Under the Earth Tones: Ambient Didgeridoo Meditations

Didjeri Dudes

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Didjeri Dudes

Under the Earth Tones: Ambient Didgeridoo Meditations

Non-traditional Didjeridu

Brian Pertldidjeridu
Jamie Cunninghamdidjeridu
Stuart Dempster

CD, Playing time --:-- minutes

Track List:

  1. Magma - 9:35
  2. Land of Snows - 14:56
  3. Cosmic Frogs - 8:56
  4. Orion Nebula - 20:30
  5. Shudder - 9:29
  6. Final Peace - 8:26

Publisher No.:
(1997) publisher not known - number not known , Didgeri Dudes, 10339 13th Ave. NW Seattle, WA 98177

Under the Earth Tones was recorded in an abandoned 2 million gallon underground water cistern near port townsend, washington, will be played along with a live performance by the Didgeri Dudes with Stuart Dempster, who played on three of the album's six cuts
Reviewer: mailing list

"Under the Earth Tones: Ambient Didgeridoo Meditations", is the second recording by the Didgeri Dudes, a.k.a. Jamie Cunningham and Brian Pertl with longtime mentor and musical guru Stuart Dempster. This recording seeks to stretch the sonic boundaries of the didgeridoo even further with the musicians performing with didgeridoos made of wood, bamboo, plastic pipe, and cactus - as well as conch-shell trumpets and a nine-foot long Tibetan horn called a dung chen. The didgeridoo is an ancient Australian Aboriginal wind instrument that was traditionally played by men to rhythmically accompany song and dance in both ritualistic and social settings. Originally, the instrument was constructed from eucalyptus that had been naturally hollowed out by termites. Its simple construction, however, belies the complex sounds created by an experienced player. This recording features the Didgeri Dudes weaving ambient textures while performing in the depths of an abandoned two-million gallon underground water cistern at Fort Worden, near Port Townsend, Washington. The natural one-minute-plus echo-delay and distinct reverberational characteristics of the cistern produces enhanced frequencies, requiring the musicians to play the room (cistern) as an instrument. This recording was made during a marathon fourteen-hour session in the dank darkness of the cistern, illuminated only by light filtering through a small opening in the roof. The effect of being continually bombarded by pure sound left the three performers euphoric at day_s end. To recreate the powerful and meditative ambiance of this incredible space, we recommend a quiet listening environment and a high-quality stereo system or headphones. No overdubbing, electronic effects or artificial reverberation were used in the stereo mix from the live four-channel digital recording.

""Magma"" (Cunningham, Pertl)

This first piece is performed exclusively on ""sewerphones"" (saxophone-shaped didgeridoos made out of plastic sewer pipe), which were designed and tuned by Jamie. Brian plays two different instruments pitched in B and E, and Jamie plays two others pitched in A and D. The tube-like sound of these instruments, caused by their cylindrical bore, blends well with the tubular resonance of the cistern space. This composition, which makes liberal use of overtones, represents the flow of molten rock from the Earth_s core through underground channels to the surface where it emerges in lava flows from active volcanoes. [09:35]

""Land of Snows"" (Cunningham, Dempster, Pertl)

The title of this song comes from the indigenous name for Tibet. It begins with the thunderous sound of the Tibetan dung chen (a nine-foot long copper trumpet normally played in Buddhist monasteries as part of devotional music), which is played by Brian. He is joined by Stuart on conch-shell trumpet, also part of the Tibetan Buddhist musical tradition, and Jamie on a sewerphone tuned one octave above the dung chen. The high-pitched whistling sound, produced by Brian midway through the piece, is an example of ""throat-singing,"" a vocal technique practiced by Tuvan and Tibetan musicians of Central Asia. The abundance of pitches and variety of sonic textures produced by these three diverse instruments and the voice allows for a rich melodic soundscape. [14:56]

""Cosmic Frogs"" (Cunningham, Dempster, Pertl)

Played on bamboo didgeridoos, this composition from 1991, was developed from the earliest ensemble piece played by Brian, Jamie, and Stuart titled ""Nodes of Joy."" Bamboo is still used to construct didgeridoos in the Mornington Island region of Northeastern Australia and is thought by some to be the prototypical didgeridoo material. All three instruments were made by Jamie. Brian begins the composition on the ""Heavy Bat,"" a seven-foot long, four inch in diameter instrument made from tree bamboo, which is pitched at a low G. Jamie and Stuart enter on the ""Two Brothers,"" a matched pair of didgeridoos, pitched around B, and both made from a single twelve-foot length of bamboo. The playability of bamboo can be attributed to back pressure caused by the interior restrictions where each of the interior nodes must be knocked, drilled, or punched out. These strictures contribute to its unique sound, emphasizing the manipulation of higher harmonics and lending itself to a gentler playing style which sets the tone for this piece. Water from a passing rain squall can be heard dripping through the opening in the cistern ceiling, contributing to the amphibian theme of this composition. [08:56]

