Büchel Performance and the Idea of a 'Natural' Harmony in Alpine Music

Wey, Yannick (2023). Büchel Performance and the Idea of a 'Natural' Harmony in Alpine Music In: The Tenth International Symposium on Traditional Polyphony, Proceedings, 20–24 October, 2020, Tbilisi, Georgia (pp. 467-476). International Research Center for Traditional Polyphony

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The büchel is a shorter, trumpet-shaped variant of the alphorn and exists primarily in the Alpine region of Central Switzerland and in neighboring areas. A wooden trumpet without holes or valves, various notes on the büchel can only be produced by overblowing. Its tone scale corresponds to the harmonic series, known in German as the ‘natural tone series’, a radial scale with intervals narrowing upwards. This results in restricted polyphony with limited options, characterized by bourdon-like bass notes, octave parallels and large intervals in the low register. Recently, the idea that folk song in the Alpine region relates to these characteristics of wooden horns again catches the attention of scholars and composers. To this day, some observers mix the instrument’s musical expression with an imagination of mountain regions as spaces where people live in close touch with nature. In this paper, we examine the forms of multipart organization in Büchel tunes, its relation to vocal music and question the plausibility of several current hypotheses from my perspective as a practitioner. Considerations include limitations posed by the instrument, actual tunings of historic instruments – which may strongly deviate from the ideal of the harmonic series – and comparisons with the (scarce) written source material

Item Type:

Book Section (Book Chapter)


Bern Academy of the Arts
Bern Academy of the Arts > Institute Interpretation


Wey, Yannick0000-0002-2416-1285


M Music and Books on Music > M Music


International Research Center for Traditional Polyphony




Yannick Wey

Date Deposited:

16 May 2024 09:49

Last Modified:

24 May 2024 10:28

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