Yodelling in American popular music
This is a study of yodelling as a musical and cultural signifier.
A definition of yodelling and a typology useful for the description of the
various yodel phenomena heard in English-language popular music are
Yodelling is then considered in a chronological sequence, beginning with
abstract yodel signs in European instrumental classical music where these
tended to signify pastoralism, idealism, and other ideas relating to romantic
conceptions of the self. A discussion of yodelling in light classical and
popular music through the nineteenth century follows. The differing
ideologies associated with "art" music and "popular" music are discernible in
attitudes toward the yodel during this time. The Americanisation of
yodelling in terms of both its musical-formal manifestations and the ideas it
articulated through these are discussed before considering yodelling's role in
both the hillbilly and the cowboy genres. The emphasis throughout is upon
the semiotic aspects of yodelling which I characterise as the difference
between the" rough" and the" smooth". The yodel seems always to be
associated with what is rough: peasants, shepherds, hobos, and hillbillies.
This distinction between rough and smooth has a correlative in the very
creation of the sound in the sense that the production of yodelling is a
rejection of the orthodox classical singing styles with their cultivation of the
"smooth" transition between vocal registers. The result for the yodel has been
its thorough ironisation over the middle years of the twentieth century, as an
emerging cool aesthetic could no longer countenance it.