I’m fascinated by vocalists who utilize radical and unusual mouth and throat techniques. For me it probably began when I was young with entertainment oddities like Mrs. Miller, Tiny Tim and, more appropriately, “Hocus Pocus” by the Dutch prog-rock group Focus.Since I began researching the secrets of yodeling in 1996, I’ve been struck by how fixed and limited most people’s notions about yodeling are. Thus, the mission of my first book Yodel-Ay-Ee-Oooo: The Secret History of Yodeling Around the Worldwas to expand the audio horizons of yodeling and move beyond the Alps and Jimmie Rodgers. This was essential and led to revelation two:
The yodel has been taken far afield by a group of adventurous extended vocalists, and conversely, the yodel has launched them into a realm beyond narrative & content. But for all of their futuristic, other-worldly utterances, they often sound a lot like the ancients, like Tibetan monks or Central African Pygmies or 16th-century herders. In fact, some of the most progressive/advanced vocalists make no bones about their desire to communicate with spirits, their roots, fauna, with a part of us not easily accessed, with our bones and organs, rather than our brains. Jazz vocalist Leon Thomas believed his yodeling was the voice of his ancient ancestors, the Pygmies; Greetje Bijma imitates birds not unlike most Tyrolean yodelers who often yodel in imitation of, and in honor of, the cuckoo; Anna Maria Kieffer duets with rain forest fauna; while Paul Dutton performs his “Wolf Chant” with obvious yodel echoes and Black truck driver, lifelong yodeler, Mike Johnson, imitates both Tarzan and dogs.
I’ve come into contact with many of the foremost extended vocalists and gifted “other” vocalists in the world. In compiling this collection I notice an overlapping logic and significant aesthetic connective tissue that makes of this compilation a united whole and yet it has a broad range of styles, evoking a wide array of emotions not unlike yodeling itself.That professional vocalists commonly turn to, refer to, or utilize yodeling is understandable given its range, its volume and its dramatic effect. Part of its awe-inspiring mystery is certainly related to its perceived degree of difficulty if not its association with effective pre-mobile/cell phone long-distance communication and its use as a means of communicating with mountain and forest spirits. Another aspect is no doubt its uniqueness.
Countless singers have noted that when they yodel it inevitably receives the evening’s most applause, and demands for yodeling encores.Fugs singer, poet-author Ed Sanders wonderfully foreshadowed the emerging fascination with cybernetic music with his satirical, “Yodeling Robot” about an unrequited love affair with Dolly Parton. It employs heavy studio echo effects to enhance Sanders’ pining yodel as it reverberates beyond its homeostatic domain. Its refrain “iron eyes never can weep” highlights this science of control and communication, this Frankenstein fascination with bone fused to electronic prosthesis attempting to resolve its “soullessness.” It is a bitter harvest of a sweet but sophisticated fruit. A corollary and extrapolation of this is Shelley Hirsch’s “Haiku Lingo,” recorded in a NYC studio using modern recording equipment, to evoke an outdoor Alpine setting more convincingly than many indigenous Swiss yodelers en plein air and on location. This is proof that avant-garde vocalists employ all manner of techniques both electronic and epiglottal to garner their extreme effect.
But what I find most fascinating is how often they return to the primal to seek propulsion into a new future. Like the Dadaists – themselves also fascinated by the sound-poetic potential of the yodel – many of these vocalists seek out the most pure and ancient sounds to make new music.The selection process was easy: I approached those who I admired. Most of them, to my delight, reacted enthusiastically to the project. Many have offered original pieces especially for this production. Many also responded to my interview questions, which will be included in the profiles that will appear in the project’s accompanying booklet/documentation. The current line-up is a preliminary approximation of the final track listing.
* unique to this compilation; •• placeholder; links present representative songs, not the pieces for the compilation
1. Vicki Bennett [People Like Us]: Yodel Bomber 3:16[US/NY] 2. Shelley Hirsch: Russian Roulette 3:58 [US/NY] 3. Paul Dutton: Yoralodelling 3:30* [CA] 4. Jack Collom: Blue Heron Yodel 5:42* [US] 5.Anna Nacher: Angelica Silvestris 3:54* [PL] 6. Alvin Curran: I dreamt I Yodeled I Remixed 5:39* [US] 7. Fatima Miranda: Concierto En Canto - Sobre saltos 4:59 [SP] 8. Erika Stucky: Stueckisch 3:04 [CH] . 9. Mike Johnson: Dog Pound Yodel 1:06 [US] 10. Mal Webb: Porridge 2:47* [AUS] 11. Meredith Monk: Vessel: An Opera Epic: Mill 3:10•• [US] 12. Phil Minton: Yodel Master 1 5:59* [UK] 13. Lynn Book: You, Box 4:21 [US] 14. Barbara Hannigan & Nederlands Blazers Ensemble: In the Alps act 1 2:24 [CA/NL/UK] 15. Rocket Freudental: Bertl Und Anderl Überschreiten Den Großvenediger 1:30 [GE] 16. Igor Dvorkin: The Big It Up Yodel 3:40 [UK/Russia] 17. Randy Erwin: The Long Slow Slide 3:23 [US] 18. Stimmhorn: Triohatala 3:57 [CH] 19. Kristina Fuchs: Der Rosegarten (Nien geit's so...) 6:37 [NL/CH] 20. Caterwaul: Diminutive Do Se Do 2:58 [US] 21. André Minvielle: Ami De Mots 1:45 [FR] 22. Leon Thomas: Echoes 5:42 [US/RIP] 23. Demetrios Stratos: Mirologhi 1 5:47 [GR/IT/RIP] 24. Christine Lauterburg: Yolee 1:54 [CH]