A good piece of bamboo and eight good holes are all thou needs to transcend nirvana.
Aye, even the existence of God can be found within the endless caverns of the Chinese Xiao.
Time has called me herewith to write about this ancient Chinese instrument.
Of course, the reasons why I write about any instrument are only of the utmost profundity. The Chinese Xiao is of no exception. In fact, whilst there will be many more flutes and musical curiosities to come from this good blog, I can proclaim to you now, that, the Xiao, is beyond all of these, both in time and in space.
There are flutes. There are flutes that command the falling of rain and the roaring of thunder. There are more flutes to behold in Heaven than there are Stars to worship in the sky.
Of Flutes & Masters
The Chinese Xiao is an ancient bamboo flute who’s origin began an estimated 8,000 years ago.
Measuring almost a meter long and featuring eight finger holes, the Xiao is one of the most sonorous and meditative flutes in the world.
I first began playing the Xiao around the year 2010, I cannot remember when exactly. As my blog has revealed already, I have spent much of my adult life experimenting with numerous world flutes, including ones such as the Armenian Duduk and Turkish Ney.
Yet I will tell you now what is so fascinating about the ancient Xiao flute. Amidst all the wondrous voices of all these other flutes… such as the Moldavian Kaval or the Fujara, indeed I could go on and on… amidst all these other “euphoric” creative possibilities… the Xiao has remained firmly and dedicatedly, in the corner of my eye, weeping by my side, since the very first day I brought it home.
And since that day, I have gradually been called back to it, to embrace it more and more until eventually… it became my natural flute.
The Chinese Xiao, it could be said… chooses its owner.
I am telling you now. If you want to feel a “meaning to existence”, or a “reality beyond walls” and to understand the beauty of life before the 21st Century… before civilisation crumbled… because believe me it has… then you need to understand that life today is not even remotely as real and enlightening as it was in the 20th Century.
You need to understand that the illusion of “moving forwards” implanted into our minds by governments, unto a technologically instructed collective, is actually the satanism of “moving away” from all the meaning in life’s simplicities we once cherished and held most dear to our hearts.
Question not how people found joy in the earth, water, wind and fire, question yourselves, for your conformity unto science is mere worthless delusion.
I offer you in sentiment, a piece of bamboo. If you truly believe there is nothing to behold within its sacred body, then leave now and surrender your soul to a worthless technological society of empty promises. But accept this piece of bamboo as a worthy gift… and God, you will find.
Wherefore art Bamboo?
Aye and yet, amidst all these praising cries of the wonders of Eastern music, you’d begin to wonder where then are these other worldly flautists?
Indeed, it is true, Western flutes are made of brass. They are also “transverse” which means played horizontally like a violin and require very precise embouchure. Simply to say, whilst delightful in orchestral settings, Western transverse flutes are not only ‘awkward’ and tiring on the arms, they do not easily harbour the natural resonating heart beat of nature.
Of course, we would not have John Williams’ majestic Superman theme or the uncountable heart wrenching theatre musicals if it were not for the Western transverse flute.
Yet what I am saying, is that the Western brass flute is unfortunately a ‘programmed curriculum’ and, if it continues to be so, people will never again discover the spiritual paradise that exists within the simple pureness of a piece of holy bamboo.
Why do we not hear them? I believe that time will eventually bring forth more players of Eastern flutes, but in truth, you probably will have heard these magical sounds many times and yet perhaps not even realised.
They are sometimes carried gently over movie soundtracks and as curious sprinklings in other musical works, presented thereof by the fortunate creators who have been able to travel thus far in person.
Of course there are transverse flutes all over the world, many of which, and in numerous styles, can be found in the far East and so forth also, but the purpose of my writing is to reveal unto you specifically the endless beauty and simplicity of the end blown bamboo flute.
Ye Science Of Xiao
The Chinese Xiao, pronounced: showh as in “shower”, is an end-blown bamboo flute, featuring a small hole in the top stub through which the player directs his or her breathing.
It is played somewhat like blowing over an open bottle neck, only instead of a full open end, there is a short cavity into which the air must be directed.
Whilst the Xiao features eight finger holes, there are often even more holes towards the far lower end. These are used for either tuning or decoration. For example it is a common practise in Chinese culture to tie decorative tassels to the ends of flutes.
The Xiao is a completely chromatic instrument whereby very little half-holing is ever required and even cross fingering is often avoidable. Only whence venturing into the outer realms of Eastern wizardry does one begin to explore melodies completely encompassing of these other techniques.
Xiao are usually manufactured in the key of F, its lowest note being Middle C. However their low resonance is miraculously mind bending, since anyone hearing the Xiao especially if watching it being played, would believe its lowest note to be somewhere deep in the bass register.
Typically a player holds the Xiao at a 45˚ angle to the mouth.
As mentioned, the Xiao has eight holes. Seven to the front and a thumbhole for the upper hand at the back. The holes on the front are divided by three on the top and four on the bottom.
This tuning hole system is designed to make the Xiao extremely dynamic in its mastering of scales and of chromatic expression.
For example, aside from all the standard Minors and Majors naturally arranged thereof, by beginning the root elsewhere and employing both cross fingering and a pinch of half-holing, you will have Arabian, Transylvanian, Native American, Spanish Gypsy, Japanese Hirajoshi, Shepherd’s Overtone… and so many more.
Furthermore, the Xiao is commonly made as a two-piece or even three-piece instrument, whereby it may be taken apart and stored into a case merely a third of its own size.
This multi-part construction serves as yet another chromatic tuning mechanism. Thus, by partially opening these joints and therefore lengthening the flute, one is able to lower the root pitch of the instrument by almost a whole tone.
This means effective immediately, one is able to play any kind of majestically inspiring orchestral manuscript… and yes, even by John Williams… and yes, in any key.
Here then, we have a flute who’s capabilities extend far beyond what one only sees at face value.
For even the innocent voice itself of the Xiao is also especially dynamically capable.
Whilst one’s first note will of course be little more than the soft resonance of a hollow branch, that very first sound and that very first triumph, will continue to call you back, to play again.
The secrets to bamboo are found not only in the techniques of working scales, but immortally within one’s mutual embouchure and intimate connection with the instrument’s own soul.
As mentioned, there are flutes that command the falling of rain and the roaring of thunder. There are flutes that sound so heavenly and out of this world that one only begs to question their sacred origin.
And yet whilst the Xiao is, in scientific terms at least, merely a bamboo resonating chamber, this meter long holy cavern possesses the unexplainable ability to echo the voices of all these others.
From the rolling sky kingdoms of the Shepherd’s Overtone Flute to the roaring thunder of the Moldavian Kaval… all of them, at least in sentiment… are waiting to be discovered within the Xiao’s endlessly enchanting caverns.
Patience. Silence. Breath. Believe.
For when one discovers the Xiao, it is truly the Xiao who discovers you.
Xiao Unto The Cosmos
It has often been said, that whence the Moon takes command of the sky and as the Sun takes command of the horizon, thence the world is an eternal sacred plane.
Be not afraid of life. For life is yours to be.
And so once more. I offer you in sentiment, a piece of bamboo.
If you truly believe there is nothing to behold within its sacred body, then leave now and surrender your soul to a worthless technological society of empty promises.
But accept this piece of bamboo as a worthy gift… and God, you will find.