July 6, 2008
I have to admit that to some degree, I do too, partly because Alpine yodeling has been ubiquitous and commercialized in the media for the past fifty years (or more), even without The Sound of Music hammering away at our collective memory. In the elitist world of record collecting, it is completely uncool. It is relentlessly harmonic and romantic. Will I defend it? Sure, why not.
Yodeling itself is positively stone age. There are a number of theories regarding its origin, one being that it has something to do with the echo between hills, peaks, and valleys in the Alps, another being that it originated in various cultures with the domestication and subsequent herding of animals. A call and response of rural agrarian peoples. Although echo is an important factor, the latter theory has the most hold in scholarly writing it would seem, though there are still all manner of theories regarding this throat music most commonly associated with Alpine Europe.
Nevertheless, the determining factor of yodeling is of course the “epiglottal stop” used as the singer moves from the “low chest voice to the high head voice or falsetto – or vice versa,” as Bart Plantenga described it in his world history of yodeling – the, um, only book-length history of yodeling on the market. Plantenga does yeoman’s work in dispelling the myths about the music (though the fact his book is titled Yodel-Ay-Ee-Oooo doesn’t exactly help the music’s cornball stature), and rightly brings up the fact that nods to, or embraces of, yodeling, are everywhere in musical history – from Beethoven, to Jimmie Rodgers, to Pharaoh Sanders’ work with Leon Thomas on Impulse and Strata-East.
One area which is particularly proud of its yodeling history is Tyrol in Austria, which is where this piece stems from, recorded ca. 1930s, and pressed in Vienna. It is a naturjodel, a yodel without words, meaningless in content, devoid of the romantic lyrics that are often associated with Alpine yodels, with a simple guitar and zither accompaniment. While I could find no information on the Baldauf brothers, it’s a musical statement that anyone can digest and respond to. It may even sound…pretty.
Issue Number: BA 261
Matrix Number: 70-2108