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06 July 2006 @ 10:16 pm
Melodic Attempts  

"Folk instruments" is listed as one of my interests, and perhaps that term needs some clarification. By "folk instruments" I'm not referring to instruments used in 60s flower-child bands, it was just the best term I could think of at the time to indicate musical instruments which are generally not included in Western orchestras.There may be a better term, but I am unaware of it. Anyways, I collect and (attempt to) play various folk instruments, mostly woodwinds, including sulings (Indonesian bamboo flutes), penny whistles, thumb pianos, a bamboo aerophone, pan pipes, ocarinas, etc. My most cherished instruments are my Native American style flutes. They are also the instruments with which I seem to have the greatest rapport. I received my first one as a Yule gift from my mother, a gorgeous Sparrowhawk flute made by High Spirits Flutes. My second (or second and third, depending upon your perspective) flute, Amon Olorin ABS resin set, was a birthday gift. My third flute, a Tsunami, I purchased a short time ago.

While up at Andrew's house earlier this week, he recorded me playing some of my Native American style flutes. All three pieces are pure improvisations on my part, and the only editing that has been done to them was the addition of a slight bit of reverberation. They are in mp3 format and are all under a minute long (they were essentially just sound tests we did to see how well each of the flutes sounded). My musical internet debut:
    • six-hole Western Red Cedar flute in the key of A
    • five-hole Tulip Poplar flute in the key of F
    • five-hole Tulip Poplar flute in the key of F (2)
They're not exactly masterpieces, but I was really smitten by the fact that for the first time I could listen to something I had played while I wasn't actually playing it.


I discovered Sam Weber's work in the Communication Arts Illustration annual which came out this month, and it's really spectacular! Go see > Sam Weber Illustration (some of my favorites are Lavinia, Deer, and Rabbit)
 
 
ambience: my own
 
 
 
maewitchmaewitch on July 7th, 2006 03:50 am (UTC)
Those are lovely. Very atmospheric, especially the third one, which seems so wistful and sad.
{to await from the stars}sphinxmuse on July 7th, 2006 03:59 am (UTC)
Thank you :)
moonvoicemoonvoice on July 7th, 2006 06:32 am (UTC)
I am, like almost all aboriginals and those who respect Indigenous religions, against women playing the didgeridoo, because it is men's medicine and a sacred instrument to men's ceremonies. Women may listen, and dance to it, but beyond that they have their own instruments; white people (and others) come along, buy them because they're pretty, and then let women spoil the secrets by making the sacred sounds.

There is no justification for a woman playing the didg aside from ignorance, and then to continue playing is disrespectful. This is not because women are worth less than men, but because there are women's mysteries, and men's mysteries.

But they make a beautiful sound.

Incidentally, I've always been a fan of the ocarina, but I do best playing percussive instruments, and am sticking to those. :)
{to await from the stars}sphinxmuse on July 7th, 2006 03:45 pm (UTC)
white people (and others) come along, buy them because they're pretty, and then let women spoil the secrets by making the sacred sounds

I didn't buy mine because it was pretty (mine isn't even decorated - it's just a bamboo tube). I respected the sound. I never intended any disrespect to aborginies or to men's mysteries. I also never intended to play it in the context of aboriginal spirituality since I'm not an aborigine myself. I really don't see how I am spoiling secrets that I never actually learned.

Women may listen, and dance to it, but beyond that they have their own instruments
What are those instruments?
moonvoicemoonvoice on July 8th, 2006 12:59 am (UTC)
I also respect the sound of the didgeridoo, but I respect their culture too, and consequently I do not feel the need to play it. :)

It's your call - obviously - whether you choose to play it or not, imho, I thought respecting land and culture was an innate part of animism, regardless of whether you know the 'secrets' behind it or not.

As for the women's instruments, it changes from tribe to tribe, but one example does include the percussive clapping sticks. Certain dances are also sacred to women, and likewise, certain dances are sacred to men.

The secrets behind it at the end of the day don't really matter if you're aboriginal, I choose not to participate or partake in things that are considered sacred to men because I respect the culture - and because I too am an animist and would be offended if someone decided that their 'respect of the sound' (or whatever) is more important than respecting a religion.

As I said previously, playing it out of ignorance is one thing - that happens all the time - but playing it with conscious knowledge of what it represents is disrespectful. Obviously not to the sound, but certainly to the people.
{to await from the stars}sphinxmuse on July 8th, 2006 03:54 pm (UTC)
Animistic cultures have many taboos and prescriptions (as do plenty of other cultures), just because someone from a different culture does not abide by every single one of those taboos does not mean that they do not respect their culture. I also believe that one can respectfully disagree with cultural practices. For instance, I can respect many sects of Islam without feeling the need or appropriateness of donning the veil myself.

