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Yodel: How The Alpine Artform Is Being Reclaimed

Yodeling has many connotations.  Strange guttural throat sounds, Maria off of the Sound of Music, alpine cowherds, mountains and pigtails… None of them being all that ‘cool.’  But is this archaic and much-ridiculed form of song being reinvented and newly acknowledged in our modern music scene?

A form of singing characterized by rapid, repetitive changes between high and low pitches, the earliest record of yodeling was in 1545, where it was described as, ‘ the call of a cowherd from Appenzell.’ Between the 1800s and 1950s yodeling became a recognized and celebrated part of the European, American and even African music scenes, with artists such as Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Snow, Bobbejaan Schoepen and Kishore Kumar incorporating the technique in their music. From the 1960s up until more recently yodeling became less widely used in mainstream music as rock and roll, ska, punk and electronic music became the most popular music styles of the century’s later decades and yodeling was dismissed as dated and bizarre.

But a new wave of artists and musicians have been revisiting yodeling in the 21st century as a quirky form of song both steeped in fascinating history and also compatible with many orchestral, electronic and jazz sounds – and quite unlike the more conventional pop and classical singing styles we have come to know.

Swiss yodeler Nadja Räss fuses electronica, experimental jazz and traditional instruments to create her idiosyncratic sound.    

This yodeling compilation showcases how genres as diverse as dub to Bollywood have embraced yodeling over recent years.     

Berlin-based Doreen Kutzke, who shall be hosting our workshop this Thursday, teaches yodel in every form from blues, techno, jazz and country.     

Oh, and here’s Jimmy Fallon and Brad Pitt with a cheeky little homage to the alpine artform… 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WtPiGYsllos