Monday, August 08, 2005

NAF Part 4 Pat Haran / DESERT MOON

Native American Bass Flute by Pat Haran

In this post we’re going to look at a bass Native American flute made by Pat Haran from Phoenix.
Above is a F# bass flute by Pat. It’s made of Sitka Spruce with accents of Black Limba and Basswood. The flute is 34-1/2” long with a 1-3/4” bore width. Sitka Spruce (Picea sitchensis) is a soft wood and grows in the Northwest of the United States and Canada along the Pacific coast and is the state tree of Alaska. It is the largest of the Spruce trees. They normally grow 125 to 180 feet tall and 3 to 5 feet in diameter, but can be bigger. The needles have a blue-green. tint The Sitka Spruce is considered by some Native cultures to have magical properties.

Flutes made from Sitka Spruce are a cream color and can sometimes be slightly yellow. As this is a bass flute Pat has off set the finger holes on holes #1 and #4 for easier playing. This is becoming more common on large flutes. Also the mouth piece is on the side. Again, this is to make the flute easier to play. For many people a flute of this size and length would be too difficult to play with the mouth piece on the end. The reach is too long.

Pat’s blocks are usually very simple. However, Pat’s attention to craftsmanship is evident in every flute he makes. Notice the sheen of the grain on the Sitka Spruce. All of the flutes I have by Pat really highlight the grain like this when when they catch the light.

I have only had this flute for a few months but it’s deep, full, resonant sound make it very fun to play. Certain pitches cause the flute’s wood to vibrate enough that I can feel it through my fingers. I’ve recorded it a couple times and the story below talks about the inspiration for one of those recordings. You can listen to the complete four minute piece by joining my free E-Mailing List .


Last spring I did a couple of performances north of Tucson in Oro Valley, next to the Catalina mountains. The valley is part of the high Sonoran desert and is lush with cacti, including Saguaros,

the most well-know feature of the Sonoran desert Palo Verde trees, Javelinas, Jack Rabbits, lots of birds and many other flora and fauna.

My performances were in the afternoon and on my way back to Phoenix the sky was preparing for a dramatic sunset. I was compelled to pull off of the Highway on to a dirt road to enjoy the peace of the evening.

The first thing that struck me was the quiet. The farther I got from the highway the quieter it became. But upon stopping my truck and getting out, I realized how wrong I was. The air was full of sound. Morning Doves, Gamble Quail, Crickets, Cicadas and very faintly the occasional call of a Coyote. As I walked through the forest of cacti Jack Rabbits scampered away in front of me. Some ran quickly but a couple of the bigger ones loped slowly as if more curious than fearful. The sun was setting in a blaze of reds, oranges, yellows and other fiery colors and my attention was focused that direction.

Suddenly a Morning Dove took flight behind me. As I turned to catch a glimpse of it, there behind me, hovering in the sky was the moon, rising white and fat in a dark turquoise night sky, framed by streaks of pink clouds and giant Saguaros. Their arms, towering above me, stretched as if to touch the night.

Behind it all the Catalina mountains floated purple in the fading light.

It was one of those rare unexpected moments that happen sometimes during my travels. A magical, almost mystical moment of sublime beauty. When time itself seems to stand still and the air quivers with a quiet energy.

I stood there, transfixed. Wondering how many times, over millions of years has the moon risen above this landscape? How many times has the color of the sky aligned with just these colors? Hundreds, thousands? Perhaps, but for me it was a unique, one-of-a-kind moment. One that sped by too quickly, as the sun sank beneath the horizon and night descended over the land.

Reluctantly, as the darkness enveloped the landscape, I made my way back to my truck, and started back toward Phoenix.

Earlier that afternoon, during my performance, I had played a brand new bass flute by Pat Haran for the first time in concert. When I got back to my studio a week later and listened to the recording from that performance the piece seemed speak to the spirit of that evening and the Desert Moonrise. You can listen to this flute by joining my free E-mailing list .

To read more about other travels I’ve taken in the southwest visit the ECHOES FROM THE ROAD section of

To find out more information about Pat Haran flutes, and other flute makers check out the FLUTE MAKERS page on my web site.

1 comment:

  1. Cathy7:40 AM

    It doesn't get any better than this! Those striking photos and stirring narrative take the reader to that spot in the Sonoran desert. It's no wonder our early cultures developed flutes. I'm convinced they had a reverence for natural beauty far beyond what we modern thinkers are willing to give them credit for having. Thanks for translating what you see and feel into amazing music!