Music: Concerto for Didjeridu and Orchestra
For Stephen Kent

For countless millennia the Aboriginal People of Northern Australia have played the Didjeridu in their ceremonial culture, telling and retelling the stories of The Dreamtime in song and dance. Increasing global awareness in the past 2 decades has spawned an international fascination with the didjeridu, and there are now 10's of thousands of didjeridu enthusiasts worldwide. But even with all this interest the conventional view of the didjeridu is that it is something of a novelty - a primitive Aboriginal instrument from Australia capable of producing one note for a long time.

Stephen Kent is a musician on a mission to change that perception. In a didjeridu career that began in 1981 when he worked as Music Director of Australia's best known theatre groups, Circus Oz - who espoused support for Australia's Aborigines and their social and legal status in their homelands - he has put the didjeridu onto the global map as a serious musical instrument in a contemporary context. Kent has a catalogue of over 20 full length CD recordings in which the didjeridu plays a central role, both solistically and in ensemble with musicians from vastly diverse musical cultures and backgrounds.

Kent has for the past quarter of a century brought an entirely new musical language to bear into the possibilities of the instrument. A language of multi-phonics, harmonic overtone melodies and a hugely diverse and varied palette of rhythmic styles and sounds - celebratory, evocative, emotive, primal, soulful and sophisticated - so much so that with his ability to layer multiple sonic layers into his playing he views the solo instrument as almost an orchestra in its own right.

Thus the initiative which composer Robert Maxym and Stephen Kent have taken to collaborate on the creation of the world's very first Concerto for Didjeridu and Orchestra is an historic one, bringing together these two ostensibly antithetic sound "universes" in a work which challenges both parties to stretch their frames of reference, yet still create a piece which is worth "listening" to. Since 2005 the two have kept up a dialogue over what such a project could entail and, with intensive meetings and workshops taking place on two continents, a Concerto in three movements, truly worthy of the name, yet leaving space for the primal identity, the individual voice of the Didjeridu to be expressed by the soloist performing the piece, has evolved. The work is intended to be fully as much a "concerto" for Orchestra as it is a Concerto for Didjeridu. The composition of the work was completed in late 2007, and the preparation of score and parts in late 2008. All that remains is to find an orchestra adventurous enough to bring this historic work to the concert hall.

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Most recent update: December 2009, Webmaster