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Bell Shaking

This content was published on August 30, 2006 - 17:24

In Eastern Switzerland for the alp procession only the three leading cows wear huge bells made of welded sheet metal. The bells are valuable and on the way up, the herdsmen remove them from the cows in order to protect them. They are carried by the men over their arms or on yokes over their shoulders.

This tradition, documented first in 1838, may have led to the so-called bell-shaking, a musical practice which was observed first in the middle of the 19th century. The Appenzellers shake the bells for fun, much in the way that other farmers play cards. But often the bells are moved forwards and backwards to accompany the improvised polyphonic yodel vocalising.

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