Marko's Didgeridoo History
20 years later.
Marko in Germany, 1994.
|I was introduced to Australian didgeridoo for the first time on September 21st, 1993.
A fellow artist from New Mexico was passing through town and he brought 2 didgeridoos with him. I was aware of the existence of an Australian instrument, but had no idea of its shape, the sound it produced or method of playing.
One was an authentic Aboriginal painted eucalyptus yidaki.
The other was American made from an agave stock, resinated inside and out and trimmed with copper foil.
He could only play a short drone on the eucalyptus didj then added a vocal yelp at the end of the drone. That's all it took!
I knew from that moment on that this instrument would become my focus of creative inspiration.
|Neither of the instruments was for sale, but luckily for me, I just happened to be in the artistic mode of creating drums and other primitive instruments. I had a piece of bamboo at my studio and my friend helped me clean out the nodes and shape a mouthpiece. It worked great and I continued to make didjs out of different materials like PVC plastic pipe, then pine, split and routed and glued back together, then the stave method of creating wooden tubes by gluing long narrow slats together, experimenting with many different types of wood. |
My first Eucalyptus didjs were acquired in the spring of 1994. Upon inspection of the eucalyptus didj I realized that the weight and density of the wood was a major factor in producing quality sound. I picked up some cedar fence posts from my local farm supply and proceeded to make split and glued didjs from them. I soon realized that using hardwood to create a didj made every step much "harder" to complete. Splitting, routing and sanding took a lot of time.
I decided to try to make didgeridoos out of a more locally abundant material and realized that aspen trees grew all over in the mountains above 7000 ft. After acquiring permits to forage on public land I found that aspen trees made a very nice sounding didj when shaped and sealed properly.
In 1995 I experimented with routing channels into a block of wood. Basically the same method as a straight didj but using a square piece of wood 12" X 12" X 2" thick, split and routed with 5 channels placed side by side connected at the top and bottom with a mouthpiece entrance and a sound hole exit at the opposite end. I knew I was onto something big and also knew I was not prepared to explore this variation on the basic didj design until I had exhausted my interest in making the best possible straight didj. I dabbled in Didjbox designs over the next few years but did not seriously pursue this endeavor until 1999.
Agave: On a trip to Arizona in 1996 I found someone to harvest and ship raw agave stalks to me. I made some of the best didjs I had ever played or heard during this period and was sure I could never make a better sounding didj. The downside of agave was the necessity of using epoxy resin product to seal and harden the fragile agave stalks.
Rawhide, 1997: I had been making drums with rawhide for many years and I decided to make a hollow tube with rawhide and seal it with epoxy. The rawhide worked OK for didj making but I wasn't thrilled with a "ringy" sound quality produced by the hide.
Canvas and leather, 1998: I had realized that I could create a hollow tube out of almost any material and if sealed properly could make a reasonably good sounding didgeridoo. Canvas worked well and produced a bold sound. The canvas had a very rigid quality and I had little control over the shapes I could create.
Leather: I had not touched a piece of tooling leather for 20 years, the material that launched my career as a craftsman. I found a very thin hide and actually used a sewing machine to make a seam to attach the two sides together to create a hollow tube. Sealed with epoxy, the oak tanned hide soaked up the resin creating an almost porcelain like material. I was able to tailor make shapes that looked like the classic agave didjs.
Jumping ahead to the present time, July, 2001 I must report that a rekindled approach to making leather didjs using very thick cowhide saddle skirting has produced some of the best sounding didjs I have ever made. A unique quality produced by the organic material creates a big bold sound that I have never experienced in any other didj.
| Didjbox, 1999: The year of the Didjbox! Experimenting with many different woods and methods of creating a working model of the Didjbox, the first style of Didjbox that suited my requirements of playability was the 3-channeled "Longbox", 2"x2"x20". The 9 channeled "Bookdidj" pressed the limits of how small a Didjbox could be. The 5-channeled "traveler" seemed to be a reasonable compromise.
I bought my first computer in January 1997 and soon found the "Didjlist" on the Internet. I watched the list for 2 years for anyone who might have a similar idea but never heard of anything even closely related.
In June 1999 I applied for a US patent on the Didjbox concept. I sent out Didjbox samples to several people and made an announcement on the Didjlist that I had the miniaturized version of a didgeridoo for sale.
Marko playing at The Round Door Gallery, 1994.
Obelisk and Didjflutes, 2000: Feedback from those who now owned the Didjboxes indicated that the least desirable quality was a somewhat muffled sound in comparison to a straight didj.
The solution to this problem was tapering the Longbox design with a 2" mouthpiece to a 3" bell. The taper required lenthning the Longbox to 24". This really helped the sound quality and sound projection.
