Reminder: History and traditions of alphorn topic of May 16 presentation at Edmonds Waterfront Center

Gary Martin playing his alphorn on the Edmonds waterfront. (Photo by Julia Wiese)

The history and traditions of the alphorn, a simple musical instrument of the Alpine shepherds, will be the focus of a Thursday, May 16 presentation at the Edmonds Waterfront Center, part of the author/speaker series sponsored by the Waterfront Center and the My Neighborhood News Network.

“Alpine Vibes – Callings and Echoes of the Alps” will delve into the alphorn, a source of fascination for travelers in the 19th century that became a symbol of musical tradition in Switzerland. Thanks to its soothing sound and the unique visual appearance of the instrument, alphorn music is enjoying growing popularity, including in the Seattle region. One of those alphorn musicians is Edmonds resident and University of Washington Professor Emeritus Gary Martin, profiled on My Edmonds News here.

Martin will join Yannick Wey, a senior research associate at the Competence Center for Music Education Research at Lucerne School of Music, Switzerland. In his doctoral thesis, Wey analyzed the musical transcription of the Alpine yodel and related wordless song and the interactions between their oral and written traditions. He plays the traditional wind instruments of the Alpine region, the alphorn and büchel. Wey also wrote a book on the musical connection between the alphorn and yodeling, which Martin translated from German into English with the collaboration of Wey and two co-authors.

During the presentation, which begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Waterfront Center, 220 Railroad Ave., the authors will demonstrate historical and new alphorn music and get to the bottom of questions such as: What music can be played on a wind instrument that has no valves, finger holes or keys? What function does the alphorn have in the rituals, customs and traditions of the Alpine region? How is its musical history connected to the natural environment of the Alpine region and to the purely vocal call of the Swiss yodel? The themes will be richly illustrated with live music from four centuries.

And for those familar with the Ricola cough drop commercial in the 1990s featuring the alphorn, an interesting fact will be revealed.

Subtitles and closed captioning will be provided for attendees who are deaf and hard of hearing. The EWC also offers assistive listening devices available to check out or connect with your smart phone.

Reserve your seat online here; admission is $7.50. Walk-ins are welcome the night of the event based on available seating.


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