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   Heimatklänge OST: Heimatklänge - Echoes of Home: Presscuts

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Release Date: 12.10.2007
EAN/UPC: 705304451021
TT Catalogue No: 4510

  • Echoes of Home
    (Switzerland/Germany) The new sound no one expected, nouveau yodel, is highlighted in this documentary by Stefan Schwietert (Accordion Tribe). Switzerland's Christian Zehnder mixes the national yelp with throat-singing and Arabic vocal elements. Life-long trad performers the Alder Boys find themselves confronting world music in their midst. The thoroughly bicultural and utterly charming Erika Stucky (come back to San Francisco, Erika!) demonstrates some of her avocations. She sings some spooky cabaret and pumps an accordion in front of an audience of solemn-bearded taverners. She performs Randy Newman's Brechtian death dirge "In Germany Before the War," and she prowls a skull-filled ossuary complete with a traditional memento mori on top: "As you are, so were we; as we are, so will you be." Like Les Blank, Schwietert insists on environment as the soul of a people's music, contrasting the unlovely industrial clusters of urban Switzerland with the somber Alps behind them. And he demonstrates the many moods of yodel from primal scream to cow-calling, from blue-mood expression to invitation to a fistfight. The impressionism leaves a few questions unanswered though—why do yodelers perform with brooms onstage? (Maybe it's to sweep off the thrown brassieres.) (RvB)

