Instruments of Battlestar Galactica: Duduk
September 28th, 2006
The Battlestar Galactica score is comprised of an unusual assortment of instruments from around the world. While many episodes feature colors and themes specific to that particular storyline, there are a handful of instruments that have become integral to the musical tapestry of the entire show. Of these, the most melodic and commonly used is the duduk.
My initial concept for the score was to use instruments as ancient as possible, hence the heavy reliance on percussion and vocals. However, the Armenian duduk fits right in since it is among the world’s oldest wind instruments.
Though it is a harmonically limited instrument, a gifted player can coax many different textures out of it. I’m fortunate enough to work with Chris Bleth, whose work can be heard on many different film and television projects besides Galactica.
Chris Bleth plays duduk on a Battlestar Galactica session.
The duduk is often associated with a haunting and mournful sound, almost vocal in quality. I first began to experiment with it as a lead melodic instrument for the episode Act of Contrition. This memorable scene featured a funeral in the present as well as flashbacks to a funeral in the past. I was shocked at how quickly the timbre of the duduk communicated both lyrical melancholy and bittersweet sadness, without being overtly sentimental.
However, when more energy is applied to the instrument, the tone changes dramatically. The dark, rich texture of its lower register gives way to shrill piercing tones that can cut through even an arsenal of taiko drums. I’ve found this technique extremely useful when I have prolonged drum lines and need a strong solo instrument to be heard above the chaos.
When working with non-orchestral instruments, composers are faced with an array of limitations, and the experience can sometimes be frustrating. However, learning to use these limitations to your musical benefit through collaborations with talented and dedicated musicians can bring new musical possibilities to a score. Chris’ knowledge of traditional duduk technique (and his willingness to experiment in non-traditional playing) has lead to the duduk becoming an integral part of the soundscape of Battlestar Galactica.
So Say We All,