Switzerland’s Music:
An Annotated Bibliography
Rachel Helgeson

Adams, Aubrey and Craig Collison. “Marching Percussion.” Percussive Notes 30, no. 5 (1992): 87-88. Knoxville, Tennessee: Percussive Notes.

Discussion of Swiss rudimental military drumming with Alfons Grieder. A traditional military drum has a long barrel shaped bodies with membrane stretched across the top to the body. Drummers of the Swiss army are trained by an instructor and the Swiss Drummers Association founded in 1906, regularly organizing competitions with drumming on a high level. Since Swiss military drummers are allowed to take their instruments home and keep them, the military drum has become a popular folk instrument. In peacetime since the 16th century drums and fife have accompanied dance. Drum bands take part in many carnival related events.

Alphorn quartet. The JVC anthology of world music and dance: Europe I: Ireland / England / France / Switzerland / West Germany / Spain / Italy / Greece. Produced by Ichikakat Sumori. 32 sec. JVC, Victor Company of Japan, 1990. Videocassette.

An example of an alphorn quartet playing in the Swiss alps. An alphorn is a wooden trumpet originating back to the Neolithic period. Old style contemporary horns in the Bundner Oberland, Graubland, and other remote areas are made from wood (occasionally from metal pipes) and are about 2.5 meters long. In Muotatal, two types of alphorn are found: the grada buchel, a straight, hollowed out fir tree trunk wrapped in birch bark, with a curved bell, is from 4-10 meters long; and the buchel, a smaller horn whose coiled shape can be played at faster tempos and higher pitches than the grada buchel. Mouth pieces for all the alphorns are of turned boxwood, crafted in various shapes and sizes, depending on the intended type of play. Players once fashioned their own horns, but specialists began to appear around 1900 with mechanical carvings and gluing. The instrument restricts players to the overtone series of the 11th partial (F in a C scale) characteristically sharp, is commonly called alphorn fa. Until 1900 the alphorn was played as a solo instrument to pacify the cattle and send signals. Today it is played by amateur duets, trios, and quartets. The alphorn is considered Switzerland’s national instrument.

Apel, Willi. The Harvard Dictionary of Music. 2nd ed. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1969.“Switzerland.” by Anne Gombosi.

Switzerland according to the Harvard Dictionary of Music only played and composed traditional “western” music. Swiss music developed from the monastic Gregorian Chant, organ music, choral music, to some world renowned composers and musicians including Honneger and Dalcroze. It is curious that Honneger, a composer who was born and lived in Paris who happened to be of Swiss decent, is considered one of Switzerland’s compositional gems. If a reader was uninformed about Swiss music, this article would lead the reader to believe that the rich traditional Swiss folk music never existed.

Band of the Royal Grenadiers. National Anthems of the World. Directed by Major Charles Irvine. 2 min. 40 sec. Fanfare, 1989. Compact Disc.

The Swiss National anthem played by the Band of the Royal Grenadiers. It was written by Alberish Zwyssig (1808 - 1854) in 1841 and officially was adopted in 1961. (The words are not included with this arrangement.)

Bish, Diane. A musical visit to Zurich. Produced by Diane Bish and Mary B. Roman. 29 min. Trinity Broadcasting Networking, 1990. Videocassette.

Diane Bish plays a historic organ near Zurich and gives musical tours of the city. Maria Goldschmidt, flutist, joins Diane Bish in playing Gluck “O Savior Hear me”.

Blatter, Cornelia. The World Sings goodnight: lullabies of 33 different cultures sung in their native tongue. 50 sec. Silverware, 1993. Compact Disc.

A Swiss lullaby accompanied by goat bells and hammered dulcimer.

Ländler bands. Music of Switzerland. Produced by Jost Ribary and Heiri Meier. 45 min. Monitor, 196. Sound Recording.

The inhabitants of the separate Alpine valley have individual cultural characteristics which are recognizable in their dialects, in their customs, and also in their architecture and music. The typical music of the Swiss Alps is generally known as Lä ndler music.
Naturjodel Ensemble. The JVC anthology of world music and dance: Europe I: Ireland / England / France / Switzerland / West Germany / Spain / Italy / Greece. Produced by Ichikakat Sumori. 1 min. 15 sec. JVC, Victor Company of Japan, 1990. Video Cassette.
        An example of an traditional alphorn yodeling ensemble yodeling.

Rice, Timothy, James Porter, and Chris Goertzen The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. Europe 8, . New York: Garland, 2000. “Switzerland” by Johanna Hoffman, and Silvia Delorenzi-Shenkel.

If a researcher is specifically interested in the traditional, ethnic music of Switzerland the Garland Encyclopedia is the most informative on this subject. The Swiss article is divided into musical topics including, early and traditional musical contexts, musical instruments, musical geographic areas, education in traditional music, influence of art and folk, and various 20th century musical trends. A novice is able to easily pick out themes and ideas due to the user friendly layout. Garland also includes recordings and clear pictures to illustrate the various topics mentioned earlier.

Sadie, Stanley. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. ne 24. Washington DC: Grove’s Dictionary of Music, 2001. “Switzerland” by Pierre Meylan, Chris Walton, Max Peter Bauman

The New Grove Dictionary divides Swiss music into two categories: art and traditional. This break down allows the reader to fully understand the two primary Swiss musical forms. The art section begins with a historical background about Switzerland and proceeds with the classical development of music. Mean while the traditional music broke down the culture of Switzerland. In contrast to the art songs fight between the cultural clashes traditional music embraced it’s differences creating a vast repertoire of cultural music. Some forms of music that Switzerland is identified with is the alphorn and yodeling.

Sadie, Stanley. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. oe 18. Washington, D.C.: Grove’s Dictionary of Music, 1980. “Switzerland” by Pierre Meylan, Chris Walton, Max Peter Bauman.

An earlier version of The New Grove Dictionary’s Swiss Article. See above annotation.

Ziegler, Eva. The World Sings goodnight: lullabies of 33 different cultures sung in their native tongue. “Sleep my Child” 1 min. 30 sec. Silverware, 1993. Compact Disc.

A simple Swiss lullaby using soothing nonsense syllables and translated saying: “Quiet, quiet, the baby wants to sleep. The angels are rejoicing and near the crib they are making music. Quiet, the baby wants to sleep.” It is sung in German on this recording.

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