I’m sticking this under “Tools” because I don’t have a category for “Musical Instruments.” While it’s super-easy to create a new category, I have this feeling that a category with only one post in it is less useful. I’ll re-tag it later if I need to. So now you’re wondering, “What kind of tool also can be used to make music? Is he talking about ‘playing the saw’?”

Well, no. But I *do* know how to play the saw. My paternal grandmother taught me when I was 12. (Look for Grandma’s Sugar Cookies in the Bake-Up category and you’ll see a little more about this old hippie’s feisty lil’ gran…) Not that I’m musical or anything. I can barely play the radio. My brother Swede got the musical talent. He totally rocks a saxophone. My son Chad plays piano and as he says, “If it’s brass, I can blow it.” Swede’s into jazz, Chad and some buddies are starting their own reggae-and-rock group. I cheer. My dad used to blow trumpet in a swing band back in the ’30s (although he was always honest enough to say that he only had to hit a few notes and contribute to the noise, not take solos). I don’t know what happened to me; I inherited my mother’s tin ear.

Rythym, I can do that. I’ll beat on anything that will hold still for it when I’m feeling like a little drumming. Last night at a meeting of the campus newspaper’s board of directors one of my students discovered the editor’s ukelele and twanged a couple of strings. “Kind of out of tune,” he said. “Couldn’t prove it by me,” I replied. So he whipped out his iPhone and cranked up the tuner app and tuned it, then played some stuff. I was impressed. I could hear that it sounded better after he tuned it, but I didn’t think it sounded all that bad before.


What else to do? I used to play harmonica (badly), tried guitar (couldn’t tune it because we didn’t have iPhone apps in 1970), played more blues “harp” (badly but was old enough not to care), and occasionally I indulge in a little harmonic overtone singing just because I like it. Dogs howl, but I like it. Scared off a bear with it once. (See? Music can be useful.)

Last night after the above-mentioned late meeting I was driving home grooving on an old CD by the group Outback entitled “Dance the Devil Away.” It’s world music. A lot of the songs on the disc feature the didjeridoo. (That’s one of about forty-eleven spellings of the name…) Suddenly I had one of those dangerous thoughts I get once in a while: “I wonder if I could learn to play a didjeridoo?”

Side note: Outback broke up in 1992 right after “Dance the Devil Away” was released. It was their second disc. Still available here and there, and definitely worth picking up. It’s been a standard for me since ’92 and never fails to make me feel better.

So. There I was, on a snowy road up the North Thompson thinking about didjeridoos. Can’t get much more random than that, but it’s my specialty. Let’s set aside for a moment that the didj is not part of my cultural heritage, is a simple device that’s complicated to play, and requires years of practice. I’m just wondering if I can make didj-like noises — and if I can, then it sounds like an interesting challenge to learn circular breathing and see if I can, finally, amuse myself and others with a musical instrument.

Lunch is when I turn to the Internet for companionship and inspiration. Turns out, like everything else, the didjeridoo is on the Internet. Lots of people make their first one out of PVC pipe. Some artists, including a woman in Quebec, make them in glass. Australians make them in all kinds of materials, and some business source and sell only didjeridoos made by Aboriginal Australians from ethically-harvested wood. Most sites suggest making a PVC didj to start the learning process.

Now *here’s* why this is in “Tools.” I am aware that PVC pipe can have some nasty stuff in it. I know, for instance, that if I want to get rid of any old pipe on the farm, that it has to go to a hazardous waste disposal site. Frankly, I don’t want to be swapping spit with toxic chemicals just to make the same noise my old cat Nermal used to make when coughing up a hairball. It’d be healthier just to get another old cat and let him sit around licking his bum. Back to the Internet, where I find to my dismay that PVC pipe, among other things, contains “plasticizers” including three that are banned in the EU — and BPA or Bisphenol-A, which is carefully controlled in Canada.
To my joy, however, ABS pipe does not have BPA. So, off to the hardware store for six feet of 1-1/2 inch ABS pipe, a connector, and an adaptor. I’ll cut that pipe down to 52 inches exactly (including the length of the “mouthpiece”) and I’ll have a (less) toxic C didjeridoo.
Then we’ll see what happens. Although I’m serious enough to give it a good go and work at it, I’m also only into it for $12.07 including taxes. I’ll have some fun, and if it doesn’t work out, well hell — always nice to have a spare chunk of plumbing around to fix something.
Stay tuned — but don’t expect me to notice if you’re out of tune.