A traditional flute player and flute craftsman, Hawk Henries shares songs and traditions of the Chaubunagungamaug band of Nipmuck and other stories of the people indigenous to what is now New England. He has been composing original flute music and making flutes using only hand tools and fire for over twenty-five years. Hawk is committed to music as a traditional art form and as a vehicle for building bridges of communication and mutual respect. He teaches and performs in a wide variety of settings: indigenous and international art festivals, museums, concert venues, powwows, educational settings from kindergarten through university level, flute-making workshops, and private family gatherings. Join us for a new #RevelsConnects: Musical Connections journey as Hawk discusses his journey as a musician, educator, and artisan flute maker. Hosted by Maggie Holtzberg, Folk Arts & Heritage Program Manager at the Mass Cultural Council.
Each #RevelsConnects: Musical Connections podcast is a follow-up to a 45-minute salon-style performance with the featured musician, premiering on Facebook Live and available on the Revels YouTube channel. Visit Revels Inc. on YouTube to learn more!
The #RevelsConnects Musical Connections series is sponsored in part by a grant from The Ithaka Foundation and produced in collaboration with the Mass Cultural Council. Audio engineered by Dave Jamrog Audio/Video.
Maggie: Hawk Henries is a tribal member of the Chaubunagungamaug band of Nipmuck, a people indigenous to what is now Southern New England. For more than 26 years, Hawk has been making wooden flutes using only hand tools and fire. He's also an accomplished composer of music for the wooden flute as a craftsman, teacher, workshop leader, and performer, Hawk shares his talents in a variety of settings. These include indigenous and international art festivals, museums, concert venues, powwows, and educational settings. Hawk Henries, welcome to Musical Connections.
Hawk: Thank you so much, Maggie. Thanks for having me.
Maggie: We're pleased to have you. You've called Maine home for many years, but you're originally from central Massachusetts. Can you tell us about the community and culture in which you grew up?
Hawk: Actually I'm from Rhode Island originally. I have been in Maine for close to 35 years. Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts are the areas that Nipmuck people are from.
Maggie: Right. Okay. Sorry about getting that wrong. Were there others, were you in a community of Nipmuck people or was it a mixed community of people from all over as a young person growing up?
Hawk: It was a mixed community of people from all over. There were in fact native people, but, you know, people from other cultures, other places as well.
Maggie: So growing up were there any ceremonies or other social traditions within the indigenous community that helped shape your life going forward?
Hawk: A great question and I can simply say no. My relationship to cultural things began at a later point in my life. I would say as a young adult, maybe in my twenties, I began to explore a little bit more things about my culture. So no, it wasn't, it wasn't a part of my young life.
Maggie: Okay, so then tell us how you were actually introduced to wooden flutes.
Hawk: Well, after listening to the music for quite a long time, I thought that I'd like to try to play one. I had very little, almost no musical experience, but just felt compelled to learn how to play this instrument. So after a number of years of, I like to say whining, to my family about needing to have one of these instruments, they finally got tired of my whining and they put their money together and purchased my first flute for me. I didn't have someone to teach me either about playing or making them, so I always think of the flute as my teacher. That first instrument was a really important gift. And for about two or three months, I played it, you know, pretty regularly every day. And then something inside of me said "take it apart," you know, "make the voice of it better," which I didn't really understand what that meant. It is better if you have no musical concepts. But I took it apart. I carved different parts of the flute and basically ruined it. And after about six months, I was able to make that flute play again. And that's where the knowledge of how they work came from and my motivation to build flutes kind of arose at the same time, I thought, well, I have the knowledge of how they work and so I can build new ones. It's actually been close to 32 years now that I've been making flutes.
Maggie: Wow that's a long time. And tell us something about the woods that you use and how you acquire them.
