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Zuni Sunrise - Sheet Music for Native American Flute

Zuni Sunrise is one of the most well-known traditional melodies played on the Native American flute. I first heard it played by Steve Bliven in the Spring of 2002 and later learned it from Gary Stroutsos. He had learned it from the Navajo flute player Paul Thompson who had learned it from Zuni flutist Fernando Cellicion.

In 1904, the Smithsonian Institute published Matilda Coxe Stevenson's huge study title The Zuni Indians: Their mythology, esoteric fraternities, and ceremonies ([Stevenson 1904]). On page 150, Stevension notes that “The closing song to the rising sun, when the flute is played, is exceedingly impressive.

An early transcription of this melody appears in [Stacey 1906] Some Zuni Ceremonies and Melodies, page 59, which is an extraction of the melody of “The Sunrise Call”, arranged by Carlos Troyer for voice and piano and published in 1904 ([Troyer 1904] Traditional Songs of the Zuñi Indians — With English and Zuñi Text, Four Volumes, First Series (song book)). However, the melodies provided below have been modified substantially since those early transcriptions.

Here is the description that accompanies Troyer's 1904 arrangement:

The “Sunrise Call” is one of the most inspiring features of the morning ceremonials of the cliff-dewllers. It assumes, however, a greater significance in its connection with the ceremonial for the “Coming of Montezuma,” which is immediately announced thereafter.

Before the dawn of day breaks forth, the vibrating chime-plates are brought into action, their whirr reaching the outermost dwellings of the pueblo and bringing the people to the roofs and tops of the houses. All is alive, men, women and children all appear to obey the summons of the Sun-priest to rise and greet the mother-of-life, the rising sun.

With his great tuma, and amid the roar of big drums, he blazons forth the “call to rise” to the surrounding mesas, and receives from the a prompt and faithful response.

Having fulfilled his first duty, he next makes a fervent appeal in the form of a morning prayer, to the “Mighty Sun-god,” imploring in a low and a tremulous voice aid and guidance for his people, and concludes by repeating his first sunrise call again, to the distant mesas.


Transcription and Performance Notes

The version I've arranged below is my own take on the melody … basically the way I play it as a solo piece in performance. The piece is scored in parlando style, using note durations to roughly indicate how long each note is held, and a breath mark symbol … Caesura symbol to indicate a pause … to indicate a pause between phrases.

The song begins at Citation A with a series of calls that do not really resolve for a long time — until you get to the Finger diagram closed closed closed closed closed open note just before Citation A. Personally, I like to repeat the in the Citation A and Citation A sections two or three times, and then end the piece on with a few calls at Citation A that do not resolve … the listener is just left “up in the air”.

Sheet Music - Six-hole Pentatonic Minor Tuned Flutes

Zuni Sunrise -  six-hole Pentatonic Minor

Zuni Sunrise - Six-Hole Flutes - Pentatonic Minor Tuning Larger image

Sheet Music - Five-hole Pentatonic Minor Tuned Flutes

Zuni Sunrise - five-hole Pentatonic Minor

Zuni Sunrise - Five-Hole Flutes - Pentatonic Minor Tuning Larger image

Other Arrangements

Here are links to some other arrangements and trascriptions available on the Web:

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