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          The Asian aesthetic has really drawn me in from an early age, which I don't know where it really started. It was always just like, anytime there was a choice and it was something Asian, I would just choose it.

I went through a huge Bruce Lee phase where I just bought anything and everything off eBay that was Bruce Lee. My parents would take me to a place called the China Dragon... for years. It was just a Chinese buffet in Dallas, Texas, nothing special about it, but we would go so much. I can't imagine how many years that took off my life, but it was worth it - and so just always wanting to be immersed in Asian culture. I did start studying Chinese after a 2019 trip to China: I did some tea tourism, it was amazing. I went with West China Tea House there in Austin, Texas,a really cool place.

A big part of that Asian aesthetic would be the music, and that very signature Chinese flute, the 笛子 [dízi] has that sound texture that's not the same as, like, Western flute. It has a little membrane taped over by the sound hole, and it kind of gives it that buzzy sound, almost like a harmonica-ish. Once you hear it, you're like, yeah, that's very Asian, very recognizable. And along with the other Asian instruments, the 二胡 [èrhú], which is like the Chinese violin, and the 古筝 [gǔzhēng], which is like the Chinese harp - and just all these very signature sounds of just like: yes, I want more of that.


          So, yeah, I really loved bamboo, and I loved that aesthetic, and I first got into crafting with bamboo because... I can't remember where in China, but they go on the bamboo rafts with the birds, and the birds will dive into the water and catch the fish, and they catch the fish for the farmers. So I was like, I want to make a bamboo raft of sorts. I lived in Austin at the time, and so they have the river out there, and a bunch of bamboo was growing behind my house. So I was like, okay, I'm going to make a raft. So I went and sawed down a bunch of bamboo and was looking at how to lash it together. Then I realized that you had to dry the bamboo because if you used still green bamboo, it was just going to sink... and the drying of the bamboo can take a really long time. So that kind of foiled my raft making plans. So I started cruising YouTube for how to, just - bamboo crafts, what can you do with because I had literally, like, 20 poles of bamboo on my balcony just trying to dry. I wanted to find something to do with it.

As far as a lot of the bamboo flutes that I've searched online, the Native American flute had so much of it in English and it was all so much accessible information. And so it was a very easy flute to begin crafting because it is very popular, whereas some of the Asian flutes, there is obviously stuff in English, but to find some of the really detailed things that maybe really will bring your flute up to the next quality, you might need to speak or read some Japanese or Chinese, to do some searching through the Chinese Internet - which was not accessible to me at the time, still not as much.

And I came across a YouTube channel called Blue Bear Flutes, which is a really good YouTube channel. He posts a lot of content and he has a lot of long unedited videos of him making flutes out of bamboo. That's really where I got a good chunk of my knowledge of just him monologuing why he's doing it and you can see everything that he's doing in real time and he posts so much content on different aspects of it.

So that was a really good channel to start making the flutes from. I had the materials, I had instructions. I bought his book and read through his book - his book was a really simple read but very informative.

And, I had always liked music and I played guitar a lot. I did classical guitar for a long time and I was ready, I think, to start a new instrument and crafting my own instruments because my family had a lot of carpentry in its history.

And so kind of like a nice cross-session of carpentry / working with your hands / music / a really great sustainable resource like bamboo that is easily accessible... Because I think that's rare in instrument making when you can go and gather your own materials from nature. And yeah, it was just kind of like a really big crossroads of a lot of different things that I really enjoyed, especially once I started feeling that feeling of playing a wind instrument: your breath turning into a different form of expression... Guitar - you can sit there and play, but you're not actually breathing into it: it can make sounds without you breathing into it, but with woodwind specifically, it's not doing anything unless you're breathing into it. And just that feeling of exhaling out the air continuously and having a different form of that expression coming out and just manipulating the air resonating in a tube with holes. What you're able to create with that has always been very pleasing to me - just, what you can do with something so simple and so natural as air passing through a tube with holes in approximate places to change the pitch.


          So, yeah, it was a really good crossroads of a lot of things that I liked. Now that I've met other flute makers, I don't know what it is about making flutes, but just people are just really chill. Even in Taiwan, I've got connected through people, through Instagram of just like, they're doing flute stuff, I just message them and they're like, sure, come visit. I went to Lin's Culture that's in Taipei, he had a massive flute collection. He plays the 笛子 [dízi] and the 簫 [xiāo] and had all these other ethnic flutes and some of the aboriginal Taiwanese flutes: there's like a double drone nose flute that you put up to your nose and you can play it. And another Taiwanese, a duck flute (鴨母笛), it's like a reeded one where two flat pieces of wood that plug into the bamboo and it was very... the sound was terrible, but it had that Middle Eastern, the duduk, very similar vibes as that.

Just... The amount of flutes that people have come up with and how unique they can be towards a culture... From this same thing, a piece of bamboo with holes in it, that you're blowing into, and just how different they are.