I soon found that if I drilled holes in the top of an Obelisk to intersect the channels in the proper place I could play different notes. I found that with the root note of "C" I could place 4 holes that comfortably fits the fingers to play the notes "D, E, F and G" as the holes are uncovered. The Didjflute had emerged as the first tunable didgeridoo with no moving parts.
Plastic Didjbox, 2001: This is new territory for me to explore. I made a 2-piece silicon rubber mold and poured a Didjflute using poly urathane plastic. Hand carving the master and then making a mold is a very time consuming process but I found the plastic does work for the purpose I intended and the Didjflute played and sounded great.
I then tried a sculptural design I called the Didjhorn. I learned a lot! I have a master carved for the next mold and this will be named the "Blowfish".
July, 2003: Itís been 2 years since I added to the history page.
I lost momentum with the molded Didjbox. I was never that happy with the process or the finished product for several reasons, mostly due to the lack of plastic products available to the amature mold maker. I continued to make and sell Cedar Didjboxes during this period. The Didjbox patent is still in the works but has had several delays in the process. It seems I had stumped the patent office examiner. They sent 2 separate arguments concerning prior art. The first was a blueprint of a clarinet mouthpiece with a bamboo vibrating reed. Wrong! After responding to the claim I was answered with a second prior art claim that contained the diagram of the inside of a harmonica and the plate that contains vibrating prongs! They just could not quite comprehend the simple fact that the sound or drone was created by loosely vibrating lips. 4 years after filing and the patent is within months of being issued.
My main focus was on has been on didgeridoos made with thick leather. I used 1/4 inch thick saddle skirting to form a leather tube and used epoxy resin inside and out to harden the didj. Unlimited inspirations have been unleashed with the new approach using thicker leather. I have total control in the shape, length, taper, bell size, color and surface design. Every leather didj I made was extremely playable and resonate and I could spend time decorating each one with a unique design. Many of the didjs were hand stitched and this took a lot of time but produced a more uniformly round tube as opposed to the other method of gluing the seam together.
I found I could mold objects into the tube or bell area. I first tried a lightbulb and stitched it into a tube near the bell. This alone added a unique look with perfect ball shape in the shaft. I found I could mold faces and shapes into the didjs.
I turned my attention to the surface design of the leather trying to come up with quick and efficient methods to decorate the leather without relying on traditaitonal methods of tooling and dying leather. I turned to acrylic paint, packing materials and office supplies to create unusual designs and patterns on the exterior surface of the leather. All of the leather didj blanks are flat to start with and can be painted or decorated before they are formed into a tube. I have even tried a laser engraving tool to burn pictures and portaits into the hide.
One of the best types of leather I tried was sole leather. This is the compressed hide that is used on the bottom of shoes and boots. Very stiff and rigid but making a very solid didj that would be extremely hard to damage even if you tried. People on the didjlist were expressing interest in a 2nd Wandering Didj Project so I collected a list of 20 people in the USA and started a sole didj circulating around the country. All the comments have been very positive and many people have made recordings to add to the sound files.
Marko testing a new model, 2001.
|April, 8 2004: I usually get an inspiration insight after attending the Joshua Tree Didj festival in October. After the 2002 festival I invested in a scheme to have the Obelisk Didjbox and Didjflutes mass produced in India. After the 2003 festival I have spent the last 6 months designing new Didjboxes using different materials and objectives. I created the Meditator, a 5 channel tapered box that has a centered sound exit that enhances the sound. 12 to 14 inches long and only weighing 1/2 pound they sounded great and were easy and inexpensive to ship anywhere in the world. I offered to send a Meditator Didjbox to 3 people, one in Florida, one in Portugal and one in Germany.
|These people agreed to collect a list of 20 people and circulate the Wandering Didjboxes in their area. Details and links about the Wandering Leather Didj and the Wandering Didjboxes can be found on the website: www.rounddoor.com|
Several months ago I searched the internet with key words like Didjbox, Didgebox, didj box, didge box etc. I found several website, mostly from Germany and some other progressive European countries with pictures and instructions about making a version of the Didjbox design. This was a validation that the Didjbox had international appeal and that the Didjbox concept had taken on life of its own.
On 12/16/2003 I received the final US patent for the Didjbox design.
This is the link to the Didjbox patent issued 12/16/03.
Type in 6664454 in patent # search. Click Public Documents, then click Images.
The following is the history of the Didjbox since its introduction on the world wide web in 1999.
The Didjbox idea was first conceived in 1995. Here is a link to Marko's entire didgeridoo history starting in 1993. http://www.rounddoor.com/didjbox/history.html
Check out all of the links in this site for an existing photo archive of the original Didjboxes and some brilliant commentary by Miss Brandi
Here is an interview with Brandi and her early didj days.
