AN ISLAND WE
An island we never leave is assembled using simple rudiments from folk flute playing traditions, transcribed and fragmented from various historical performances and recorded oral histories in Ireland, Japan, Norway, and Slovakia.
A few facts...
There are at least 37 places in the world named Bird Island.
The only human inhabitants of Japan’s Bird Island (Tori-shima) were shipwrecked castaways, luring and stealing goods from newcomers who then became castaways themselves. Whatever population remained generations later were all killed in 1902 after a volcanic eruption. The island was never resettled.
A familiar sound in Japanese shakuhachi flute playing is koro koro (“rolling”), a trill performed by rapidly alternating several fingers at once, similar to the Irish trad flute cran where a low note is ornamented by trilling three fingers in rapid succession.
Bird Island of Ireland lies in the middle of Strangford Lough near Kircubbin, the town where Rev. William Warwick was hanged in 1798 for writing documents in support of the Irish Rebellion. It will soon disappear as a result of rising sea levels due to climate change.
Slovakia has a manmade Bird Island. It was built in order to re-home bird populations displaced from flooding caused by dams constructed on the Danube that produce renewable electricity and divert floodwaters away from human settlements.
The Slovakian fujara, like the Scandanvian seljefløyte, is a "fipple" flute without finger holes. Only harmonic overtones are playable using the embouchre, and by covering the end of the instrument with the thumb.
The United States has its own Bird Island located at Harris State Beach in Brookings, a coastal Oregon town that was the first mainland US site to be bombed during World War II. In 1962, the pilot of the plane responsible for the bombing returned to Brookings to present the town with his family’s 400-year old samurai sword. Fifty years later in 2011, Brookings was hit by a tsunami caused by the Sendai Earthquake...the most powerful and destructive seismic event in Japanese history.