Hawk: I like to use wood that's local, domestic, and indigenous, if you will, to the area where I live. So most of the flutes that I build come from woods that are native to New England that I found here, in what we think of as New England. I use cedars and birch and maple and other conifer trees. I use things like alder and sumac and some materials that aren't even wood; things like sunflower stalks and burdock stalks and things of that nature. My effort has been to, in terms of gathering the materials that I use - there are so many woods that are so many different potential flutes. You know, I'm looking out my window here, and I live in hundreds of acres of woods - there's so much potential. But what I do is I walk out into the woods with the notion of finding just the right, perfect stick that will become a flute. And I express that intention as I'm walking through the woods. Typically I bring a gift with me, tobacco, or sometimes money or candy or something important. And when I find that stick I offer that gift in acknowledgment of the life that I've disrupted by taking that stick, and for the gift of the knowledge of building flutes. And then, you know, that stick comes home with me and becomes a flute. I do travel all over the place and oftentimes people, you know, leave me with pieces of wood from their locality, or sometimes it's woodworkers or carpenters who give me pieces of wood also to build flutes. So I have made flutes from woods from all over the world, but I prefer local ones.
Maggie: And you mentioned - well, I mentioned because I had read it - that in addition to sanding and carving, your use of fire in the process. Can you describe that?
Hawk: Yes. Basically, the flutes themselves have lots of small holes beside the inner part of the flute, which is called the bore - the finger holes, mouthpiece hole, and then beneath the piece that's tied at the top, which is referred to as the block or the bird or the saddle, and there are two holes beneath that. All of those small holes are made with old metal files that I heat in fire. And then once those holes are burned into the wood, of course, there's lots of work to make them suitable for the flute to play the way I'd like it to play.
Maggie: That makes sense. When you're mentioning the finger holes of the flute, that is, the notes that come out, are they based on the Western scale, or do those finger holes use different intervals? And I'm asking this because in one of the pieces you perform, I believe it's "Thanksgiving," the opening two notes sound slightly wider than an octave to my ear. So I'm just wondering how you pitch the notes is my question.
Hawk: Oh yeah. That's a great question. Maggie. I have virtually no musical knowledge. So even when we're thinking about you know, Western ideas of music, my scope is very limited in terms of that. So in the flute world today the tuning of the flutes that I make is commonly referred to as pentatonic. I also make another flute that's tuned to a diatonic scale or roughly diatonic roughly pentatonic. But when I'm tuning a flute, it's kind of a complex and yet simple approach that I take. When I have a stick that I know will be become the flute, then the bore diameter will influence or create, let's say, the fundamental pitch. And after the basic voice of the flute is put in, the finger holes are located in such a way that, you know, it allows me to have that pentatonic tuning. That probably doesn't make much sense.
Maggie: No, I know what you're saying, but maybe some listeners might not know what pentatonic is. Can you - I mean, it means five, right? So there's going to be five pitches.
Hawk: It does mean five, there are five, but there's a whole lot more depending on how you finger the flute. So there are six finger holes, but cross fingering, overblowing, all of those things will bring out other voices in the tuning of the flute or in the voice of the flute.
Maggie: That makes sense. And how do you actually hollow out the center of the flute?
Hawk: I use a brace and a bit. So the bit obviously is a very long drill bit and the brace is the device that holds the bit that allows me to rotate the bit on the piece of wood and bore it out.
Maggie: You mentioned in your presentation hearing several native flute players on recordings from whom you learned, including John Rainer. And I'm wondering, did you hear and learn from other living indigenous flute players, or is he the main one? Tell us a little bit about that.
Hawk: Well, I listened to John's music long before I even had a flute and the few other flute players who had made recordings. For your listeners, only in maybe the last 15 or so years has the flute become popular - there are tons of recordings available nowadays. But when I first started listening and playing, as I mentioned, 30, almost 32 years ago, there were very few recordings. So interestingly enough, I didn't learn from John personally, although John and I were friends, but I listened enough so that once I was comfortable with my skills, I decided that I would try to learn how to play some of his songs. Which is consistent with how I think, you know, one way that music was taught to other people just by listening and learning from that. I'd like to say that, you know, when I first started playing the flute and trying to play music like John Rayners or Tom Wares I would get really frustrated with it. Well, because I didn't know how to make my flute sound like theirs. And my wife said to me one day, noticing my frustration, "stop listening to flute music, and play your own music." And, you know, my response to her was simply, "I don't have music to play." And she smiled and she said, "Of course you do. But first, you have to stop listening to them and stop trying to mimic them and play what you know." And so I took her advice and literally stopped listening to native flute music for probably 25 years. It's only been in the last few years I've started listening again.
