Alpenhorns

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In addition to clanging cowbells mingled with the soft sounds of your hiking footsteps, what else could add to the quintessential Swiss acoustic experience but the long low reverberations of the alpenhorn?  With its ability to be heard from miles away, this traditional instrument was used in ancient times as a way to call in the herds, as well as a means of communicating news.  The alpenhorn is a wind instrument, and adjusting the lips produces different notes.  The sound is magnified by the horn’s bell.  Today, it is a rare treat to hear its slow melancholy notes rising, dipping and echoing over the mountains, rendering it almost impossible to locate the source.

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The first alpenhorns were fashioned from spruce trees that had grown from a hillside.  Hollowed out, the natural bend at the base of such a tree becomes the bell, and the narrowing trunk eventually ends in the mouthpiece.  Today, the horns are more commonly carved out of thick boards that have been dried for five to eight years, and spruce is still preferred for its excellent resonance. IMGP0229

Although alpenhorns can vary in length, the traditional Swiss horn is 3.5 meters long, and it can be disassembled into three pieces.  It is possible to find cheaper factory produced alpenhorns, but the highest quality horns are made by a handful of the finest Swiss artisans.

 

IMG_2207Source :  Alphorn. (2009).  Festival international de cor des alps.  Retrieved from http://www.nendazcordesalpes.ch/en/cordesalpesen