In 2005, I walked in to a CD store in Seattle, Washington wanting to hear something different, I listened to David Hudson’s Rainbow Serpent and walked out of the store with the album and the fire to learn to play didgeridoo. Now I record and perform with and teach about these amazing instruments…….
A PERSONAL VIEW
So what is this strange tube that makes such fascinating, otherworldly sounds? I remember hearing the word “didgeridoo” many years ago but never knew what it was. I saw my first didgeridoo in 1994 at a classical music concert in Seattle. A piece that my then composition professor, Janice Giteck, wrote for string quartet and didgeridoo. I remember seeing the string players coming out, sitting down to tune and as they did, a man walked out with this long tube. I thought he was going to tap on it like a percussion instrument. But instead, he turned in on end and blew through it making the most fascinating sounds. I was curious. It was then I learned that what I heard was a didgeridoo.
Flash forward to 1999 and an interview I was having as a potential roommate in an all women’s house. One of the women interviewing me, announced she was going to get her didgeridoo. She came back and played making the most outrageously amazing sounds. When I asked her how she did that, she offered me to play her didge. So I did and got the sound immediately. I loved it but it didn’t occur to me to play it until six years later.
Few things have changed my life the way didgeridoo has. As a musician, I see it as a organic synthesizer that I can use to express deeply felt emotions. As a human, it has rearranged my cells and spirit in ways I can’t even explain. Both of these sides of didgeridoo are what keeps me playing again and again whether in practice or on stage.
It’s been a rather interesting journey with this instrument. Especially considering my musical background as a keyboardist and a classically trained composer. When I look back on my choice of instruments to play – the organ and the synthesizer – I guess it’s not so hard to see my attraction to the didgeridoo. What I love about this instrument the most is how it’s drawn out of me things I didn’t know I could do before. It’s allowed me to explore rhythms and synthesize sound in ways I never imagined. Add to that my skills as a composer and it’s made for a most satisfying cocktail in music making. It’s a journey I’ve thoroughly enjoyed experiencing and sharing with others through performance or collaboration. The best part of playing didgeridoo, though, is the path that it’s shown back to my inner door to accept that highly creative, imaginative and somewhat audacious being that I came to be.
I realize that this is not your typical musician’s biography but I wanted to tell you my story. Not just regurgitate a bunch of accomplishments. To me, my greatest accomplishment is living a full tilt, unapologetic, amazing and expressive life. If this inspires you to do the same, then all the better. If you do wish to read more about what I’ve accomplished, keep reading below. Otherwise, we’ll just let this bio be sufficient.
Before I finish, I just want to thank the Aboriginal Peoples of Australia and in particular the Yolngu tribe, for sharing this instrument from their culture. I am deeply grateful for their generosity without which I would not have been able make this musical or personal journey!
THE MORE TRADITIONAL BIO
Currently based in the Pacific Northwest, Pamela Mortensen has had a long and colorful career as a versatile musician and composer first learning to play the organ at the age of six. Later, she went on to add piano, synthesizer and voice to her repertoire of instruments. But it wasn’t until 2005 that the didgeridoo, an ancient Aboriginal instrument from Australia, found its way into her musical life and totally changed it forever.
Since then, she has traveled throughout the U.S, Canada and Mexico bringing her expressive style to audiences. At any given moment, her performances can get audiences on their feet, rocking to exciting rhythms, or sitting back in deep reflective states. She has pioneered in taking the didgeridoo in new expressive directions by combining its rhythmic potential and haunting drone with her singing, keyboards and compositional skills.
“I play to open my audience's ears and minds to whole new dimensions, to whole new ways of relating to their world.”
Thus, bringing her to her mission of introducing new audiences to didgeridoo as a viable and beautiful instrument.
She holds a degree in classical composition from Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, Washington and taught piano and voice for ten years at Moore Brother Music in Sammamish, Washington.
When she’s not recording, performing or writing, she explores some of her other interests which include roaming the forests of the Pacific Northwest, rollerblading and sharing her love for tea, chocolate and salted caramel anything.
Didge Ragas (2017)
Ta-ka Ta-ka (2016)
12-Didgeridoo Solos (2015)
1982 - Distinguished Performance, Yamaha Electone Festival Youth Division
1998 - Seattle Artist Award, Seattle Arts Commission
1999 - Seattle Artist Award, Seattle Arts Commission
2004 - First Place, World Music, Yamaha AW16G Recording Contest
2005 - ASCAP Artist Award