Interview with R. Carlos Nakai
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Written by Edie Weinstein-Moser   
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Interview with R. Carlos Nakai
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Edie:  So how do you translate that for an audience that would be interested in learning whatever you may have to offer in a way that makes sense if they’re not part of the culture?

RC:  I would encourage them primarily to look into their own family’s history and see how they arrived at where they might be in their own particular point in time and then use stories and other allusions from contemporary and traditional perspectives that are common to many cultures. Get an understanding how you can access the wisdom of your own heritage. In America, of course, everyone is multi-cultural, so the stories that come from one family are contained in many different ethnic philosophies and stories of experience.

 Edie:  Is music a way that helps people celebrate diversity?

RC:   No, not really. We live in a culture of Top 40 hits, so there isn’t much that’s expressed commercially abo ut that culture at that moment or another in time.

 Edie:  Is that something you endeavor to do with your music?

RC: No. I don’t really pay much attention to that.

 Edie:  What do you feel is the purpose of what you do?

 RC:  I don’t know. The instrument guides me and whatever purpose there may be, it shows me at a later time.

 Edie:  Do pieces come to you spontaneously?  What inspires them?

RC:  The environment, wherever it might be. In Central Park, in the financial district, in Battery Park, in the woods here in Colorado. A lot of times, songs will come from what I experience.

 Edie: It sounds like you are saying that the songs ‘write you’.

RC:  All the time. I try to gain control over what I do, but I can’t. Usually what I have to do at that point is to play the instrument and let the songs come on their own.

 Edie:  For many people, the ideas of Spirit and music are synonymous. How do they interweave for you?

RC:  It’s all there. Spirit guides me, it inhabits everything that I see and experience here on this planet, and even in the cosmos that surrounds us. There isn’t anyone anywhere who can not be without Spirit; it inhabits all life, as we call it. All life is made up of that Force that enables us to be in whatever state we choose to be from one moment to the next.

Edie:  I know that you make your own flutes. Does the wood guide you in the same way you’re guided in playing your music?

RC:  The instruments make themselves essentially. What I do is either carve or work on tools in a machine shop and turn out the instruments, but how the instrument will sound is entirely determined by where the visual cues are to place finger holes and sound-producing mechanisms. Even in that sense, they aren’t keyed as the flute in the orchestra is. They play whatever pitch or range they might have. Otherwise, I would just go down and buy a recorder.


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