Category Archives: fort worden

Harmonic Flute

the following is the rant that i’m going to put in the liner notes of the CD… which is why it will probably change at some point in the future.

the harmonic flute is a very simple instrument that makes very, very complex sounds. it was made from a piece of 1-inch PVC tubing that i rescued from a construction site dumpster. i have been playing it for about 35 years. i have taken to calling it a “didjeri-flute” because when people see me playing it, one of the comments i hear most frequently is “didjeridu”… which is not correct (and, at this point, i find it somewhat annoying): it’s a harmonic or “overtone” flute, hornbostel-sachs number 421.111.11:

4 – aerophones
42 – non-free aerophones
421 – edge-blown aerophones
421.1 – flutes without a fipple
421.11 – end-blown flutes
421.111 – individual end-blown flutes
421.111.1 – open, single, end-blown flutes
421.111.11 – without fingerholes

a didjeridu is another very simple instrument, but to make a sound on a didjeridu, you use your lips to buzz into the open end, which causes the vibration in the tube, and use your breath, tongue and voice to modify the vibration. on a harmonic flute, you blow into the open end, which is modified by having a notch carved in it, with a leading edge that has been sharpened, to make the tube vibrate. without question, it is an instrument that requires very precise breath control, but that’s it: there’s no buzzing, and no tongue or voice involved at all. in this recording, the sound of the harmonic flute was fed through a boss digital delay, and a roland cube amplifier. the recording also features a brass temple bell.

the harmonic flute makes different notes based on the harmonic sequence: the first note, or “fundamental” is quiet enough, and hard enough to produce, that i don’t use it on this recording, but i can play it. sometimes it i can play it loud enough that other people can hear it as well. the second note, or “second partial” is an octave higher than the fundamental, and it is heard fairly frequently in this recording. the “third partial” is a perfect fifth above the second partial, the fourth partial is an octave above the second partial, or a perfect fourth above the third partial, and it continues along a known and predictable path from there. there are no holes in the walls of the flute, or “finger holes”, the harmonic flute has two holes, one at either end. the only way to control what note you are playing is to be able to control your breath.

other, similar flutes include the fujara, which is a fipple flute with an air-pipe and fingerholes, the quena, which is shorter, and has fingerholes, and the shakuhachi, which also is shorter, and has fingerholes.

the recording was made in an empty room with solid concrete walls about 1 foot thick, about 20 feet wide by 50 feet long by 15 feet high, with an open door at either end. the entire room, and the surrounding hallways on either end, are completely underground, and buried by 25 feet or so of earth, with bushes and trees on top. the room was one of the gunpowder storage rooms for one of the mortar bunkers at fort worden — (insert historical information about ft. worden here) — now that it is no longer being used for destructive purposes, it has absolutely fantastic accoustics, and i have wanted to record there for many years.


i’m still alive and kicking, however at this point, whenever i think about posting anything the “meh” takes over.

i played for NANDA‘s 10th anniversary in the balloon hangar at ft. worden, which is now called the “McCurdy Pavillion”. 35 years ago, when i first came across it, it was a mouldy, forgotten world war II relic, taken over by the navy, that had been officially abandoned for 10 years or so. it’s amazing what a little bit of paint and a few hundred thousand dollars can do to a place. i spent saturday morning re-visiting the sacred sound-spaces with which i have become so familiar over the past 35 years, played music with members of my karass, and slept in a motorhome in port townsend. if i had my way, i would have spent quite a bit more time exploring the subterranean vaults, but i had to get thaddeus back so that he could take care of his obligations. i noticed, however, that port townsend is a little more than an hour’s drive from here, which (on heavy traffic days) is not that much further than seattle, which has got me wondering why i don’t get out to port townsend more frequently.

