Peter Phippen: Woodnotes Wyld: Historic Flute Sounds from the Dr. Richard W. Payne Collection (digital)

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1 Richard Fool Bull Flute
2 R.W. Payne Hopi Flute
3 Pre-Columbian Clay Flute 1
4 John Ballard Flute
5 Pandit Pannalal Ghosh Bansuri
6 R.W. Payne Papago Flute
7 Bird-Head Flute (tribe unknown)
8 Late 1800s Sioux Flute
9 Ira Cuthair Ute Flute
10 Richard Fool Bull Bird-Head Flute
11 Dan Red Buffalo Flute
12 Late 1800s Kiowa Flute
13 Early Toubat Ebony Flute
14 Pre-Columbian Clay Flute 2
15 Late 1800s Papago Flute
16 Pre-Columbian Double Clay Flute

On his Grammy nominated 2010 album Woodnotes Wyld, Eau Claire-based flutist Peter Phippen explores the authentic wild timbers of historic flutes in sixteen free-flowing improvisations. Channeling the spirit voices of these antique instruments, the music is understated, heartfelt, dark, and haunting, beckoning the listener into the headwaters of the past.

Nominated in the “Best Native American Music Album” category at the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards, Phippen performs on original instruments dating primarily from the late 19th century to the early 20th century (with the exception of three mid 20th-century flutes and three Pre-Columbian flutes from around 1100 current era, give or take a hundred years).

“All of these old flutes are ‘wild horses,’” Phippen explains. “By allowing them to play themselves — and never imposing my will on these instruments — the music that transpired on its own was better than anything I could have come up with; it gives these pieces a much deeper spiritual vibe.”

Woodnotes Wyld is an ethnomusicological field recording from Dr. Richard W. Payne’s extensive collection. Performed by Phippen in Doc Payne’s flute room in Oklahoma City, OK, this album explores the voice and parameters of the instruments.

Phippen was Dr. Payne’s friend and student, kindred spirits fascinated by the flute sounds of the world.

“Doc Payne was a second father to me,” Phippen says.”I loved him dearly. I learned so much from him. Doc Payne’s house was a hands-on museum; these flutes were real museum artifacts. I recorded this in 2001 and 2002. Doc would pull a flute off his wall and say ‘Peter, you should record this.’ Originally this was only for myself as part of my research into old flute tunings and the timbres of these instruments. The Indigenous North American flute did not change into its present tuning or timbre until 1980, so any mid 20th-century flutes circa 1940/1950/1960 are still considered ‘old.’ In 2008 or so, Dr. Kathleen Joyce-Grendahl asked for photos or stories of Doc Payne for an article she was writing on him and his contributions to the flute community. It was then that I told her about these recordings of Doc’s old flutes. She was the one who suggested releasing them as a very limited edition CD, in fact the first CD in the International Native American Flute Association’s Historic Series. I still don’t understand how it was nominated for a Grammy. I guess It’s authentic. That’s all I can come up with. I thought it was an educational recording.”

On Woodnotes Wyld, the subtle sounds of ancient flutes create an expressive, soulful ambience that is both reflective and introspective. Peter Phippen is a master at making these flutes sing, giving them life with a gentle, meditative breath. In a symbiotic musical relationship, he makes these early instruments vibrate in celebration, each with a heartfelt voice.

Phippen is an inspirational musician who plays with mastery and joy. With gentle pulses of breath, his expressive playing tenderly separates the gossamer veils of this world, giving the listener a pure view of the spectral otherworld where the medium of music illuminates the beauty of these instruments’ spiritual mysteries.

On Woodnotes Wyld, it is a true gift to hear these early Native American flutes, bansuri, and Pre-Columbian clay flutes played by a sensitive, musical virtuoso like Peter Phippen.

Dr. Kathleen Joyce-Grendahl
Executive Director, World Flute Society

Peter says, “Most of these instruments are Indigenous North American flutes mixed in with Central American (Pre-Columbian) flutes and one famous north Indian bansuri. Most were made of wood (cedar), some are cane (as in the case of the Hopi flute), or bamboo (bansuri), or clay (Pre-Columbian). Dr. Joyce-Grendahl came up with the title Woodnotes Wyld; I like it, as most of these are woodnotes played on wild flutes.”

Dr. Richard W. Payne (1918-2004), affectionately called “Toubat,” was a physician, pioneer, scholar, and collector with genuine interest in world flutes and cultures. He was a prolific individual who greatly contributed to the resurgence of interest in the Native American flute tradition. His research yielded several books that have truly inspired and educated such as The Native American Plains Flute, The Hopi Flute Ceremony, and Indigenous Aerophones of the Northwest Coast. Dr. Payne’s spirit and joy are still felt within the Native American flute community. His dedication and scholarship are gifts that will endure for generations.

Over the past three decades and 22 albums, Peter Phippen’s experiential, natural folk style revealed a penchant for creative and artistic sonic improvisation. He’s researched the history and performance technique of traditional flutes from around the world and throughout time. Phippen was the first non-Native American flutist signed to Canyon Records, which released his classic 2003 album Night Song. Dr. Payne spoke highly of Phippen’s spirit, enthusiasm, and aptitude: “Peter is a real phenomenon! He has shown a real talent with early Native American aerophones.”

Projekt release: October 28, 2022

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  1. Reviews Editor

    From Dave Aftandilian
    There is something so lovely, pure, and gentle about the sound of these wooden flutes. Native flutes have often been played during courtship, and you can hear some of that seductive, mournful loneliness here. But I also notice a lot of joy echoing, sharing back exuberant calls of songbirds. At other times, the mood is haunting, like hearing the voices of spirits on the wind. These recordings are a true gift to the listener, and I think the makers of these beautiful instruments would be proud.

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