[All about The Beleboke...]
The didgeridoo is an instrument from the aboriginal cultures in Australia. The didgeridoo is a hollow piece of wood, and when air is blown into one end, a rich low drone comes out the other. The wood is eucalyptus, whose leaves are favored by the koala: hollowed out by the action of termites, the didgeridoo is a found object from the landscape.
There are no finger holes, no mechanism to change pitch. The didgeridoo sounds at a fundamental based on the column of air vibrating in the wood. The players lips are placed entirely within the didgeridoo opening and then rapidly fluttered. This quick alternating of wind pressure, combined with the inconsistencies and uneven surface left by the insects inside the wood cause a buzzy complex sound, full of overtones and shifting frequencies.
A few years ago I grew out a beard. I've grown beards on and off, usually for the winter months and then clean for the rest of the year. Now I have a permanent beard, and in preparation for The Beleboke work, I had to start practicing didgeridoo playing again. I have found it very difficult to make the seal between my lips and the wood - I think a re-application of beeswax around the edge may help.
Compare to the sound of a flute. The inside of a flute is perfectly smooth, and the wind pressure is a consistent smooth flow from over a constructed mouthpiece. Flautists can over-blow their instrument and create noisy effects, but the default setting on a modern flute (or a medieval recorder) is a sine wave.
Changes to the shape of the lips, jaw and even the position of the tongue inside the mouth will all serve to change to mix of partials coming out of the didgeridoo. These changes - roughly equivalent to moving between different vowel sounds - can be combined to generate powerful rhythmic inventions. Skilled players can also add vocalisation from deep in their throats. Tuned correctly, this will create a beating pattern between the voice and the fundamental of the didgeridoo. An occasional yelp or gargle can imitate animal calls.
If the player is able to maintain sufficient pressure from reserve air stored in the cheeks, then a quick inhale can be stolen through the nose without disrupting the ongoing drone. This is called circular breathing, and is one of the challenges faced by my beard. It is inconceivable that I will shave just for this piece, even if it means slathering my beard with brylcream.
So the didgeridoo is a naturally occurring sonic device that is activated by the most straightforward of human gestures. The resulting shifts in harmonics and the gradual undulation of the drone seem nature-bound to capture the recurring patterns of metabolism. Breath, heartbeat, circulation. Perhaps neural synapses firing.
Stories tell how the world was created by songs. Sound precipitated matter from dreamtime. When the didgeridoo plays, creation reverberates with the essential forms of vibration. Sonicism posits in the second point that "Sound represents the interstice of physiology and cosmology". The didgeridoo creates a vortex, overlays mythology and activates the human body in this interstitial environment. This is why it is the perfect instrument for The Beleboke, where we are asked to interact with the electromagnetic frequency spectrum typically outside out immediate sense perception.
In the song "Tie Me Kangaroo Down", Rolf Harris sings about a dying Australian farmer. the song begins with a list of instructions for the care and feeding of his livestock. For example:
"watch me wallabies feed, mate "
"take me koalas back, Jack"
"mind me platypus duck, Bill"
and of course ... "tie me kangaroo down, sport". His final instructions touch on the impact of the didgeridoo.
"Play your didgeridoo, Blue
Play your didgeridoo.
Oh like keep playing till I shoot through, Blue
Play Your didgeridoo"
This shamanic figure, Blue, can use the didgeridoo to help the spirit of his friend break free from the collapsing energies of the dying physical body. He will shoot through, perhaps breaking the veils between relative and absolute, discovering with his final breath a view of reality that shows no distinction between dreamtime and the current moment. The didgeridoo is a tool to support consciousness in the preliminary bardo. Without the support of the body, confusion can overwhelm the nascent consciousness (see the final stanza, "...so we tanned his hide when he died, Clyde..and that's it hanging on the shed" ), and the resonant frequencies of the instrument provide a final memory of metabolic structure.
I don't want to read too much in to this song. On the wiki page where you can find all the lyrics, Rolf Harris says that he actually didn't know what a didgeridoo was when he wrote the song. But then, not knowing never prevented me from moving ahead with an idea either (for example, see my admixture of 'bardo' and 'dreamtime' in previous paragraph).
So: the didgeridoo is an extension of the human form, a highly charged artefact from dreamtime with mythic resonance for the creation of timespace. As such, it is ideal for The Beleboke, where the drone will sound in counterpoint to the electromagnetic structures generated in the Earths atmosphere.