I thought about the YouTube videos that I watched, and I noticed a theme: They were all of deeper-throated flutes in the B and F ranges. This got me thinking that I might enjoy a flute with more bass, but that’s a serious purchase, and one I wasn’t willing to make without actually trying out a deeper flute first. I have no place nearby to try out one, which made me yet again curse the nowhere area of the South in which I live. Then, opportunity knocked: this spring Mrs. Matheo and I took a trip out to Arizona to see our old friends and guildies, Red and Pinky. I told Red about my new thing, and he knew of only one shop at the Scottsdale Fashion Square that might have what I was looking for.
I’ve always considered myself a die-hard Southerner, but Arizona in the springtime is vurrry nice. The whole Mesa/Phoenix/Tempe supercomplex was fun and very artsy. Their interstates are decorated with geckoes and sidewinders; ours are decorated with chunks of tire and McDonalds bags. Everything I could ask for was there, in a nice grid layout, without everything being named Peachtree. At night there were no bugs, and everywhere was bathed in the scent of neroli. It’s so hot there right now that Satan goes back to Hell for a cool breeze, so it ain’t all great, but I could totally see myself out there.
Off Red and I went on a one-hour roadtrip, during which I found out why folks call it “Snottsdale”. About five minutes after walking into the mall, I was certain I’d be getting escorted out because the security scanners had run my credit upon entry. We peered amazed into the Tesla store, hit Sur La Table and left nose prints and drool on the knife displays (oooh Shuns), and then we made for our target, Indian Market.
We walked in, and sure enough there was a rack of flutes behind the counter. The very nice shopkeeper saw my eyes gravitate to it, and she handed me a piece of plastic tubing. I asked for the biggest flute, plugged in the hygienic tube and did a little improv, very aware that I was playing in public for the first time. “I should hire you to play out front,” she said, smiling. “What a nice lie,” I replied jokingly.
Apparently, I had stumbled across a High Spirits flute. Oh baby, it was nice: turquoise cabochons, carvings, and a lacquer job like it was dipped in liquid glass. I think the shopkeeper said it was a G, but I got distracted by how full and lovely the tone was. Then I got very quickly undistracted by the 230.00 price tag. “But I can take off 10 percent,” she said quickly. I felt bad for her; high-dollar musical instruments don’t fly off the shelves in knickknack shops, and she was genuinely trying to make the sale, but I just couldn’t spend that kind of cash and feel okay about it. I very gingerly handed back the lovely flute and bought this 30-dollar ironwood carving of a bear as a consolation prize, for both her and me.
Though I was financially thwarted, it did confirm my suspicion that I prefer, both in flutes and women, something meatier. It was time to buy, but this time I’d be dropping what is for me some serious coin. I was also determined that I wasn’t going to go whole hog and blow tons of cash on a new thing. I had done that in the past, when I was younger, more impulsive, and had slightly disposable income at my sole command. Nowadays I’m beholden to the CFO for my spending, and I can’t just say, “Well, whores will have their trinkets” like Bernard Black would.
After a great deal of research I decided to go with Stellar flutes. I listened to their YouTube videos of all the different keys, and I went with an F, the lowest key they offer in their quite reasonable Basic line. I submitted my order, which totaled about 113 bucks with shipping, and was filled with anticipation. You know, I think suicidal people should buy things online. It would definitely be harder to kill myself if I were expecting a package. I’d have the toaster all plugged in and ready for a swim in the tub, and then I’d think to myself, “Y’know, I have that Amazon package coming. It’d be shame to miss it.”
Anyway, it arrived much sooner than I thought, considering it came all the way from Washington state. When I first got it out of the shipping tube, I was amazed at how light it was. My Big Bear is made out of some kind of hardwood, but this is eastern cedar, and it felt much more delicate, almost like a toy, but it’s a good bit tougher than it feels. I put it to my lips, and this un-toylike, mournful tone flowed out, clear and crisp. It sounds a lot more serious than the Big Bear. It’s really hard for me to make up happy tunes on it because they just don’t seem to fit its personality. It does really well with slow improvs and long, ringing notes. All in all I’m super pleased with my Stellar, and I hope to add more from them to my collection.
Now we come to a point of contention among some flute enthusiasts: Stellar Flutes does not market their creations as “Native American flutes”; that branding is reserved for flutes that meet requirements set forth by the Indian Arts and Crafts Act. Therefore, Stellars are “Native American style flutes”. To some this is a deal breaker, but I honestly couldn’t care less. They put the heart, respect and care into the work, and that gets my money. There are of course Native American makers out there that do online sales, but not lots, and even fewer with very accessible pricing. I did manage to find one, but that’s another post 😉
Since I’ve talked about the Arizona trip that really got me started down the road to wanting another flute, I thought it would be a good idea to center my next video around the other reason we were in Scottsdale: I wanted to visit Taliesin West. I’ve always loved Frank Lloyd Wright’s work, and I couldn’t pass up the chance to see his winter home, especially since it was an hour away from Red and Pinky’s place in Mesa. We’ve all seen images of Wright’s work, but the 3D experience is totally worth admission. I was amazed at the serenity, the care that had been taken not to impose a building on the land, but to build in harmony with the environment. Seeing one of Wright’s masterpieces in person nourished my soul, and I hope these images can do the same for you.