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Call of the Cowherd comes of age: a degree in yodelling

Call of the Cowherd comes of age: a degree in yodelling

Does the above picture make you want to yodel? If so, you are probably Swiss, Austrian or Southern German. Now we’re not saying it’s silly season for course news or anything, but this one did catch our attention. So here it is: there is a course in yodelling.

Evening classes, you might be thinking. Or a video-based online course a few weeks long? After all, how long does it take to learn how to wobble your voice up and down?

In fact, this course is a three-year degree. Not a music or arts degree with a bit of yodelling thrown in, but a fully-fledged, full-length undergraduate course dedicated entirely to the Alpine art of yodelling.

The Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts (LUASA) have managed to bag a yodelling superstar to lead the course. Her name is Nadja Räss and she has been a Jodlerin – a yodeller – from a very early age. Imagine what parties sounded like at her household, where everybody was a yodeller. Nadja is a professional singer and considered the finest living practitioner of the art. She has been nominated for the Swiss Music Prize has won other cultural accolades and prizes and runs her own singing academy in Zurich.

Upon her appointment, department director Michael Kaufmann gleefully said: “We have long dreamed of offering yodelling at the university. And with Nadja Räss we got the number one. It is an absolute stroke of luck for us.”

Yodelling is enjoying a resurgence in popularity in Switzerland at the moment. The Swiss government has stated its intention to apply for UNESCO World Heritage status for yodelling, under the ‘intangible cultural heritage’ category, alongside Spanish Flamenco, Irish Hurling, Jamaican Reggae and Egyptian Hand Puppetry.

Predictably, the Old School are grumbling about this new academic course. Richard Huwiler, President of the Central Swiss Jodler Association, has expressed fears that yodelling is being academicized and that it has always been handed down just fine by traditional means (such as, for example, his association.) But Räss’s pre-eminence and popularity make her a big pull for the course, and might help to promote alpine yodelling’s profile on the world stage, which, largely due to Räss’s efforts, is undergoing something of a makeover.

Nadja herself is hopeful as regards preserving tradition: "Yodelling is a vocal technique that differs from classical singing, for example. It is certainly good if vocal pedagogues are trained on this path, who specialize in the instrument Jodel. "One of the goals is that the graduates pass on their knowledge to the offspring as vocal teachers, for example. "That's why it's certainly good that there is the opportunity to offer a sound, Yodel-specific education."