A list of sites in chronological order of appearance on the web of all Didjbox related sites that evolved directly from www.didjbox.com initiated on 07/01/99 . I never consulted with anyone about the Didjbox design. There is no one that can claim any credit for helping me developed the Didjbox idea. Local friends and family were aware of my work in designing a compact didj but I was quite secretive about it. On 06/30/99 I applied for a US Patent.
I started by sending Didjboxes to several people on the Mills Didjeridu Digest to get some feedback.
Ed Drury, OR. http://www.rdrop.com/~mulara/
Dave Crowder, CO. http://home.mindspring.com/~mcdave1/
John Madill,MD. http://www.joyousnoise.com/
Peter Lister, AU. http://sites.uws.edu.au/vip/listerp/
Rasta Robert, NL. http://www.rr.cistron.nl/
These are some of the very first people in the world to receive a Didjbox.
A positive response from the list members and the Didjbox started to sell. In the first 2 years Didjboxes or Didjflutes were sold in 20 states in the USA and in 8 countries. Most people were surprised and impressed by the low didj like sound. Some mentioned that they seemed a bit muffled. Overall most people were impressed by the big sound from such a small box.
The first Didjbox I sold was to a wholesale account in Joseph Oregon on 07/ 07/ 99. The next week I put one in the gift shop at Salt Lake International Airport. The next week I started getting Didjbox orders from California to New York and many states in between.
On 08/01/99 I sent my first international order to Quebec, Canada.
On 12/09/99 I sent 4 Didjboxes to Peter Brady in Humpty Doo, Northern Territory Australia.
The same day I sent my first order to England. Adam Sargent. http://www.didjeridu-uk.org/
12/18/99 I sent a Didjbox to Amsterdam, Netherlands. Australian Art Store.
02/18/2000 I sent the first Didjbox to Switzerland, Fritz Kurt. http://mypage.bluewin.ch/didgeman/didges/didgedbox.htm
04/20/2000 I sent 4 Didjboxes to Switzerland. Kooka Down Under http://www.ozshop.ch/didjbox.html
The European didj scene is more advanced than the US and several German didjers were the first to my knowledge to experiment with the compact didj idea. I have been collecting websites that feature Didjbox makers and designs and leave you to ponder the potential of this new version of the didgeridoo.
http://www.detididge.de/ I believe this to be the first box maker inspired directly from www.didjbox.com
www.schlagwerk.de Huge instrument manufacturing co.
http://www.didgewoman.de/ I have been in touch with Didgewoman via email and am excited to report she is also making leather didjs.
http://www.andygraham.net/ American Innovator has put strings on the basic design and also have some extremely original designs of his own instruments. Click inventions.
http://www.setjan-soundscape.de/page_kofferdidge/ Installation artist! WOW!!
http://www.didgeridoo-lexikon.de/Didgebox.html A new term for the Didgeridoo Dictionary!
http://www.marktplaats.nl/foto.php3?g=muziek&u=overigeblaasinstr&ID=1661&ret=%2Fmarkt%2Fmuziek%2Foverigeblaasinstr%2F1661.htm Yet another version.
In 2001 the Didgeridoo Store of Los Angeles, www.didgeridoostore.com was authorized to make cedar and molded plastic Didjflutes.
This led to having Didjboxes made in India with the help of Peter Spoecker. He had already established a primitive instrument company and the Didjbox was added to the new line, www.tribalearth.com.
This website contains listings from 24 countries around the world. It all started in Australia some 40,000 years ago. All Aboriginal crafted didgeridoos are naturally hollowed by termites and made with eucalyptus trees. Only in the last 10 years has the didgeridoo emerged into the modern world to become a symbol of unity between the races. Many variations have been made in recent times but I am the very first person in the world to make a didgeridoo with leather. I have also designed and hold a US patent (# 6664454) on a compact version of the didgeridoo named the Didjbox.
http://didgeworld.com/didgeridoo_links_list.html Hundreds of didgeridoo sites world wide.
Search google with the word "didgeridoo" and thousands of websites will be listed. The word is spelled several different ways, didgeridoo, didjeridu, an authentic instrument for Aboriginal Australia is yidaki. Djalu Gurruwiwi is the most renown and respected Aboriginal elder known for his yidaki craftsmanship. www.djalu.com
The website, Dreamtime Server, http://www.mills.edu/LIFE/CCM/DIDJERIDU/ from Mills College, Oakland, Ca. was the first, started 1994, to offer a didgeridoo online mailing list that connected didj player and enthusiast from around the world.
Didjboxes have been sold and shipped directly through the www.didjbox.com in 8 countries and 20 US states.
Some recent comments from new Didjbox ownwers. http://www.didgeridootribe.com/cgi-bin/index.cgi?action=forum&board=mem1&op=display&num=106
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