11.14.2010,4:45 PM
Occasional self-indulgence isn't all that bad. So I did.

Every blue year I do something for my birthday. Back in 2005 I bought a humble home on five acres of former cow pasture. Last year I bought badly-needed winter gear; my Hi-vis yellow riding suit. This year had me thinking more about music. Homegrown, that is.

Growing  up in a musical family we all played something. Even if it was a tin can. I tinkered on the grand piano at home, but my Dad was the master at that. The violin, my favorite stringed instrument, was with me for a few years until everyone gave up hope. Everyone in the family played the recorder, and later in high school I picked up the guitar for many years. Then life got in the way.

Many days on the ranch in Oregon, I fantasized of playing the violin again. I could almost hear and feel myself standing in the pastures with the sheep and a bow flinging sweeping notes bouncing off the hills around me. And the sheep running for cover. But that never happened. Anyway, I'm not sure my increasingly arthritic fingers can hold the strings down on a fret anymore.

I thought that maybe a didgeridoo might be fun to play. If not drive most people away. They either like them or mostly detest the odd droning sound. Then there was one instrument that has always captured me, but I never really knew what it was. Only the melodious and sometimes mournful, but always soulful voice. Only recently did I learn what it was called.

Once identified, I searched the Internet (Google knows all) and learned it is called a 'duduk,' an ancient instrument of the Armenians. Similar in shape and size to a recorder, but has a double reed and individually scaled. After hearing samples of the octave in each scale, I decided to start with one in the scale of A. And then I found a supplier in the US for reasonable cost.

It arrived yesterday; the stem made of apricot wood (how fitting; apricot is my favorite fruit) with eight holes. The double reed is made of cane; each has a 'bridle' and an end case that fits over the top opening. The bottom is wrapped with thread and fits inside the top of the stem.

I read a few online instructions on preparing the reeds and fingering technique. What is downplayed is breathing technique. I discovered yesterday that I couldn't even get a sound out of two of the three reeds. I have to work on my breathing to avoid hyperventilating. :)

This morning, I prepared the third reed and was joyed to play several notes until getting dizzy. It will take some time to build up breathing control and power. But I intend to learn to play this. Meanwhile, I made my duduk it's own 'cocoon'. I will store the stem inside this, which also makes it safe for packing on the bike. I'll have to come up with a way to pack and store the reeds. They need to be well ventilated and inside a sturdy box to prevent damage.

Meet Dude the Duduk.

I hope to serenade the coyotes soon with something more than just squeaks and panting for air. Sample of the duduk played in a more modern music ensemble is below. I like this video because it shows how much a part the instrument and music, was (and is) of the Armenians. Note how they were made before the days of electric lathes and drills. And how revered a tree is that donates its wood to become a part of music. Gevorg Dabaghyan is considered one of the most accomplished and versatile international duduk players. Enjoy.

posted by Macrobe
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