The Roman Emperor Julian wasn’t a big fan of the yodel. The sing-songy shout out that conjures images of mountain maidens with long blond braids reportedly irritated the 4th century ruler. In his short three-year reign he wasn’t able to silence the many centuries, and styles, of yodeling that would come after him.
What likely began as a communication means for cattle herders in the Swiss Alps has enjoyed some artful adaptations, from cowboy ballads and the blues, to rap and rock n’ roll. And the story of the yodel’s evolution from occupational past-time to cultural icon, and from the agrarian Alps to Appalachia and beyond, is as much about migration as it is about music. The hills, and our studio, are alive with the sounds of music.
Bart Plantenga, author of a new book about yodeling, “Yodel-ay-ee-oo: The Secret History of Yodeling Around the World.”