Maggie: Well, you know, many of your compositions, they're beautiful and they have an old, otherworldly feel to them. They're peaceful and contemplative. And in your presentation for Musical Connections, you shared several stories of encounters that inspired you to compose, like observing nature or respect for the earth. But I'm wondering where you get your musical ideas for melodies. And if, you sort of just spoke about this, whether they're inspired by traditional indigenous melodies, or do they come from somewhere else?
Hawk: Yes! So you know, all of the above. I'm glad you mentioned traditional. It's a discussion that comes up sometimes when I'm with other flute players. And one way of thinking about tradition is music that's been played for a very long period of time passed down in one form or another, from one flute player to the next or, you know, it doesn't even have to be a flute, it could be a vocal song or something. And certainly, I understand that way of thinking about it, but my feeling is that even those old songs began at someplace. Somebody had a flute or heard a song that they wanted to sing and they sang it and then it became popular. And other people, you know made the endeavor, made the effort to, to learn that song. My relationship with the flute and the music that comes from it is, I like to think of it in this respect: first, I used music as a way to articulate things that I feel. I can simply say that for me, it's prayer and I'm inspired by the voices that I hear out in the woods, out at the ocean, you know, the voices of nature, of creation. I'm also inspired by observations of our society how people relate and interact with each other. And then in terms of melodies, sometimes I hear melodies in my head or in my being, and I pick up the flute and use the flute to articulate those melodies, those things that I hear. Just yesterday I was playing here and my wife heard a few pieces that I was playing and she said, "Oh, that's, you know, that's really nice. What song is that?" And the only thing that I could say to her was, "I don't really know yet." It's something that's evolving. I'm not sure what the purpose is or what the purpose of this group of notes, this melody, this song is yet. And some of these pieces though, Maggie, I have been playing for a number of years. But I've never played them in public because I don't understand what their purpose is. I don't know if that speaks to your question or not.
Maggie: That definitely helps a lot. I mean, it comes from your soul in some kind of way and nature plays a really big role in it. And I'm wondering, I mean, do we know, this is a little bit of a shift, but does anyone know if flute playing has been part of native culture pre-contact throughout New England? And if so, what those early native American flutes were like?
Hawk: Yes. So the flute itself is roughly a thousand years old. And of course, as you well know, not all indigenous people, native people, had this style of flute. But those of us who did you know, there were some variations, but suffice it to say that it was pretty similar to what we see today and what we hear today. I have friends who are Ojibwe - actually, the person that I'm thinking of is now passed away - but he was a flute maker who began in the early thirties. He was a flute maker for most of his life, as was his father, and his grandfather, and so forth for many generations, and their story says that the flute was a part of their culture for as long as they know. I have some Passamaquoddy friends who also say the same thing and there it's interesting that for a while the flute was thought to have been influenced by European musical instruments, maybe the recorder, and thought to be as young as maybe 200 years old. I actually have a flute that's a little over 200 years old. And maybe it was in the 1930s that there were some artifacts that were found in Breckinridge, Arkansas, I think it is, of a flute that was radiocarbon dated to be a thousand years old. So I would say yes there, the flute has been around longer than contact.
Maggie: Yeah. And you had told a story. - I love the story about the 200-year-old Algonquin damaged flute that was gifted to you, and how important it was for you to repair it and have it being played rather than it being placed in a museum. And I wanted to ask you to talk about the importance of musical instruments being played and what it was like to play that flute.
Hawk: I think, in general, instruments that were made for music remain living when music happens with them. And I think that, you know, on a very physical level, that the more - particularly with wind instruments - the more that we breathe into it, the more that we handle it, the healthier the wood stays. Wooden instruments, without being played - then the wood dries out. So we were left with a skeleton of what the instrument should have been or could have been. I think in general, though, that playing this old flute, for example, I'm... the potential of feeling the players and their stories, their experiences who had this flute before me, is heightened. You know, whenever I sit with that old flute, I first imagined, you know, there's no way I can know who owned it personally. But to know that for 200 years people had this instrument and they were putting their breath into it and putting their hands on it and putting their music, their songs, their thoughts into this instrument, it influences and shapes what it is that I do with it.
