Was hoping for a quiet saturday at home but I ended up having to attend a wake in Manchester, my father wasn’t feeling too well so he asked me to attend in his place so I travelled up there with a couple of my uncles. These occasions are always quite sombre and have a way of always making me reflect on things.
Anyway we got back to my parents place in Birmingham at around 10pm this evening and I finally got to open up a huge package that arrived for me the other day … Here’s a bit of background first …
For a while now I’ve been trying to find a bamboo flute. I wanted to find a side blown Shakuhachi flute, the side-blown are actually quite unusual and purists probably wouldn’t call them true Shakuhachi. I had also played a few chinese bamboo flutes, and if I’m honest the side-blow Shakuhachi is closer to the chinese instruments than it is to the Japanese. Unfortunately they are very difficult to get a hold of in the UK (impossible actually!) and you pretty much have to order them from the far east or the US. Now I order many goods over the internet, but never an instrument. So it took me a very long time to find someone I thought could actually make one for me … that’s when I found Tom Buchanan.
I learnt of Tom Buchanan through a load of reviews of his work on eBay. He had been making bamboo woodwind instruments for over twenty years. I initially contacted him seeking advice on where I could find the instrument I was after, and I saw a picture of 61″ bamboo flute staff that he makes. It was more like a Chinese instrument than the Japanese one I was looking for but that didn’t bother me too much, I knew I could play both.
When I started conversing with Tom about the instrument two things struck me, firstly unlike many of the other merchants I had spoken to Tom wasn’t trying to plug the price of the instrument. His first question to me was “why do you want it?…is it for orchestral play or purely meditative?“. My response was “meditative”, at which point he went to great lengths to explain the different tunings for the instrument and which he felt was more appropriate. He even went as far as sending me a series of sound files highlighting the difference in the sounds and asking me to choose which I preferred.
The second thing that struck me about Tom, was his passion. He sounded like someone who loved what he did. I guess at the point I reacted purely instinctively and decided to ask Tom to make me one. Tom explained that because I was in the UK he would have to custom make the staff, to a slightly shortened length of 58″ due to some shipping limit.
For the more technical amongst you I ordered custom made 58″ Bb Pentatonic Tranverse Bamboo Flute Staff. Tom also explained to me that there was a very good chance that this might be the last flute he ever makes due to various issues. When he told me he was going to make a special one … I tried not to get too excited … largely due to the fact that I felt a little trepidation … I’d just ordered an instrument from someone I didn’t really know based on … well … an instinct. There was certainly a part of me that felt a little weird about it all.
Anyway I kept in touch with Tom and he kept me updated on his progress. I must admit I was excited when he told me he had finally shipped it to me.
So … back to this evening … when I finally opened the package this evening I was … stunned, shocked and awed … in fact I still am.
The flute is beautiful. It’s fire hardened bamboo so the first thing I noticed when I unwrapped all the protective packaging was the smell. It’s like sweet, burning, wood, like a strong incense that is really intoxicating. I’ve been playing the instrument for about an hour trying to get used to its balance. The bindings are wonderfully made and the embouchure hole is slightly larger than I’m used to, so it’s taking a little bit of getting used to. But the sound is amazing! It’s so soothing, calming, it cuts right through you ! If you want to understand what I mean Heres a link to a sound file of Tom playing one of his flutes tuned to the same spec. I will upload a file of me playing mine soon.
Anyway here’s a pic of me playing mine taken on my Nokia N73 so please forgive the quality of the image, my digital camera is at my place, so I’ll probably post some better quality pics up when I get back to my place tomorrow.
I wish I could find the words to thank Tom for what he has created for me but I don’t know how to even begin, it’s exceeded any expectation I could possibly have had. Saying Thank You seems so inadequate! I will treasure it, Tom. Thank you so very very much!
Finally as I mentioned earlier Tom told me that this might be the last flute like this that he makes, consequently if you visit his eBay site you’ll notice that there aren’t any woodwind instruments listed on it at all anymore … and that saddens me greatly because I believe Tom is amazing!
I strongly urge anyone who is interested in a similar woodwind instrument to contact Tom through his eBay site and get his advice who knows if your lucky he might reconsider and make one for you!
As for me, right now, I couldn’t be happier!