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An Old Song
The Native American flute has been reported to be the third oldest known musical instrument in the world, with bone flutes dating back 60,000 years. Drums were discovered first, and then various rattles were made, followed by bone whistles. Over time, the instrument evolved with different material being used in its creation-whatever was available in the area. Virtually, all types of hardwoods and softwoods were used for flutes at some point in time. Flutes had many different configurations-2,3,4,5,6,7 or 8 holes. In part if the southern United States, river reed was used to make flutes. The reed has a natural joint that serves as a sort of barrier that helps create a chamber. These flutes are relatively easy to make and may have contributed to the design of what is commonly referred to as the Plains Flute, which is the type that most flute players use today. Tradition has it that the Native American flute was primarily a courting instrument, other traditions among the Plains Nation held that a tribe could be identified from a distance by the sound and songs a member of the tribe played as they traveled.
George Baker, Chris Cunningham and Jeff Olynuk