Maggie: Do you imagine what melodies were played on it?
Hawk: Well, yes, I - you know, yes and no. I can't really have a sense of what was played and nor do I want to. What's more important to me is having the knowledge that it was played for this length of time and then allowing that to influence what it is that I do. So in other words, rather than, you know, doing any kind of scholarly research to understand the construction of songs 200 years ago, which is important in and of itself, but my desire is to again, is to take that feeling and let it shape what I do today. Does that make sense?
Maggie: Yeah, it makes total sense. I was also curious about, in your compositions, they seem to be free form rhythmically or meter-wise. That is, it's definitely not dance music. Can you talk a little bit about that? That the flow and rhythm meter?
Hawk: You know, I'm not sure if I can talk about it. I'm not sure if I understand what you're asking.
Maggie: Okay. Let me try asking it again. So, you know, when I think about indigenous music, of course, there's music that's dance music, like what I would hear at a powwow. And then when I listen to your music, as I said, it's contemplative and sort of free-flowing. But it's clearly not dance music. So does it have, when you, you know, think about the function of the music in people's lives, do you think about that? Can you talk about that at all?
Hawk: Yeah, sure. So you're right. It's not dance music. It's - I would say that you used words like contemplative, and I would say that it's partly meant to be that way. I've said a few times that my desire is to use music to articulate, to express what I see what I feel in life. But for me it kind of ends there. And my hope with whoever the listener might be is that they hear and feel the music, and it causes them to feel, period. To feel. And as an example of that, I like to use this example: some years ago, I was playing at an event. It was New Year's Eve, and I played one particular song. And at the end of my time playing, I was approached by two different people. One person said that the song that I played caused her to feel great emotional difficulties that she was having. She was in tears as she was listening to this piece of music. And the next person said something quite the opposite. She said it was the most joyful piece of music that she heard. And I thought that this is exactly what I hope my music is - that it will allow people to feel what they need or what's helpful for them in the moment.
Maggie: Following up on what you just said. Why do you think it is that massage and spas will often have native indigenous flute playing music as a soundtrack?
Hawk: That's a great question. I think the flute has the potential to be soothing. And I'm glad that no one can actually see me because I'm kind of making a face. I think that there are a lot of difficulties happening in the world today. And I think that people are looking to find respite healing a balance, and there's somewhat of a... I'm not sure exactly how to say this, but maybe a stereotypical image of native people. And those people who are doing massage and healing work and things of that nature look to those images and use those images to support their work. That's probably not very clear.
Maggie: Well, no, it is clear because what's in the back of my mind, you know, is, is this appropriation? It is simplified. And that's exactly why I brought it up.
Hawk: Appropriation is a good word. I mean, unfortunately, there's too much of that happening in the world today. Cultural appropriation taking, yeah. There's - it's happening a lot.
Maggie: Well along that thread, I'm curious how you personally feel about land acknowledgments and how it's sort of taken over as the politically correct thing for non-native people to speak when they're opening meetings, for example. How do you feel about that?
Hawk: Acknowledging, the horrendous things, you know... I was searching for an easier word, but the horrendous things that have happened historically and in some ways continue to happen today, acknowledging those things is an important step in reconciling the issues and building bridges and relationships that are healthier. You know, undoubtedly - I mean I have no foolish ideas that at some point in time, everyone who's not native from here will leave this land and all indigenous people again, you know, will live here, we're all here together. So it makes sense to build healthy relationships with each other. And one way to do that is just by acknowledging the ways that our relationships haven't been healthy. And I think, you know, acknowledging the land. Using the names when we know them is important. It's a small step. But it's an important one.
Maggie: I agree with you. It's an important one. And I think it's just the beginning, that there's a lot more that needs to be done. I wondered, if you're comfortable, and if you're not, it's fine. But are you comfortable sharing any of your experiences of racism as an indigenous person that you've encountered?
