Sunday, February 7, 2016

Wilbur Wright, a local Pittsfield artist crafts didgeridoos

The didgeridoo is thought to be the world’s oldest wind instrument. It was originally made and played by Australian Aborigines to imitate the sounds of nature. Recently, the didgeridoo has made its way from old world to new age music.

Jeffrey “Wilbur” Wright, a Pittsfield artist, was intrigued by the sound of the didgeridoo, after watching the 2008 movie “Surfer, Dude.” The musical score was written by Australian musician and surfer Xavier Rudd. Two years ago, Wright saw Rudd live in concert at a small theatre in Seattle, Wash. Rudd played the didgeridoo accompanied by a drummer and bass player. The music had a raw, tribal, rhythmic quality that stirred something inside Wright. After the concert, he was inspired to learn to play the didgeridoo.

Traditional wooden Aboriginal didgeridoos are naturally made from pipe-like eucalyptus branches that are hollowed out by the termites nesting in them. The branch is cleaned out, and a mouth piece is formed from beeswax. The wind instrument is usually about five feet long, and it has the sound of a low drone, reminiscent of the sounds of nature. A type of circular breathing is used to play the instrument. Aboriginal Australia Art & Culture Centre - Alice Springs website is a good source to learn more about the history of didgeridoos.

Wright started making his own didgeridoo after not being satisfied with the ones he found for sale. He experimented using different materials and decided on PVC pipes as the base material for his didgeridoos. He heats and shapes various size pipes until the desired sound is created. His instruments are either in the key of E or F, and the longer the instrument, the lower the tones. After, he creates the desired sound, he coats the pipes with a shaping material and paints a faux wooden finish on the instruments that are accented with aboriginal designs. Each one is a unique work of art. 

Wright says he initially made the didgeridoo for his own pleasure, but other musicians were interested and have wanted to buy them. He is now selling them on a very limited basis at Fire on the Mountainin Killington.

Wilbur working in his Pittsfield studio

Finished didgeridoo

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