Daniel Orlansky has been playing the didgeridoo for 25 years in both America and Europe. He has performed in many locations, notably at Berkley College of Music, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Boston Jazz Festival, the Cambridge River Festival, and for the Boston Ballet and many local dance companies. A member of the Steel Cello Ensemble, an avant-garde music group, Daniel has toured extensively in America, Canada, and Europe. Founded by Robert Rutman in the 1970’s, The Steel Cello Ensemble has provided music for many dance, theater, and multi-media productions, including works by Robert Wilson, Peter Sellars, and Merce Cunningham, and has performed in museums worldwide, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, The Whitney Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, Stockholm, and the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels.
What brought you to playing the didgeridoo? Tell us about your initial interest and lessons.
In 1992, Bob Rutman, the founder of the Steel Cello Ensemble, gave me my first didgeridoo. He was able to do Tibetan chordal chanting, which features deep resonance and many undertones, and an Australian fan thought, quite rightly, that the didgeridoo sounded somewhat like that form of singing. Based on that, this fan gave Bob a didgeridoo as a present, which he passed along to me.
I had already fallen in love with the sound of the didgeridoo, which has been called “the sound of the earth.” It is has been used in rituals by the indigenous peoples of Australia, the aborigines, for over 30,000 years, and is said to be trance inducing. I found and still find the sound of the didgeridoo mesmerizing. So when the didgeridoo fell into my hands, it was off to the races. I found a teacher in Berlin, and became good enough on the instrument to perform with my teacher. We called ourselves “Didgeriduo”.
You’re a member of the Steel Cello Ensemble, an avant-garde music group. Do you play didgeridoo with them, or other instruments? What draws you to avant-garde music?
For just a short period of time I played didgeridoo with the Steel Cello Ensemble. Mostly I played a sound sculpture called a “Bow Chime,” which was one of four instruments in the Steel Cello family. This was improvised music, creating sound environments for dance, theater, and as a listening experience. We performed at major museums, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm, and the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. I’ve performed steel cello and didgeridoo at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and also with the Boston Ballet. The sounds of these Instruments is completely magical, and can range from subtle sounds of nature to sounds of machinery.
You’ve performed in Stockholm and Brussels. Have you ever played in Australia? If so, tell us about that experience. If not, is it one of your goals to perform there?
I have never performed in Australia, where many of the great Aboriginal didgeridoo players in the world reside, but I think I would be intimidated. I don’t particularly play an Aboriginal style. Nonetheless, I would love to go there, and see how the instruments are made.
Would you encourage young people to learn the didgeridoo? What would you tell them about the learning experience?
When I’ve played didgeridoo for children and young adults, they are enthralled. One of the principal techniques in playing the didgeridoo is mastering “circular breathing.” With circular breathing one is inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth at all times, so that sound becomes continuous. Overall, playing the didgeridoo a very meditative experience, and in a sense really is breath therapy and very good for energy!
This will be an exciting and unique concert for the WPO. Tell us how you feel about performing with us in our “Australian Dreamscape” concert on May 6th.
I’ve performed with classically trained musicians before, but never a full orchestra; I’m very excited! It’s a very compelling and exciting combination, bringing one of the oldest and most “primitive” instruments in the world into a classical music context. They sound good together!
For more information and tickets for this concert, go here.