/mythology, is often “magical” because it usually involves powers that are greater than normal powers—these could be called “supernatural” or “supranatural” powers. While man’s brain and/ or brawn, that...

  23. STORY 10 The Rat Catcher of Korneuburg Austria
    (pp. 129-131)

    Long ago in Europe, when many plagues were common and difficult to stop, unlike today, the town of Korneuburg, Austria, had such a terrible infestation of rats that the people were in despair. Rats were everywhere, in nooks and crannies, in open streets and fields, in apartments and houses; no place was safe from them. When a woman opened a cupboard or dresser drawer, rats jumped out; when a man went to bed, the straw in his mattress began to rustle from nesting rats; when a family sat down at a table to eat, rats jumped up for dinner without...

  24. CHAPTER 10 Flutes and Death
    (pp. 132-140)

    The malevolent power of the flute or its ability to transmit or cast spells leading to death is determined by the malevolence of the flutist, as in story 10, “The Rat Catcher of Korneuburg.” The musical instrument that provides the magical musical force leading the rats to their deaths is a little, black whistle (ein schwarzes Pfeiflein), which I gloss as a “black wooden transverse flute.” On the other hand, the children are led to their fate by music played on a golden whistle (pfeife, die golden funkelte), which I gloss as a “golden transverse flute.” The main actor in...

  25. STORY 11 The Pifuano Flute of the Chullachaqui Rainforest Spirits Iquitos, Peru
    (pp. 141-143)
    JUAN CARLOS GALEANO, DON GREGORIO CARPIO SÁNCHEZ and OTHERS

    A young man and his two brothers had been hunting for several days without finding any animals. Dejected and hungry, the two older brothers returned home, while the youngest brother stayed, looking for game to take to his family. The following day he saw several peccaries (sajinos), which he followed until they disappeared into the entrance of a cave. He went inside the cave and found himself in the middle of a grove of fruit trees which shaded the leaf-covered floor of the cave. Sitting beneath one of the star apple (caimito) trees was a man who resembled a dwarf....

  26. CHAPTER 11 Flutes and Unethical/Ethical Behavior
    (pp. 144-147)

    Many of the folktales presented in this book can be interpreted as pertaining to unethical or ethical human behavior, even when the main actors are animals. This is one of the main functions of folklore—to instruct humans in proper ethical behavior within its cultural boundaries. Many folktales could properly end, “The moral of this story is . . .” However, their charm is often the aspect of leaving the interpretation of a moral up to the listener or reader of the story.

    It is interesting that the main character in story 11 from Iquitos, Peru, is a Peruvian rainforest...

  27. STORY 12 Song of the Flute: The First Eighteen Verses of Rumi’s Masnevi Persia (Iran)
    (pp. 148-149)
  28. CHAPTER 12 Religious Status of Flutes
    (pp. 150-162)

    Throughout this book, flutes have often been shown to be implements of supernatural power. As such, many flutes could also be interpreted as being religious, because metaphysical power is commonly associated with “religious” power. They are certainly magical and, in some cases, shamanistic. In some cultures with ancient religious beliefs, such as Persia with Sufism, India with Hinduism, and Japan with Zen Buddhism, certain flutes have extraordinarily high religious status. This chapter studies the flutes in those belief systems, as their traditions have been expressed in oral and written literature.

    Mevlana Jalal al-Din Rumi was a Persian mystic and poet...

  29. STORY 13 How the Noble Fujiwara no Yasumasa Faced Down the Bandit Hakamadare Japan
    (pp. 163-165)

    Now a long time ago there was in the world a great bandit called Hakamadare. He was a man without match in the realm, bold of heart and great in strength, swift of foot, skilled of hand, and wise in judgment. His trade consisted of stealthily seeking his opportunity and robbing innumerable men of their possessions. It was about the tenth month, and he had need of a robe, so he went searching about in likely places with a view to laying his hands on some. It was midnight, and everyone was settled in sleep. The moon was drowned in...

  30. CHAPTER 13 Socioreligious Status of Flute Musicians
    (pp. 166-177)

    Because the flute is a ubiquitous musical instrument, much can be learned about the socioreligious status of flute musicians in many regions of the world. As a way to begin this chapter, it is useful to consider the status of certain musical instruments and musicians in European-derived cultures, about which European-derived individuals seem to claim certain knowledge, although much of it is stereotypical. Here, for example, are some common musical-instrument stereotypes in Western civilization:

    The violin is a celestial instrument—it is played by angels in heaven, according to religious art in Catholic churches and museums;

    The violin and the...

  31. STORY 14 Hard to Fill Ireland
    (pp. 178-178)

    I hesitate to say “myflute.” Some musicians are superstitious about their instruments, and prefer to think of themselves as custodians rather than owners: the instrument, after all, has usually been around a lot longer than they have, and will likely by around for a lot longer; it has been through several or many hands, and if it could speak, might cast aspersions on its present companion’s musical abilities. Use of the Irish language, with its hazy concept of ownership, might be pertinent here: “My flute” would bean fliúit s’agamsa, or “the flute which isatme.”. . ....

  32. CHAPTER 14 The Aesthetics and Power of Flute Sounds, Timbres, and Sonic Textures
    (pp. 179-190)

    In story 14, a type of folkloric anecdote, the author speaks about the tone colors or timbres of the Irish wooden transverse flute (Olsen category 4), beginning with how the player’s breath is resisted by the flute—the tin whistle (Olsen category 3), by contrast, does not resist the breath—but eventually the instrument vibrates and the player learns how to “fill” it (with air, emotion, power—the author does not say). He ends his story by telling how the flute’s sound carries and can be heard above all other instruments, even the “box” or accordion. Indeed, it is the...

  33. Conclusion
    (pp. 191-196)

    As diverse as the flutetales and ethnographies in this book are, and as numerous as they seem to be, “flute” is often not one of the motifs used by collectors of folktales. For example, “flute” appears only twelve times as a motif in the updated and revised edition of Stith Thompson’sMotif-Index of Folk Literature,¹ even though it is often one of the major implements used for magical purposes in a multitude of narratives, as we have seen. At best, terms that sometimes appear in indexes or lists of motifs that may mean “flute” are “pipe,” “clarinet,” “trumpet,” “musical instrument,”...

  34. NOTES
    (pp. 197-212)
  35. REFERENCES
    (pp. 213-224)
  36. INDEX OF STORIES
    (pp. 225-228)
  37. SUBJECT INDEX
    (pp. 229-238)
  38. Back Matter
    (pp. 239-242)