  • "Heimatklänge: The Yodelers are Alive in Them Hills
    By Bart Plantenga
    The Alps: heavenly, imposing, sometimes downright oppressive. How can the Swiss stand living among all that awesome beauty? They have a broad range of responses, including joy, spiritual reverence, gratitude and a humility that periodically slips into the gloomier aspects of mountain living: loneliness, drink, depression, occasionally suicide.
    Yodeling covers all these responses in one sonic, eccentric leap from low to high register. When the Swiss get cheerful, they sing and squeeze accordions in bars, at family gatherings, official competitions, outdoors-everywhere. And they yodel-for tourists, for themselves, for nobody in particular. Vocalist Christian Zehnder points out that yodeling is a kind of resistance. You have to stand up to the mountains. That's why we have so many eccentrics.' Yodeling spans the range from the-hills-are-alive joy to will-my-cows-make-it-through-that-narrow-winter-pass angst.
    For centuries, it served as a pragmatic long-distance call to the herds and other herders. However, the Swiss also yodel as a form of mixed pagan-Christian prayer, or as a conversation with oneself (echo) or one's surroundings, or as communal celebration. In Appenzell, Swiss documentary film-maker Stefan Schwietert encountered a kitchen full of ruddy-faced drinkers accompanying naturjodler Noldi Alder, all yodeling in harmony. Call it social glue, call it besotted revelry, but don't call it foolish howling because, as Alder points out, 'If someone starts yodeling in a pub, everyone falls quietS˙Maybe it has to do with a certain meditative state of mind.'
    Yodeling is so etched into Swiss identity that many continue to accept composer Alfred Gassman's theory that yodeling's dramatic ups and downs mirror Alpine topography-a voiceprint fitting neatly over a topographical map. But this neither accounts for Pygmies yodeling in African forests nor Gene Autry yodeling in cowboy flicks. Ever since the emergence of pop music - in the 1810s, when yodeling Alpine families began serenading homesick American immigrants - to Jimmie Rodgers in the 1920s and '30s, to the Vogues' 1960s tune 'Five O'Clock World' to Gwen Stefani's latest mega-hit, 'Wind It Up', the yodel has served as a chorus in pop songs, not to mention its exploitation as orgasmic ululation in 1970s soft-core Alpine pornS˙
    But there's an entirely alternative side to yodeling, yodeling as something that defies cliché, that extends the human voice to paint a more abstract(-expressionist) picture of how our voices can continue to affect our surroundings. It is equal parts Dada, animism and adventure, taking the far-flung voice and flinging it further.
    Schwietert's new documentary Heimatklänge commences with peaks above the clouds and a hymnal-reverential yodel that fades into the cliché: man on a mountaintop, exuberantly ululating. This enduring 'Heidiland' stereotype keeps coming back to haunt this film about three performers whose work couldn't be less like the stereotype. The main characters inHeimatklänge are vocalists Erika Stucky, Noldi Alder and Christian Zehnder, who have all in their own way come to terms with the many reactions to yodeling and have managed to take back for art and soul what has been purloined and poorly dressed by dubious cultural representatives for too long.
    Early on you discover that this is not just a film for epiglottal groupies; its  interesting to a broader film audience because Schwietert has a bewitching talent for letting artists explain how and where they find inspiration and identity. Schwietert follows the three to key sites, where they reflect on their lives and art and how they've overcome social conformity and personal baggage, progressing beyond their teenage aversions to yodeling's associations with embarrassing, lederhosen-clad nationalists.
    We follow Alder to a Carnivalesque celebration, in which he participates in the annual tromp from house to house through snow wearing wildly elaborate costumes, immense cowbells, heavy diorama-festooned headdresses and wooden masks, yodeling to help the neighbors ward off evil spirits and ensure the safe passage of their herds during the treacherous winter months. We don't often see yodeling's ritualistic and soulful side.
    Alder has come to terms with his fabled family heritage of three generations of trad-clad, globe-trotting Appenzeller musicians who yodeled so enchantingly that barmaids never charged them for drinks. For Alder their music was a kind of fake-folk stuck between yodeling for tourists and the official National Yodel Association, which dictates precisely what Swiss yodeling should sound like, when it occurs in a song, and how you dress for yodel competitions. He eventually went his own way, studying classical violin, and now devotes his career to interpreting tradition in his own living, breathing, >naturjodel< (a cappella) way.
    Schwietert places the singers' earnest search for their own voices within the larger national-regional framework, in the process leaping octaves over the various clichés to communicate with the beyond, the other side, the muse. Erika Stucky, for instance, yodels and makes the sound of wind and birds as she conjures up her childhood. In 'Cry-Baby,' her yodels and floral ululations retreat seamlessly back to the original utterance - baby babble - and then suddenly leaps into full sophisticated scat-improv, effectively portraying the cyclical history of the human voice in just two minutes.
    As a postmodern vocalist, Stucky is no longer wedged between two cultures - San Francisco (spontaneity) and Switzerland (discipline). She's fully bi-continental, assimilating the best of both worlds with a broad repertoire of pop (Nirvana, Hendrix), jazz, chansons and comedy. But she also discusses the theme of her latest CD, Suicidal Yodels, the glum-face-in-beer and drawn out melancholic 'blues' side of Swiss yodeling. 'At some point,' she notes, 'humans had the urge to extend the pleasure of talking. When you pour your heart into it, you draw out the notes. When you're emotional you're not concise.'
    Schwietert follows improv vocalist Zehnder meandering Stimmhorn's ID through world and avant garde music, to get to the source of his voice - Switzerland. This takes him from modern European concert stages to, eventually, far-off Mongolia where he performs his scat-yodel throat-singing in a yurt with the world-renowned Tuvan quartet Huun Huur Tu.
    Schwietert's gorgeous, engaging and probing film portrays three contemporary vocalists who blend Swiss roots with foreign influences and innovative music to create a dynamic balance between talent, ego, tradition-bound society and that almighty landscape - right there at the epiglottis. By film's end, Zehnder, Stucky and Alder are all yodeling as free as mockingbirds. As Alder observes: 'If we knew how free we could be, we would burst."
    Bart Plantenga is the author of Yodel-Ay-Ee-Oooo: The Secret History of Yodeling Around the World  and compiler of the Rough Guide to Yodel CD (World Music Network, 2006).
    Amsterdam Weekly, December 6, 2007

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