Philip Martin has a gift.
For more than 10 years, the 58-year-old has been honing his craft and making things extraordinary.
Truth is, calling it a musical instrument may be a little misleading as it could just as easily be looked upon as a piece of art. Then again there is a historical additive to it so it could be used as a teaching aid. However his work is viewed, Philip has been making beautiful Native-American flutes that are as striking to look at as they are to listen to.
Philip, originally from the Puget Sound area of Washington, is an artist that used to paint primarily scenes from nature, but has not picked up a brush for some time. Oh, there’s the occasion where he’ll paint a design on a flute, such as an eagle or other animal from the northwest coast, or even something selected by an individual.
And despite learning to carve wood in his youth, it wasn’t until moving to El Paso for nine years, and back to Washington, that he really developed a passion for wood carving, most specifically, the making of flutes.
“I got the basics at the library,” Philip said.
But it was when he was introduced to a gentleman that was part Lakota Indian that the education really began.
“He made his own flutes as well so I got with him and told him I’d not only like to learn how to make my own flute, but to learn to play it as well,” Philip said.
After getting a few ideas, Philip went home to his shop and started working on his own, and if he had a problem, he would just go talk to his newly-found mentor.
Philip said he started out sanding to round out his flutes and also used a wood planer before finally getting a router and a wood lathe to turn his pieces.
He said he felt living in El Paso helped him not be a stranger to southwest influences which aided with his designs.
Though his flutes are crafted out of several different varieties of wood his favorite choice is Eastern Red Cedar.
“Not only because it is cedar, but because it’s between hard and soft woods,” he said. “The different density of the wood is going to affect how it’s going to sound. It really is the perfect wood.”
He said it can take as little as two days to make a flute or much longer depending on the detail.
Philip has lived just outside of Weatherford for the last 2 1/2 years and said if someone brought him a piece of wood and wanted him to make them a flute he would.
“I’ve had a few requests and I tell most people I’d give it a try,” he said.
He entertained the Rotary Club of Weatherford recently, showing off many of his works as well as his playing ability which is his real message.
“I hear so many people say, ‘I can’t play a musical instrument,’ no don’t say that,” Philip says. “Just gently blow into it and eventually your fingers will catch up with what you are doing and pretty soon every note coming out of it is good.”
He said in the field of music, the flute can and is used for healing one’s spirit and be very uplifting when played.
Philip said he’s put quite a bit of research into making flutes - lots of “trials and errors.” He emphasized that if you make our own and you make a mistake you can always fix it - kind of like life.
Lance Winter, 817-594-9902, Ext. 102
The Native American flute is the earliest flute recognized to have two air chambers. An internal wall, sometimes called a plug, inside the instrument partitions the two chambers: The slow air chamber, also called the compression chamber or mouth chamber, and the sound chamber, otherwise known as the pipe body, playing chamber,resonating chamber, tone chamber, or variable tube. The sound chamber contains the sound hole, or distal mouth opening or true sound hole, and the tone holes - finger holes.
The slow air chamber can serve as a secondary resonator, which can give some flutes a distinctive sound. The two chambers are acoustically connected by a narrow channel, called a flue, that is formed by the top of the plug and the bottom of a removable block - or "bird", "fetish," "saddle", or "totem".
The "traditional" Native American flute was constructed using measurements based on the body - the length of the flute would be the distance from inside of the elbow to tip of the index finger. The length of the top air chamber, as well as the distance between the whistle and first hole, would be one fist-width.