Do people object when non-Aboriginal men play the didgeridoo? I realize that biologically they possess the prescribed equipment for men's mysteries, but white (and other) men often completely lack the cultural knowledge or the spritual background of Aboriginal religion and ritual as well as women. Each culture has their own men's mysteries.

I was wondering where the line is drawn in this case. What, in Aboriginal culture, distinguishes a true didgeridoo from just another tube-structure instrument? Are women even allowed to touch or be near to didgeridoos? Is the prohibition specifically against women learning circular breathing techniques, specific vocalizations, rhythms, etc. on the didg. or against even placing her lips on one? I'm not being facetious, I am genuinely curious.
moonvoicemoonvoice on July 10th, 2006 01:15 am (UTC)
Animistic cultures have many taboos and prescriptions (as do plenty of other cultures), just because someone from a different culture does not abide by every single one of those taboos does not mean that they do not respect their culture.

I think that's true to a degree, and comes down to personal experience. I work with Aboriginals at times, and I know that I would be immediately ostracised were I to play a didgeridoo even if I felt that I was not intentionally disrespecting their culture. But because I know how they would react, I tailor my actions and beliefs accordingly. Likewise, they know that I consider some things taboo in my faith, and as long as it doesn't strongly contradict their own beliefs, they take this into account when we work together.

Do people object when non-Aboriginal men play the didgeridoo?

Sometimes, yes. It depends on how committed the man is to learning the songs, and the 'spirit' of the didgeridoo (which is a living creature, technically). It also depends on if the man is planning on going out there and making a profit from it.

I was wondering where the line is drawn in this case. What, in Aboriginal culture, distinguishes a true didgeridoo from just another tube-structure instrument? Are women even allowed to touch or be near to didgeridoos? Is the prohibition specifically against women learning circular breathing techniques, specific vocalizations, rhythms, etc. on the didg. or against even placing her lips on one? I'm not being facetious, I am genuinely curious.

A lot of these questions I feel I can't answer as well as an Aboriginal elder :)

A woman placing her lips on the didg is not 'right.' Women might need to learn circular breathing for other chants, etc. but if a didg is involved it crosses the line. It's not that hard to make a sound from a tube, and I'm sure many cultures have done it, but if a woman is making a sound from an instrument that she is willing to call a 'didgeridoo', then there has been a line of taboo crossed in at least the majority of Aboriginal cultures. From what I have learnt, women are not allowed to make, paint, or breath 'spirit' into the didg by breathing their life's breath through it. I'm not sure how strict the taboo is for touching, but I have only seen men handle them. But it might be different in a household, as opposed to a gathering.

But I don't know all tribes, and you never know - there might be some out there which are perfectly okay with it all.
{to await from the stars}sphinxmuse on July 10th, 2006 04:31 pm (UTC)
I work with Aboriginals at times, and I know that I would be immediately ostracised were I to play a didgeridoo even if I felt that I was not intentionally disrespecting their culture. But because I know how they would react, I tailor my actions and beliefs accordingly.

I do not play very often, but in any case I, as a woman, would never play it (or any other tube instrument closely resembling it) if I were to visit Australia and especially not if I were in the presence of Aboriginies. Obviously that would be blatantly disrespectful since I would be immersed in their culture; I would be the outsider. Likewise if I chose to visit certain Middle Eastern countries, I would choose to wear a headcloth.

It's not that hard to make a sound from a tube, and I'm sure many cultures have done it, but if a woman is making a sound from an instrument that she is willing to call a 'didgeridoo', then there has been a line of taboo crossed in at least the majority of Aboriginal cultures.

Actually last night on the Travel channel I watched a program on one of the native tribes of Brazil wherein musicians played "flutes" (as the narrator described them) which were in fact very long wooden tubes. I did not see any fingerholes or particular mouthpieces on them.
{to await from the stars}sphinxmuse on July 11th, 2006 05:21 pm (UTC)
My boyfriend, independent of me, decided to do some research on the question of women and didgeridoos. He found a webpage by a company which is supposedly "100% Aboriginal owned & operated" that states that it is a myth that women are forbidden from touching or playing the didgeridoo:
This aims to clarify some misunderstandings of the role of Didjeridoo in traditional Aboriginal culture, in particular the popular conception that it is taboo for women to play or even touch a Didgeridoo.

While it is true that in the traditional didgeridoo accompanied genres of Northern Australia, (e.g. Wangga and Bunggurl) women do not play in public ceremony, in these areas there appears to be few restrictions on women playing in an informal capacity. The area in which there are the strictest restrictions on women playing and touching the Didgeridoo appears to be in the south east of Australia, where in fact Didgeridoo has only recently been introduced. I believe that the international dissemination of the "taboo" results from it's compatibility with the commercial agendas of New Age niche marketing.

