ABORIGINAL AUSTRALIA ART & CULTURE
CENTRE - ALICE SPRINGS
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DIDGERIDOO PLAYING METHODS
In Eastern Arnhem Land an overblown tone is sounded which may be one
of several intervals ranging from a seventh to an eleventh above the
fundamental, though a tenth seems to be more usual. Alternating with
the fundamental, the overtone is used both structurally, in relation
to the song item as a whole, and according to the experience and expertise
of individual players.
Based on the presence, or absence, of the overtone, didjeridu song
accompaniments have been divided into the following two classes: A-type,
in which the fundamental supplies a continuous drone, either accented
by slight pitch infections or 'coloured' by the superimposition of
a vocalised sound which the overtone is described above.
the map showing the present (1960-70) distribution of the didjeridu
(the same symbol (black dot) has been used for both types. A-type
accompaniments are more widely distributed. They are to be found among
groups on Goulbourn and Croker Islands, on the Arnhem Land mainland
west of the Liverpool river, in west coastal regions north and south
of Darwin, south into Kimberley districts, and along a route which
extends from Oenpelli in the north-west, south-east through Bamyili
into a region south of the Gulf and across the Queensland border B-type
accompaniments have been found in association with songs belonging
to groups east of the Liverpool river extending to the east coast
of the Arnhem Land Reserve and including Groote Eylandt.
DIDGERIDOO PLAYING METHODS
It should be noted here that song types distinguished by A-type and
B-type didjeridu accompaniments are performed by members of groups
speaking 'pre-fixing' and 'Yuulngu' languages respectively.
Heath (maintains that, within the overall Australian linguistic picture,
'the prefixing languages of Arnhem Land and the Yuulngu languages
are as remote from each other genetically as any two subgroups in
the continent'; and that 'the two have come into contact due to migrations,
after having evolved quite separately in different parts of the continent'.
The linguistic picture highlights the present music scenario.
Despite continuing cross-fertilisation of stylistic features in the
song performances of the Yuulngu of the one hand, and adjacent groups
which include the Nunggubuyu (farther south) and Enindilyakwa speakers
(Groote Eylandt) on the other, there are disparate elements in the
music of pre-fixing and Yuulngu groups some of which may have been
even more clearly apparent during an earlier period.
The Didgeridoo is not normally played as a solo instrument. It contains
to a well integrated musical ensemble in which the chief participant,
usually the song owner, sings as he beats together two hand sticks.
In such ensembles there may be two or more stick-beating singers but
never more than one didjeridu player. In eastern parts of Arnhem Land
map) area 'N') the B-type player may also beat a stick against
the tube of the instrument to synchronise with the singer's stick
beats; alternatively he may flick the tube with his finger.
When seated, B-type player usually rests the distal end of the instrument
on the ground or inside a box or bucket for resonance. Traditionally
the resonator was bailer shell. A seated A-type player holds the distal
end above the ground, either moving it slightly from side to side,
or resting it on his upturned foot. This requires a two-handed grip.
The right arm of the player may rest on his right knee which is bent,
giving mid-way support either by a right-handed grip or allowing the
tube to the tube to rest on his right wrist. With his other hand he
grips the tube at the narrow end nearest his mouth.