Our new synth app features a splendid display of numerous instrument samples – one of which is the duduk. As soon as you saw the title of this post, as the reader, your mind likely visualized a deep and emotional movie scene soaked in the tears of the soundtrack’s multi-thousand-year-old weeping duduk.
So what’s the story with the duduk?
The duduk is a double-reed woodwind instrument widely associated with ancient origins in Armenia. Through a wave of usage in the Western world, the mournful instrument has left a deep and lasting impression on the global music scene, providing haunting accompaniments in albums, movies, television shows, soundtracks and concerts galore (Gladiator, Ronin, Syriana, Passion of the Christ, Battlestar Galactica, Yanni performances, etc.) – so much so that it has reached a point where study of the duduk has expanded beyond the realm of Armenian musicians into something bordering along the mainstream. If you’d like a full analysis on the role of the duduk in modern music, film, and television, here is a great read done by the LA Times.
So what do we know about the instrument? It is pretty consistently attributed to the Armenians and wikipedia states it is at least 3000 years old. The sources which state as such, however, tend to be infirm or pervaded with tautological approaches (as in, it’s old, because it’s old). There are similar sounding instruments in various neighboring countries, such as the duduki in Georgia, the mey in Turkey and the balaban in Azerbaijan. Depending on the region where a particular country is situated, trees indigenous to that area will serve as the material for making the instrument (plum, walnut or apricot trees). The Armenian variety are typically made with apricot wood, which provides a distinctive and noticeably different sound from the woods generally used in other countries. Nonetheless, the version of the duduk we hear today, which can be seen as consistently discussed and mentioned to be “thousands” of years old by various sources, may actually have a bit of a more complicated, and much more recent history. A history rooted in politics, revolution and social and cultural engineering, specifically the Sovietization of the Caucasus states, including Armenia:
Author(s): Andy Nercessian Source: International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music, Vol. 31, No. 1 (Jun., 2000), pp. 79-94 Published by: Croatian Musicological Society Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/