My understanding of Aboriginal culture in Australia has been formed as an academic ethnomusicologist, through acquaintance with the ethnomusicological and anthropological literature as well as through personal contact, during classes and fieldwork, with the Aboriginal people in a number of communities in South Australia, the Northern Territory and New South Wales.

It is true that traditionally women have not played the Didgeridoo in ceremony. However let us review the evidence for Aboriginal women playing Didgeridoo in informal situations. In discussions with women in the Belyuen community near Darwin in 1995. I was told that there was no prohibition on women playing and in fact several of the older women mentioned a women in the Daly River area who used to play the Didgeridoo.

In a discussion with men from Groote Eylandt, Numbulwar and Gunbalanya it was agreed that there was no explicit Dreaming Law that women should not play Didgeridoo, it was more that women did not know how to. From Yirrkala, there are reports that while both boys and girls as young children play with toy instruments, within a few years, girls stop playing the instrument in public. There are reports that women engage in preparation of Didgeridoos for sale to tourists also playing instruments to test their useability. Reports of women playing the Didgeridoo are especially common in the Kimberley and Gulf regions the Westerly and Easterly extremes of it's distribution in traditional music. The Didgeridoo has only begun to be played in these areas this century where it accompanies genres originally deriving from Arnhem Land (Bunggurl) or the Daly region (Wangga, Lirrga and Gunborrg)

The clamour of conflicting voices about the use of Didgeridoo by women and by outsiders has drawn attention to the potential for international exploitation and appropriation of traditional music and other Aboriginal cultural property. In addition, the debate has drawn to international attention the fact that there are levels of the sacred and the secret in traditional Aboriginal beliefs, many of them restricted according to gender. Perhaps the Didgeridoo in this case is functioning as a false front, standing in for other truly sacred and restricted according to Aboriginal ceremonial life that it can not be named in public. In this way, the spiritualising of the Didgeridoo not only panders to the commercial New Age niche, but also serves as a means of warning non-Aboriginal people to be wary of inquiring too closely into sacred matters.


The source is: http://aboriginalart.com.au/didgeridoo/myths.html
moonvoice: cute kitten!moonvoice on July 11th, 2006 05:32 pm (UTC)
That's really interesting, though I've noticed that Miss Barwick's research has no grounding in Western Australian beliefs, which are the ones that I've had the most experience with.

I'll throw it over to the Noongah/Nyungah and Mooro elders I've worked with, because they were very explicit about it - not in a roundabout way, but in a specific way.

Thanks for the link. :) The problem with being a born skeptic is that often you have to debunk your own beliefs, or have them debunked for you! :D
{to await from the stars}sphinxmuse on July 11th, 2006 05:53 pm (UTC)
Well, there's reason to be wary of the internet too. Although this article seems researched and academic, it might just be appearances.

That's really interesting, though I've noticed that Miss Barwick's research has no grounding in Western Australian beliefs, which are the ones that I've had the most experience with.

Other links I've found speak of the variety of beliefs regarding women and didgeridoos throughout tribes: apparently some, like you mention, are strictly against it while others are more lenient (at least in a non-ceremonial context).
{to await from the stars}sphinxmuse on July 11th, 2006 05:49 pm (UTC)
Other links:

http://www.didjshop.com/shop1/FAQscart_about_didgeridoos.html#A13
This page addresses the differences in tribal taboos regarding the didgeridoo.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Didgeridoo
"The taboo against women playing the instrument is not absolute; female Aboriginal didgeridoo players did exist, although their playing generally took place in an informal context."

http://www.ididj.com.au/theDidjeridu/play.html
This page also speaks of the differences in tribal taboos.

http://aboriginalrights.suite101.com/article.cfm/Didgeridont
I have no idea if this is actually true, but this page claims that "Didgeridoo is not an Australian Aboriginal word. It is actually derived from the Irish Gaelic words 'dudaire dubh', pronounced 'doodjerreh doo'. A very similar instrument was played in Ireland during the Bronze Age, thousands of years ago."
(Anonymous) on July 8th, 2006 06:52 am (UTC)
from Rachael - http://rachaelbyrnes.blogspot.com
Hi there,

Have been looking through your wonderful blog! Your artwork is absolutely beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

You could call "folk" instruments "traditional" instruments to avoid the flower power confusion. Although, even flower power instruments such as guitar & tambourine are as traditional as your flutes. Hmm.. it’s a hard one. I encounter this problem when I try to categorise by own music. I use the term folk, but this term is so broad and really means in the original sense of the term “music by and of the common people” wikipedia Musical language is inadequate in this way.
from Rachael - http://rachaelbyrnes.blogspot.com