along the same lines, i have been in discussion with eben, clayton and andrew (the leader, and the two other tuba players for the fighting instruments of karma, respectively), and it has been more or less decided that i am now the “official” tuba player for the SANCApators. SANCA is a place in georgetown that is most known for its “School Of Flight”, but offers a variety of classes for all levels, including “drop in” classes in trapeze (the idea of which makes me wonder a little). they have classes in a number of pursuits that, i think, would be both fun and “therapeutic”, such as tumbling, acrobatics, juggling and so forth… it would be interesting to take classes there, but i would have to be sure that they knew about my brain injury, and talk with them about how it would be accounted for.

i’ve got 3 snake suspenderz gigs in the next three weeks: one at horizon house, which we played for a couple of years ago, one at university house, wallingford, which i booked in spite of objections from hobbit, and one at SACBO. the day SACBO starts, i am also going to be showing off my art car at the LeMay Automotive Museum with a whole bunch of other “car-tists”.

through sheer, stubborn will and determination, i got the fremont phil booked at the ritz at OCF before OCF, for the first time EVER… now, instead of wondering when we’re going on, and not knowing until 15 minutes before it actually happens (like what happened last year), we know, ahead of time, that we’re going on at 7:00 pm, saturday, 12th july, and OCF hasn’t even started yet! now, insha’llah, barring unforseen (and 51% likely, due to HIF) other circumstances, we actually know when we’re going to be playing at the naked hippie sauna… 😎

veteran’s day, 2012

Alexander's Castlei went to port townsend for a New Old Time Chautaqua benefit show (which was held at the Legion Hall, on the corner of Monroe and Water) yesterday. because of the fact that i have spent a relatively huge amount of time in port townsend over the years (and it’s a beautiful place to spend time), i went early and poked around at fort worden, which is where i spent a majority of the huge amount of time that i spent there.

there have been A LOT of changes since i first came there, and a majority of them have occurred within the past few years, when i was not paying attention. they had the coastal defence command station on battery hill open for the first time since i have been comming there, and i actually got a chance to walk around inside a part of the fort that has been blocked off, sealed up and posted with big signs warning of nasty things that happen to people who ignore them, since i first started coming there. they have also done a lot of “re-landscaping” which includes cutting down a lot of the undergrowth and trees in the main part of the batteries, which were practically invisible previously. under normal circumstances, i would have a problem with state park people just randomly cutting down trees, but it was really interesting to see a lot more of the fort as the people who inhabited the place 100 years ago saw it.

two metal tanksof course, i went to the entrance of the cistern, where Underground Overlays from the Cistern Chapel was recorded. the first time i went there, it was totally covered by trees and undergrowth, and there was a brick “chimney” that came up out of the ground, with a manhole cover on top of it, and it was really easy to “break in”. a number of people already had, and the cistern was full of “satanic” grafitti and garbage, but the accoustics were AWESOME, and i resolved to get back in. several years later (mid-1980s) i took The Stairway Jam to fort worden, but by that time they had covered the entrance with the two huge, rusty metal tanks, and we weren’t able to get in. the tanks are now placed to either side of the chimney, which has a concrete lid, a steel door and a lock on it: considerably more difficult to get in, apparently the tanks were not enough of an impedence for people to get in and trash the place. fortunately, there are other places at fort worden that also have incredible accoustics.

for the record, i have played my trombone, my orchestral flute and my didjeriflute in various underground rooms at fort worden, and i know of no other place in the world with accoustics like that. it’s incredible. 😎

The Bald Man is ubiquitous!then i went into port townsend proper, to the legion hall at the corner of Monroe and Water, and found The Bald Man… if i didn’t know where the bald man was coming from, i might be a bit confused, dismayed, or even paranoid, but because of the fact that i know that the bald man is a direct offshoot of stuff that i did, personally, i find it rather amusing… and i know that my son will probably keep doing this for as long as he lives, as well, which gives me a small amount of immortality. 😉

i know i have mentioned it before, but i’m really amazed that i am actually a part of the New Old Time Chautaqua. these people truly ARE my “karass”, and it is just driven home to me even more forcefully every time i play with them.