BE: The flute in Native American tradition is often associated with elk medicine, because the elk will whistle to his females – the elk often has several females and they have a small herd and he takes care of all of them, and that’s why the elk people who have elk medicine are often associated with female energy, or teaching to women.
And the flute was used in many cases as a love instrument to attract or communicate with a beloved lady. But it was also used as a (common) instrument, and it has become in recent years an art form in itself, it is a very beautiful instrument.
I was trained as a classical musician and I use recorders, which are like the Indian wooden flutes, only they have diatonic scales, so they have more flexibility in their playing, and the scale is quite different. But we can play the same sounds as on the Native American flute, which means the pentatonic scale, which is used in most Native American music, and also in music from China, from India, and a lot of music therapy traditions.
The five sounds in the pentatonic scale represent the five organ systems that are common to Native American and Hindu cultures, and relate to the elements, which in Native culture were fire, air, water, earth and sacred sounds or ether, the space in which the elements play. So, by using these five sounds in music, we obtain a spiralling effect, which will clear and harmonise the different organs and meridians of energy that flow through the body.
The music that I have recorded on Swan songs, for example, is all pentatonic scale melodies on nature sounds, to harmonise one with the spirit of nature and the elements.
B: Is it possible to use the flute as a music therapy instrument by playing other music than pentatonic sounds?
BE: Well, recorders are very flexible, you can do all scales on them. Everything that I have recorded, though, up to now, is all pentatonic, but as soon as I am able to record my songs, I shall probably put different melodies on that and go to a more western scale.
The main principle in music therapy is that it conveys high vital energy, and that does not depend on the scale of the music, but on the player, his love of music and the intention with which the music is played; that is really what will ultimately make the most difference. But of course, when you have music that is composed in a pentatonic scale, there is a resonating spiralling and harmonising effect on one’s vital energy.
See also the article Music in Native American culture.