Flute Improvisations during the Arizona Monsoon and Ghost Month
Last year, I learned that the the 7th Lunar Month (roughly the August-September time frame) was observed in certain parts of Asia as Ghost Month (盂蘭). Apparently, the portals of the Underworld are opened – allowing the spirits to run free (if not amok). There are certain taboos that apply to this month — I’ll let the reader refer to Wikipedia for a list as well as more background on the event.
Anyway, some of the many customs that are observed at this time include paying respect to the deceased by reciting prayers and making burnt offerings to their memories. It is also customary to limit one’s travel — especially during the night hours.
Last year my friends and I (to our coincidental peril), evidently did not show sufficient respect and we all suffered unusual travel discomfiture(s).
Letting It Happen
But, I have also found that for me, the 7th Lunar Month is a great time to be fully immersed in musical endeavors. There is little effort involved, as the urge to improvise and compose is overpowering.
For the second year in a row, I thought I would take a short hiatus from recording. But It was not to be. For no particular reason, I would awaken suddenly to the ubiquitous sound of birds. I would then take a the field recorder outside to capture the ambient sounds of jays, owls, quail, sparrows, towhees, roosters and sapsuckers. A couple of those sessions were done during an aggressive thunder storm (the Arizona monsoon season has lasted longer than usual this year).
I would typically improvise a flute solo on the same day of the ambient recording, and before I knew it, there was more-than-enough material for an album. The calendar of recording dates confirmed my suspicions: between August 6th and September 5th this year was indeed Ghost Month.
I didn’t fight it – I let it happen. And so emerged the album by the same name. Please, enjoy a listen:
I am beginning to look forward to the 7th Lunar Month. (And who could blame me?)
The album, “Let It Happen” by Bill Leyden is dedicated to the memory of master flute-maker, Leonard “Lone Crow” McGann (RIP), who succumbed to cancer in August, 2013. Track 14, “Goodby, Lone Crow” is played with one of his flutes – a Low A Native American flute made from sassafras wood.