""Orion Nebula"" (Cunningham, Pertl)

The inception of this piece is a popular improvised piece the Didgeri Dudes often perform in concert, where one player switches to an alternate instrument as the other continues to play, creating a seamless transition. The song was originally recorded as two separate pieces which were cross faded together to create a single composition. It depicts a journey through the Orion Nebula, visible as the ""middle star"" of the sword in the Orion constellation. Within this luminous nebula, tremendous streams of galactic dust and vaporous gasses are intermingled in violent chaotic currents, which are beautifully visible when illuminated by nearby stars or ionized dust and gas. The song begins with Jamie playing a hand carved big-leaf ""Maple Syrup"" didgeridoo. He is joined by Brian playing on the PVC and bondo ""Green Skate"" didgeridoo, made by local artist Jim Wegner. This instrument pairing continues for approximately five minutes until the entrance of two bullroarers representing the birth of a star. The final section of the composition involves switching between numerous didgeridoos and a conch trumpet to create a richly textured and sonically complex soundscape. [approx. 20:30]

""Shudder"" (Cunningham, Dempster, Pertl)

This composition illustrates a happy accident of ensemble didgeridoo playing, where the combined frequencies of two or more instruments clash to produce audible ""beats"" or a rapid shuddering effect which gives the piece its name. It features Stuart playing Jamie_s conical-bored, hand-carved yellow cedar ""Spider Didg,"" Brian on the ""Green Skate,"" and Jamie playing an agavé stalk ""Dreampipe"" made by Alan Shockley of Tucson, Arizona. The shudder begins shortly after all three instruments have produced layers of sound. It gradually increases in intensity and is supported by the natural reverberation of the cistern.[09:29]

""Final Peace"" (Cunningham, Pertl)

This composition was the product of Jamie and Brian_s first musical experience in the cistern. Shortly after our arrival we rolled the tape, choosing to capture the moment live. It features the combination of Brian_s ""Brown Snake"" Wegner didgeridoo and Jamie_s ""Spider Didg."" It is a fitting final composition because of its layered beginning, gentle nature, and long sustained note which gives the listener an idea of the actual delay in the cistern. See if you can hear when it actually stops.[08:26]

The Didgeri Dudes met in 1990 as graduate students in the Ethnomusicology Department at the University of Washington. As students of composer/trumpeter/didgeridoo player Stuart Dempster, they began experimenting with the combined sounds produced by two or more didgeridoos played simultaneously. Their first piece ""Nodes of Joy,"" was performed on three bamboo didgeridoos and was debuted publicly at the Northwest Folklife Festival in 1993. Jamie and Brian formed the Didgeri Dudes later that same year in response to a request to provide music for a cocktail reception. Since that time, they have performed throughout the state at festivals, weddings, and bar mitzvahs, including consecutive appearances at the Folklife Festival.

Jamie Cunningham was born in Austin, Texas. After studying composition and french horn performance at the University of Oregon, he completed both his Bachelors and Masters degrees in World Music at San Diego State University. He is currently an instructor in the American Indian Studies Department as well as a Ph.D. Candidate in Ethnomusicology at the University of Washington. Jamie has taught hundreds of students to play the didgeridoo in the Seattle area through workshops, private instruction, and in his popular course Play the Mysterious Didgeridoo, for the Experimental College. He is also a maker of hand-carved didgeridoos, many of which were used in this recording.

Brian Pertl was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah. He received a BM in trombone performance and a BA in English Literature from Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, in 1986. After traveling abroad on a Thomas Watson Fellowship to study the music of Australian Aborigines and Tibetan Buddhist monks, Brian earned an MA in ethnomusicology from Wesleyan University. He is now the Audio Editorial and Acquisitions Manager in the Consumer Division at Microsoft Corporation. In addition to his work with the Didgeri Dudes, Brian has lectured on the didgeridoo throughout Washington State and produced a didgeridoo instructional tape entitled Echoes from the Dreamtime: A Didjeridu Workshop, which is designed to instruct both beginning and advanced players.

Stuart Dempster was born in Berkeley, California. Since 1968 he has been on the faculty at the University of Washington. A 1973 Fulbright Scholarship afforded him the opportunity to study didgeridoo with several Aboriginal players throughout Northern Australia. This knowledge was passed on to countless students upon his return. As a performer and composer, Stuart tours regularly as a solo recitalist (trombone, didgeridoo, other instruments) and with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. His recording credits include the classic, ""In the Great Abbey of St. Clement"" (NALB) recorded in Avignon, France; his work with the Deep Listening Band; and most recently ""Underground Overlays in the Cistern Chapel"" (New Albion Records), also recorded at Fort Worden."

Copyright 1997 by John Morfit - All Rights Reserved