Hawk: Oh, sure. You know just recently my daughter and I were traveling, we were coming back from Massachusetts and we stopped at one of the rest areas here in Maine just to get a bite to eat and stretch our legs. And when we walked up to the food counter, the person who was working behind the counter stared at me didn't say a word, she just stared. And you know, I looked back at her, kind of expecting that maybe she was gonna snap out of it and say, "Hi, how, how can I help you?" But she never did. And so I put my order in, and without saying a word, she just threw some food together and literally threw it on the counter and then just walked away. And I was a little taken aback - you know, honestly, in the years that I've lived here in Maine, I haven't experienced overt racism. I'm sure I've encountered people who've looked at me and thought, "Well, I don't want to have anything to do with him for one reason or another," but it hasn't been overt. It hasn't been, you know, in my face like that one, like that experience. And you know, I was a little ambivalent about even taking the food. I did. I purchased it and then we went. You know, I told my daughter, I'm not sure if I'll eat it. I did, I was hungry. But yeah, I kind of felt sad for, for the lady who, I don't know, who was repulsed by the way I look,
Maggie: Did she pick up on that. I mean, did she...
Hawk: Oh yeah.
Hawk: Oh, absolutely. Yup. Yup. We both did. Yeah. When I was a child of maybe about 13 or so - this was during the height of the civil rights movement - my friends and I, you know, we'd watch the television news and look at the riots and things that were happening in other parts of the country. And you know, kind of sat in astonishment, but we would turn the television off and we would go play. And at that point in time we didn't see each other as being different colors or, you know, we looked at each other as being a good basketball player or a fast runner or something like that, but not by color. And then one day, racism found us at school and you know, there were some kids from a neighboring school who were just beating up people of color. And one of our friends got caught and he got beat up pretty bad. And that angered us tremendously. You know, we were all kind of... we had this rage that was just growing inside of us. And one day we thought to each other you know, the next white person that we see, we're just gonna, we're going to vent this rage, obviously using different terms. And we did, and the sad thing for us, and it was an important thing, but the sad thing for us was that the next white person that we saw who felt our wrath actually was a friend of ours, but we were so angered that we didn't see that this kid was one of our friends. We just saw that he had a different color skin and we, you know, we beat him up pretty badly. And then after we realized what we had done after that rage had vented, we literally stood around him and cried. And at that point in my life, I thought I would I don't ever want to see people in that same light again. If I don't like you, it's not because of the color of your skin, it will be because of something that you do or you don't do. So, you know, yeah, I know you didn't ask me that, but...
Maggie: No, no, that's a... that's a powerful memory. And I wonder when you, because you do a lot of programs in schools, is this - I mean, do you encounter ignorance, or is it something that you help educate students about?
Hawk: Oh well, yes. And yes, I, my hope is that I help with that. I do a lot of work in schools, and there've been a few occasions at some of the schools that I've been to where the teachers were unwilling to acknowledge the misinformation that they were sharing with their students. So there was one school that I went to and I... you know, I think it may have been fifth and sixth graders, and in a way that, you know, was appropriate, we talked about genocide. We talked about some of the other cultural pieces of misinformation, you know, culturally speaking, that was in lesson books... we talked about Thanksgiving and what that was. And the teachers, you know, the teacher said... two teachers in particular said, "Well, we've never heard of any of these things. and we're going to continue teaching the way the book says," - they were using, looking at a history book. "We're going to continue teaching what's in the book." And I looked at the book that they had, and of course, the first image in their very small section about native people, the very first image that was on the page was two or three native people kneeling at the feet, of course, of Christopher Columbus. And I thought, "Well, this is not really accurate information. And if you're teaching, then you should teach accurate information." And they said, "Well, it's, it's in the book and it's all we know." And so I suggested to them that they go to the library. I actually went to the principal afterward and discussed my concerns. And the principal said, "No, don't worry. We'll change the curriculum." And so I was pleased at that, but there've been more than a few occasions where what was being taught was inaccurate. And for the most part, most of the teachers were open, but not in all situations.
