Distinctly Montana Magazine

Spring 2011

Distinctly Montana Magazine

Issue link: http://digital.distinctlymontana.com/i/27047

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Page 33 of 99

N a t i v e Ame r i c a n F l u t i s t s : A Musical Tapestry BY LORI GRANNIS Inspiration may come from any number of plac- es—a walk in the forest, a nervous herd of elk, or a single wild horse thundering across a golden plain. Sounds found in nature—like the sky-splitting clap of thunder, the crackle of fire, or the howl of a lone wolf— commingle with dreams to create the backbone of sound that wafts from the chambers of the Native American flute. “It’s what’s happening around you at that time,” says Native flutist Robert Turgeon, “that ends up in the story that is the song.” Robert Turgeon and Joseph FireCrow are indigenous Montanans—men with a proud heritage from differing tribes—who began a trek along a similar path that eventu- ally split to create two distinct artists. Joseph FireCrow The pair first met at a flute competition in Great Falls over 20 years ago, when the ancient instrument had nearly succumbed to a cultural death and was enjoying a comeback, due to noted flutists R. Carlos Nakai and Mary Youngblood. The music between them bears the stamp of authenticity that honors heritage and maintains identity, but that’s where the similarities end and the different interpretations begin. What continues to unite them, they say, is the root of the music itself, and the sentiments behind it. As a boy growing up on the Northern Cheyenne Reserva- DISTINCTLY MONTANA | DIGITAL Enjoy the read? Now hear the music! Go to www.distinctlymontana.com/flute112 tion in Lame Deer, Joseph FireCrow was enchanted when he first heard flutist Grover Wolfvoice play. But he also re- members being frightened of the feelings the music evoked in relation to the hardships of reservation life in the 1960s. “Hearing the flute got me in touch with just how sad and frustrated and scared I was about the ram- pant alcoholism, the police brutality, and the nights of hunger,” he says. “Yet I also just loved the sound of it.” 32 DISTINCTLY MONTANA • SPRING 2011

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