And the Native American flute is such an easy flute to play. It blows just like a whistle. If you can just move your fingers up and down on the hole correctly, it's very simple. And then just learning the breath control. It is a very accessible instrument to a lot of people who are like, oh, I don't know how to play instruments, and they're interested. The Native American flute is a really good one to start on, where you can start making melodies very quickly. The learning curve is very slow versus other flutes, where you need to learn the armature, the embouchure and to develop a good tone quality, because there's so many factors like your posture. But the Native American flute... They just designed such an easy instrument. I think that reflects the Native American lifestyle back in the day of just: work smart, not hard. And they figured out how to craft an instrument that did that exactly.


I've been making these flutes now for five plus years, and so I've felt closer to that culture and the mindset that they had to construct these flutes. It feels nice to be a part of that larger community and dabble in bits of that culture that maybe are not as popular today. The more makers of Native American flutes I look at, and the more I see how different they are, the different variations of the same thing and how unique they can be to each individual maker. It's just really cool, the human creativity, how much of that influences the product of what they decide to do, how they decide to do it. And since it is handmade, they come out sounding different. No flute is exactly the same when you're making them by hand.


          We live in a world where most things are just factory made, you just get like 1000 perfect ones. I think people are starting to shift back to finding things that are unique, maybe that Japanese wabi-sabi of just finding the uniqueness in the imperfections. For me, when I'm actually holding something that feels like I can tell this used to be a piece of bamboo, instead of, like, a perfectly smooth, flat, straight, shiny piece that kind of maybe looks like a piece of plastic that looks like bamboo or something; to hold something that you can tell was a natural piece of material, it just feels different in the hand and I really enjoy that.


It's nice to understand the whole process to taking something start to finish, and learning the little details of what makes it better and elevated. An then, just, slapping something together of just like oh, if you actually round off the little corner right here (this is specifically for the Native American flute), if you round off this one little edge, just barely like two strokes of the file, it will pop that lower note and you will have a more deeper, resonating lower note. Just learning these little intricacies through practice and time and just maybe coming across a bit of information on a forum that just mentions that... is really rewarding: just learning these little details that you're not going to learn by buying someone else's flute and learning to play it. Just, what will get you a deeper sound on this flute? You really need to be in the thick of it, making it from start to finish to see every aspect of it and where you can improve on different things.


I do this because... Yeah, it does feel good to make something with your hands and especially something you make something that you can create with further creating music on. And I definitely get into like a flow state while I'm making the flutes where I can just zone out, I listen to a podcast and I will just be on the workbench and you can just almost zone out where I'm not thinking, I'm just looking and seeing what needs to be done and just going through it and using the hands and then the whole process of just refining something natural to a more refined state, I really enjoy.


So... Cooking from scratch, I really enjoy ; fermentation, taking cabbage and making sauerkraut, and you have something different in the end. I think that's what really drives what I like is taking raw material and turning it into something people want. Like growing some mushrooms or something: buying the spores, inoculating the mycelium, getting those ready and then three months later you're picking your own mushrooms. You're like, yeah, I saw these from start to finish. Just seeing it in all stages of the process, I really enjoy. And it mystifies other people, it's just like, oh, you made this? And just like, I did, but it seems less mystical to me in a way because I've seen it being raw and just the slow progress that it goes through to become the finished product.

          For me, the flutes, they're not worthless, but since I've seen the process, since I get to cut down the bamboo, it's almost just a piece of bamboo that I got off the ground. I value it more than that because you can create with it. And I do put time and energy into these, but at the end of the day, it's just like - I can just make another! So if someone really liked the flutes but they had something that I didn't value as much, it wouldn't bother me to be like, yeah, sure. Because seeing the joy that they have in that flute, going on a journey with them... And you don't know what that will unlock down the road. They might meet someone else who really like that flute and I might make another contact or sale because I was able to give away that flute for a little cheaper. So you never know what's going to happen. It's so much about who you know, that I'm learning and just opportunities that arise.


I meet a lot of other craftspeople who make different things, just other hobbyists as well. I met a guy in New Zealand, he did jewelry, he hand carved greenstone. I was doing the work exchange, the WWOOFing (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) and I actually WWOOFed with his parents, and he just came by one day and he had all this stuff and yeah, we got to talking. He was really cool guy. He would go out in Australia and New Zealand, he would get the raw greenstone, getting his own material and he would hand carve it with the tools and do the braided cord necklaces. And then he'd braid the corded necklace and he taught me how he does his braiding. So that was really nice to do a skill exchange. And, yeah, I traded him a flute and he got me the necklace. And it is nice to put on the necklace and think about that story, that exchange, and staying with his parents and just living out on their farm in rural New Zealand. Now, when I look at that piece of jewelry, I can think about that time. So instead of paying for it, I had got to have this really nice exchange with this other craftsman and I hope he feels the same way every time he gets to play the flute...

@Instagram Bamboozled

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