Maggie: What year was that?
Hawk: I don't remember, maybe in the late nineties or so.
Maggie: I can't imagine that happening today, but I suppose it's possible.
Hawk: Oh, I think it's possible. Yes. There, you know, there are people who are still resistant, no matter what kind of information is given to them, they're resistant to that. They're not open.
Maggie: I'm turning back to your compositions. I did want to mention how much I loved the old song. Were you inspired by your wanting to learn the bagpipes, and then you created this two-chamber flute that had a drone in it? Such a beautiful sound of the drone with that melody. I read about your commission to compose an original piece of music for the London, Mozart Players, and also wanted to learn a little bit more about that experience.
Hawk: Yeah, that was a really important experience in my life. When I was invited to go to England - I'll say a little bit more about how I ended up in England in 2006, America was commemorating John Smith in the founding of Jamestown and his relationship with Pocahontas and the myth about that. And so I was invited down to Boston and a few other places to play my flutes and to share a little bit about my perspective about those things. There was a contingent of folks from England who were there, and they approached me after one of my presentations. And they said, "You know, would you please consider coming to England?" And I said, "Sure, I'd love to come to England. What would you want me to do?" And they said, "Basically what you've already done here." Basically, I'm going to try to cut the story short, but maybe six months or so before we were scheduled to leave I got an email from the London Mozart players inviting me to make a piece of music to play with them in concert. And my initial reply was to say no primarily because the flute, historically, and culturally, is a solo instrument. It wasn't intended to play with any other musical instrument - maybe with the voice for some peoples, but not all. It wasn't used with the drum or a rattle or anything. And so that's been my intention in my relationship with it. But the real reason, Maggie, was I was petrified. I had Googled the London Mozart players. I didn't know who they were, but when I found them online, they were described as the premier orchestra of classical music. So they knew what they were doing musically and I had no musical experience. And so I was afraid. So, you know, initially in my head, anyway, I declined, but my wife and daughters, they said, "Well, you know, give some thought to it. Maybe it will be okay." And I thought about it for a while and still was ready to decline. And they said, "Look, we're going to go to England anyway." Most of why I was there was to talk at various schools and other academic places. "We're going to go anyway. So why don't you try it? And if it's, if it comes out terrible, then no one will talk about it. You'll leave England. And nobody here in the states will know."
So that, that kind of made sense to me. And I decided I would try it. Our initial meeting with London Mozart players, you know, musically anyway, was awful. It was horrendous. What had happened was we had scheduled time together to rehearse, but that time got whittled down. We had scheduled a couple of hours to rehearse and that time got whittled down to about 15 minutes. And I sat in front of the orchestra. I sat facing the orchestra and the conductor said, "Oh no, you have to turn your back to us." And I said "Well, that's disrespectful. So maybe we should talk about cultural things first before we talk about music," which we did, and that left zero time to rehearse. So when it was time to actually play in front of an audience, we had no time together. It just felt and sounded as if we had no time together. What happened next was that we had lunch. We had a chance to interact, to get to know each other, and consequently the next public presentation, our music together reflected that time together that non-musical, that personal time together. And so by the third we did - we did three big concerts and then a few little workshops and by the third concert at the very end, you know, I sat with my eyes closed and I cried. And I thought, this is, this is not good. The audience is clapping. I could tell that they were on their feet clapping. You know, I could hear that shuffling. And but I sat in the chair with my eyes closed weeping for what seemed like an eternity. And I thought I should at least acknowledge the orchestra. So when I stood and turned to them. So many of them were in tears and then I looked at the audience and they too had tears coming. I thought, ah, this, this was perfect. You know, that the orchestra and myself made a connection, on a personal level, not as musicians, but just as human beings, and our time together and the presentation reflected that connection. And then the audience felt it. So it was perfect. It actually had a pretty profound effect on me personally. And prior to that experience, you know, classical music was something that you'd hear in a movie or on TV. And when you did, you didn't listen to it because... classical music. But I came home obsessed with learning more about it. Here it is 14 years later. And I continue to listen to early music, you know, Baroque music, Renaissance, Medieval. If you come to my workshop, that's what you'll hear in it. You won't hear native flute music, or any other kind of native stuff. You'll hear early music.
