In recent years I have become more and more aware of the music of the Didgeridoo – probably a result of having moved to live here in Australia – but whatever the reason is, I have listened to more and more music being played on this most extraordinary of instruments, and been deeply moved by all of it.
What on earth is a Didgeridoo?
In essence it consists of nothing more complex than a long tube of wood. No valves, holes, slides or any other way of changing the length or character of the thing. And what the musician does is essentially simply grunt into it and it produces the most extraordinary sounds. To give you a much more details account of the instrument and its uses and history, here is a link to good old Wikipedia which tells you everything you ever wanted to know about a Didgeridoo, but never dared ask!! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Didgeridoo
Xavier Rudd – A contemporary Didgeridoo player
To start giving you an idea of what a Didgeridoo sounds like and is capable of, I thought I would start with a young Australian musician, who uses the Didgeridoo in his music, though he distorts the sounds digitally and uses several Didgeridoos at the same time, so his music is not really typical of the music that the aborigines play on their Didgeridoos. but nonetheless is interesting as a different approach to this instrument, which possibly is the oldest wind instrument in the world.
And this is what he did with it… See what you think.
To put it all in perspective, here is a piece of original Aboriginal Didgeridoo music. This is the extraordinary sound that they make with this simple wooden tube. Astounding isn’t it?
If you imagine this sound in the proper context of an aboriginal gathering, it all makes sense, and it shows a remarkable sensitivity on a musical level. Love it!
Here is another example of how it all sounds… Amazing the sounds that can be made with that tube.
Another use of the Didgeridoo these days is in contemporary “serious” music (what the hell do you call the modern type of classical music?) This approach is exemplified by the playing of William Barton who is perhaps the best known contemporary Didgeridoo player, and who plays music such as this piece below, but also has been known to pitch up to jam in the Brisbane Jazz club, a marvellous musician.
I tend to agree with one of the comments below this video on Youtube, in which the commentator says that the two types of music here, (the classical orchestra and the Didgeridoo) simply do not work together as the sounds of the Didgeridoo are too complex to mix with the relatively simple sounds of a western orchestra… But that aside, I find the playing of Barton so subtle and sympathetic that I can listen to his playing for hours very happily.
If you consider that possibly people here have been playing the Didgeridoo for up to 40 000 years (!!!!), it is hardly surprising that its haunting sound is quintessentially Australian, inextricably intertwined with the superb creation myths of the Aboriginal Australians (Check out the Dream Time Stories to discover what those are). And obviously, apart from the simple drum, it has to be absolutely the oldest musical instrument in the world.