Arts / Music
Photo by Pat Murkland, Ushkana Press
Dorothy Ramon Learning Center President Ernest Siva teaches flute music during the Native American Flute-Making Workshop at Idyllwild Arts. Make your own flute and learn how to play at our April 18,19,20 2008 workshop at Dorothy Ramon Learning Center. Find out how.
A Brief Introduction to Southern California Music
Not everyone was permitted to sing or dance to every song. It had to be appropriate; a Cahuilla woman could sing a lullaby but not a hunting song, for example (Bean 1972). Only the specially chosen and trained could sing ritual and ceremonial songs — and they had better get them right. The Luiseño people were among those who believed a mistake or misuse of a sacred song could bring nasty supernatural repercussions (Wallace 1978). In the same way, the different genres of songs required the use of their appropriate rattles.
In the Chumash bear dance, the singers shook turtle-shell rattles and sang as they followed the Bear dancer:
By many accounts, the flute was different. Instead of accompanying a ritual song, men played this musical instrument to create music from the heart. They also used the flute to win over women's hearts.
Author Ernest Siva (Cahuilla/Serrano) grew up on Morongo Indian Reservation, Banning, California, and learned the Serrano language and culture at home. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education and choral music from the University of Southern California. He is Artistic Director of the Pass Chorale, a community chorus in the San Gorgonio Pass area. Mr. Siva serves as Tribal Historian and Cultural Advisor for the Morongo Band of Mission Indians. Mr. Siva also serves on the Board of Directors of the California Indian Storytelling Association; the Board of Trustees of Idyllwild Arts; and the board of the Riverside Arts Council (serving the Inland area). He is founder and President of the Board of Directors of Dorothy Ramon Learning Center, Inc., and Ushkana Press, saving and sharing all the Southern California American Indian cultures, languages, history, and traditional arts. In the first publication of Ushkana Press in 2004, Voices of the Flute book and CD set, Mr. Siva shared traditional songs of three Southern California Indian nations, most appearing in print for the first time.
Making Flutes, Playing Flutes, Listening to Flutes
Those two rectangular blocks need carving, shaping, sanding. They need to be glued together without a hint that such gluing occurred. That's when each flute begins to take shape. The smell of epoxy glue then gives way to the aroma of cedar chips and sawdust. Each flute needs more shapping, more sanding, still more sanding, and more shaping.
Flute class 2006 was filled to the maximum 10 students, from the reservation and from around Southern California. Each student carved, shaped, oiled, tuned, and then decorated a wooden flute. The sessions filled with teamwork and camaraderie. Ernest H. Siva then taught the attentive class the basics of flute playing. Students learned about the music and cultural heritage of Southern California's American Indian nations.
Flutes are made by hand; later, music will come from the heart.