Maggie: That's fascinating. That's fascinating. And it, and it sort of echoes what you said earlier about your music causing people to feel, so there's an example of that in a beautiful way. And your compositions have been used in a number of award-winning films and television broadcasts. I wonder which one of these you're most proud of ?
Hawk: All of them. You know, the truth is that I don't pay attention. If someone asks to use my music, you know, unless it's for something that,.. it hasn't happened, I don’t know, I was trying to think of an example that might be something that I would say no to. It really hasn't happened. I just say yes. I don't feel like I own this music and I'm grateful when someone feels like it would be beneficial and helpful to whatever their project might be. So yeah, I don't think about money. I, you know, sometimes I get compensated for it, but not often. If it were often I'd have a new truck.
Maggie: Well, you should be getting compensated for that.
Oh, this is a question about when you were in doing your Revels Connects presentation, I noticed you're wearing a beautiful necklace featuring a bird with spread wings. Tell us about that necklace.
Hawk: Oh, sure. So I've been happily and proudly wearing that piece for, I think about 26 years, somewhere in there. I was at an event, a powwow here in New England, and walking around, looking at the different artists and the work that they had, and I noticed a little glass case of bird carvings in one booth. And so I looked closely at them and I saw that piece and I asked the maker, his name is James, "How much was that?" And he just looked and said, "It's not for sale." And I said, "Oh, okay," I said, "Could we trade for it?" And he said no. And very matter of factly, just like that, very curt. So I kind of walked away and that was that. Well, I saw James again two or three more times that year and each time I would ask him if I could buy it and he would say no. And over the next three years, whenever I would see him, I would ask the same question. I would see the piece in the box and see if I could trade him. Maybe. You know, my family, given my wife and daughters for that piece, it was so beautiful. And but one day, Maggie, I looked into his case and the piece was gone and I literally felt like someone had kicked me in the stomach. I just sat down kind of slumped over and eventually composed myself and walked away. Later that day he came to my booth with his hand, you know, outstretched closed. So I put out my open hand and he put that piece into it. And you know, I looked at him, I didn't have words. He said, "You know, this piece has been yours the whole time. "So with tears flowing. I said, "Why'd you make me wait so long?." And I love that piece tremendously. James and Leslie. And Leslie is his wife. I wish I could tell you their last names.
Maggie: Do they live in Maine or somewhere else?
Hawk: They live out in Western Maine.
Maggie: That's a beautiful story and a beautiful piece. As we come to the close of this, our conversation, do you have anything you want to add that I haven't thought to ask you about?
Hawk: How much time do we have? You know, there are a lot of things that I would love to add. One of the things that's happened that I've mentioned is that for 15 or 18 years that the flute has gained a lot of popularity. There are flute makers and flute players all over the world now. And it leaves me with mixed emotions and the flute has become something... well I was going to say something that it wasn't meant to be. And I don't know, I think I could argue with myself about that, but the flute has become something that it wasn't. It's become a musical instrument. And I think of the flute historically and culturally as being a tool more so than a musical instrument. Nowadays many folks are playing it with other instruments. They think about it in terms of key like Western musical ideas. And there's little regard to historically accurate, culturally accurate ways of relating to the flute. On the one hand, I'm happy that there's that much interest. On the other hand, I'm kind of sad and concerned that there's little interest in, you know, the cultural aspects of it.
Maggie: Can I ask a question about...
Hawk: Oh, absolutely. Please.
Maggie: Okay, this is really interesting. So when you talk about the flute, I mean, I'm all for cultural context. And when you talk about the flute as being a tool within a specific culture, a tool for what? Can you give us an example?
