“The prototypes of strong sensation:…. blazing lights, red earth, blue sea, mauve twilight, the flake of gold buried in the black depths of the cypress; archaic tastes of wine and olive, ancient smells of dust, goat dung and thyme, immemorial sounds of cicada and rustic flute.” Unknown.
From the “Laugh to keep from Crying Dept……..
Well, OK then…. For most folks, 2009 was economically or financially, like scuba diving, where you’re three minutes below the surface, with a two minute air supply. On a grander scale, Andy Serwer, the managing editor of Fortune magazine, appropriately characterized the last TEN years, as the “Decade From Hell.” His December 7th article in TIME magazine, lists, and sums up a series of events that at some point, touched upon, and to some degree, terrified every person in this country. Two minutes into this decade should have been the first clue, with all the hand wringing and speculation about the Y2K
glitch. To have the 9/11 events at one end, the largest financial crash in 80 years at the other end and Hurricane Katrina, the largest natural disaster in our history at the midpoint, seasoned by thousands of lives lost in two protracted wars over the last eight years………well, Killer tsunamis and five dollar gasoline turn into just more frosting on our cake. I can’t see the future through the eyes of a politician, a mortgage broker, a foot soldier, or an economist. I can only see the future through the eyes of a flute maker. From that tiny perspective, we’re either making too much music, …..or not enough. Since there can never be too much music, we’re apparently not making enough, so I plan to try and make more. For me, it’s sort of like laughing to keep from crying, We absolutely need more music, and a few prayers.
A few words about “wet-out” as it applies to flutes, and not the weather. The weakest link in the daily playability of a wooden flute, other than say, being hit by a meteorite while playing it, is what’s known as “wet out”, wherein the moisture from breath has been collecting in the compression chamber just inside the mouthpiece, and finally works its way up the ramp or flue, to the underside of the block. The result is a swelling of the wood, accumulated water droplets, and a fuzziness in the voice of the flute. Assuming of course the flute didn’t sound fuzzy when you picked it up. Builders and performers alike, figure on about 20 minutes of play, before the sound is potentially compromised, which means in order to play for an hour….you’ll need three flutes. I personally love that idea, particularly if they’re three of my flutes. Typically, the accumulated moisture demands you untie the block, and set the flute aside for a couple of hours, and grab another flute. A number of builders have addressed this issue, with varying degrees of success. Coins have been glued into the compression chamber, acting as a heat and moisture sink, to theoretically slow down the moisture march up to the flue, …. Unglazed ceramic has been glued into the chamber, to absorb moisture, with the potential for a nasty side effect of growing a bacterial garden in the flute as well, I think you get the point. The issue has been around.
After a chat with my good friend and fellow flute maker, Leonard McGann, of Lone Crow flutes, he mentioned a flute he plays that has not experienced ANY wet-out since 2000.That’s 10 years. Leonard is a genius, and he is humble. Rarely do you find those two words in the same sentence. When he talks, I listen, but rarely understand. Anyway, the flute was built such that the moisture just wicks out of the flute altogether. The concept was just too simple. Wick the water away with a wick. Some of my flutes will now have a nylon sleeved hole in the floor of the compression chamber…with a couple inches of cotton wick inserted into the chamber. The moisture collects on the wick, moving to the outside of the flute. If the wick gets really damp, pull it out and insert a new one. I will also include additional wicking material and a billet aluminum plug should you find playing conditions render a wick unnecessary, or you think the concept and the looks are just stupid. At any rate, my tests suggest wet out becomes a non issue, unless you drop the flute into an aquarium.
Querencia Hits the Road…..
Toward the end of the month I’ll be piling into the Querenciamobile and heading to that square mile of dirt in the western Arizona desert known as Quartzsite. Once yearly, nomadic rockhounds in their rusting motorhomes, converge on this little tumbleweed collection point and play host to the largest rock and mineral swap meet in the country. If it came out of the ground, or it fell from the sky, you can find it in Quartzsite. My shopping list includes Crazy Lace agate, Mexican Fire agate, Cooper Pedy, Lightning Ridge, and Andamooka opal, dinosaur bones, and stuff from outer space, the usual. You can also find a decent margarita there, at day’s end, or at daybreak as well I suppose.
Speaking of road trip, my daughter and her boyfriend are the proud owners of a monster 1970 something Silver Eagle bus. They just had the roof raised, and some company is converting it into a luxury motorhome with a 14 ft. slide out, step down living room, black glass windows, and I get my own room. If they let me drive, I plan to come visit all of you and honk the horn a lot. Start listening for the horn in about six months. In the meantime, play nice, keep your head down, and try and find the five flutes I just added to the website.