When I was in the 5th grade, my mom (who was a travel agent) took my brother and I on an extraordinary adventure to Australia. We got to do everything from scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef to an Outback safari. As a budding musician, I was quite intrigued when I heard a live performance of didgeridoos. Not only did my mother buy me a small didgeridoo, but an Aborigine took the time to teach me how to circular breathe (a technique that allows for a continuous sound by inhaling through the nose while carefully pushing air out of your mouth with your cheeks) so I could play it properly.
Here’s a short demonstration:
Fast forward to my sophomore year as a saxophone performance major at Northwestern University. I was taking a music theory class with Dr. Kevin Holm-Hudson and performing the assignment of composing a piece on one note. I had used my circular breathing skills during other performances on my saxophone several times, but this particular professor was very excited to hear this form of continuous breathing implemented. He asked where I learned to circular breathe and I explained the story from when I was 11 years old. This excited him even more because he had composed a piece for didgeridoo, voice, and synthesizers, and he was quickly realizing he had just found his didgeridoo player!
On November 21, 1996 in Regenstein Recital Hall, history was nearly made. It is only recently that I realized just how close I came to setting a world record (that would still be standing 21 years later) for continuous circular breathing on the didgeridoo. This contemporary piece that we performed was only intended to last a few minutes, but we three musicians (Michele Gillman, Kevin Holm-Hudson, and I) were lost in the music. With lights dimmed to near darkness and the steady stream of hypnotic sounds, it wasn’t until Dr. Holm-Hudson realized we’d been playing for nearly 40 minutes that he signaled for the end of the piece.
Several times over the last two decades, it occurred to me that I really wanted to get my hands on that recording. I had never actually heard it and was curious how long I really lasted without stopping. A few weeks ago, I contacted the circulation desk at the Northwestern music library and for only $8, the entire program from that night was converted to mp3 files for me. 39 minutes and 20 seconds. Seamless. How on Earth did I do that???
And now my 11 year old son wants me to try to break the world record that appears to have been set in 1994 by Mark Atkins, who played a didgeridoo continuously for over 50 minutes. I have no doubt I could have kept playing for quite some time when I performed Night Crossings. How cool to think I could have held the world record all of this time had we kept going!
Enjoy the relaxing sounds of Night Crossings (1996) composed and performed by Michele Gillman and Kevin Holm-Hudson with me on didgeridoo. I am now a photographer living in Manhattan, Kansas, so I have taken the time to arrange a collection of landscape images that I have taken here in Kansas over the past few years to this fantastic piece of music.