Hawk: Well, so I've mentioned a few times - I think the flute, for me, is a tool for prayer. In a very broad sense, there are some native peoples who identified the flute, describe the flute as a courting tool. C O U R courting of a loved one. One name was the love flute. I was talking with a flute player, a well-respected flute player, some years ago, and I asked about that, you know, I asked about this idea that it was just for courting, just the love flute, and his reply is something that really resonated with me. His reply was that the relationship between the feminine and the masculine is something that is seen throughout all of creation and using the flute in that, in that way, using the flute to play music that you would hope would be attractive to someone that you want to be your partner in life is just a reflection of that duality of relationship between the feminine and the masculine. So I loved his way of thinking about it. For me and for those of us who see it, well, let me back up and say that way of thinking is, is prayerful. That way of thinking is ceremonial, you know, honoring that duality in all of creation for those of us, and I'll just say for me, I think of it in that context, but in a sense, in a broader way, it is a tool. And I'm being repetitive here for expressing my gratitude for life and for the things that enable life. And yeah, those things. So I kind of forgot what your question was.
Maggie: You answered, well, I was actually... you answered it. But within specific indigenous, or maybe not just indigenous cultures, when you talk about the flute being a tool, I asked a tool for what? So you did answer that, but specifically, is it specific to certain tribes or not? The concept that it's not as a musical instrument, but as a tool. I wonder if that, is that a Hawk Henries feeling or is that culturally agreed upon and sort of - that's how, and you can't generalize, but say among Nipmuck or Ojibwe or Anishinaabe people, would they agree with that?
Hawk: You know, I think it's both a Hawk Henries way of seeing and interpreting. But I think that if we were to talk with old people, then there would probably be agreement with that. You know, of course, nowadays, there are a whole lot of Native people who play the flute and it's strictly a musical instrument. You know, things do evolve, things do change and I'm just old. So I kind of get stuck with the old way of seeing things. Let me use the didgeridoo as an example. Or kora or even the harp. You notice the harp that's behind me. Well, we know the harp was the Bard's instrument, or at leas,t I think of it that way. Do you see two of those behind me? Oh, you can't see, oh, no. That's right. So the old way of those instruments was to use them to share knowledge, to share information, to provide ceremonial musics for community societal kinds of events. And that's, that's my way with the flute. That's my desire with a didgeridoo or with the Kora or with the harp. And I think it's consistent with how it was done historically. The didgeridoo or yidaki is kind of evolving the same way the flute is. The term didgeridoo is a relatively new term used by people outside of the culture that yidaki comes from, and it's being used, the didgeridoo, strictly as a musical instrument, not ceremonial, not to share knowledge, not in the way that it was traditionally used the flute, in the flute world, the same exact thing is happening. You know, evolution is that way with all things, right? Things change from, you know, their inception to what they become today to whatever it is that they might become tomorrow. And I just happened to be stuck with the previous uses and ways of thinking about it.
Maggie: I think it's a continuum and it's very important to hold onto those ways of culture and tradition bearing.
Hawk: I would agree. You know, people do ask about tradition in what that means. And I think we spoke about this earlier in our discussion; in the flute world, people think of tradition and traditional songs as just being songs that were played over the last 200 or 400 or 500 years. And as I mentioned earlier, I think tradition is coming from a rooted place. Let me say it this way. With the music that I play, it's rooted in the land. It's rooted in the history of my relatives, my ancestors but its voice is today. Does that, does that make sense?
Maggie: Yes, it does.
Hawk: Would you really tell me if it didn't?
Maggie: Yes, I would. I think you could tell.
Hawk: Yeah, no, I know you would. And that's what I hope, I hope people understand is that one can play really traditional stuff. That's not 500 years old - you know, maybe 500 years from now, someone will be playing some of my songs and there'll be thinking, oh, that's real traditional. Wow. How'd you learn that?
Maggie: Let me just follow that up. Are there younger people of the next generation that are playing your compositions?
Hawk: To my knowledge, no, but there are people my age who are playing my compositions.
Maggie: So there are. Doesn't have to be a younger generation, but there are people. That's wonderful!
Hawk: Yeah. It makes me happy.
Maggie: Well, Hawk Henries. Thank you so very much for talking with us about your compositions and flute making on Musical Connections.
Hawk: It's been my pleasure, Maggie. Thank you so much.
Maggie: You're welcome.