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Summer 1999. My first CD “portrait of a woman” had just been recorded, and I stayed in the Swiss Alps for a holiday “at home”. On a trekking tour I met a group of primary-school teachers who soon found out that I was a singer. “Sing something!” they begged. We agreed that we would have dinner together first. After dinner, we went outside. The evening was beautiful and the setting sun plunged the surroundings in warm colors as we sat down on a few benches. “So…?” What was I to sing, I wondered. What would touch their hearts, speak to them, have a meaning? The jazz songs that I had just recorded? A taste of the contemporary classical music I was more and more getting involved in? I didn’t think so.

Softly, I started singing the “Guggisberglied”, perhaps the most beautiful and best known of Swiss Folk songs. After a few notes, some people started to sing with me. Soon we had a choir with two or three parts! There was always someone who knew the next couplet. We continued: “Luegit, vo Berge und Tal”, “s Heidelidomm” and many more songs. It turned out that two of the teachers were yodelers and they sang some songs together that were so touching that I forgot about all my prejudices towards yodeling. When it got too dark and too cold, we returned to the house for a drink, smiling and entranced.

I was stunned. Something was triggered in my memory. Forgotten songs we sang when I was a child, walking with my parents in the mountains, in the back of the car, on parties that I only half remembered. So much music was there, somewhere in an ancient reminiscence. I heard my grandmother hum, or maybe my grandmother’s grandmother, or a people who existed before the Swiss had the luxury of nostalgia.

I experimented a little bit, later that summer. Wherever I came, when people relaxed, I started singing those tunes. And they joined me!  There was laughter, company, memories we shared. It left a deep impression on me.

On my second CD “whence & whither” I recorded the Guggisberglied. I had started to look for Swiss Folk songs. I was interested in really old songs - that proved to be difficult. Most ‘folkloristic music’ I found consisted of compositions written in the 20th century, and was too smooth for my taste. I believed that the old songs smelled of sweat and cow-dung, of poverty, emigration and separated lovers. I believe that the “old Swiss” loved nature as much as they feared it.

There was this relatively old collection “Im Röseligarte”, published between 1908 and 1925 by Otto van Greyerz. Even he had smoothened out some “roughness” and seemingly had gotten rid of most of the yodels (believing they were “vulgar”), but at least the songs were authentic, as much as oral tradition can ever be notated authentically.

But “Im Röseligarte” was out of publication.  Until 2008, when the Zytglogge Verlag republished the whole collection. It was pure coincidence that I bumped into it on a short stay in Bern…

Once I decided to record a selection of songs from “Im Röseligarte”, things went very fast. I called four fantastic musicians from that I knew and had worked with before. Being Dutch or Belgian they knew nothing about Swiss songs, but responded immediately. With little or no rehearsal, we met in the studio and recorded ten improvisations, two duo’s with each of the musicians and two solos of my own.

I believe that these songs bear a certain kind of freedom. Otto van Geryerz wrote them down, mostly copied them from somebody else who had notated them before. In any case, most of the songs must have been sung first, and notated later. This is not so in classical music, where the composition is first and most important, and the performer is “just” an interpreter. Here we performers made the songs. Changed them around to our taste, made new, unique versions of them. I believe in many ways this would be the most “authentic” way of performing them. In that sense, “Im Röseligarte” may be Jazz in its purest form.

For me, this recording is a new step in many ways. For the first time I made a Cd singing in my native language only. For the first time I use techniques that I have picked up on the way without feeling that I have to justify them. A sruti box passes by without ant reference to Indian music, overtones sound without a Mongolian context, there is a hint of the African (but no Africa), there are vocal beats but no beat-box. The cowbells from my grandmother’s house sounded through the studio. Such is improvisation. Whatever came to our minds was part of the music, and we trusted that this was all the control we needed.

For the first time I recorded using my loop-station. A loop-station is a device that records and plays pieces of melody instantly. In a live situation the build-up of a loop can be done on stage. In the studio we discovered that we faced a different technical situation, and we realized that I had to record the loops into the device in advance. This I quickly did on the spot, except on “Schönster Abestärn” where we recorded all the voices separately (which proved to be a huge task for the editing…).

Finally, the ghost track would be worth mentioning. It was recorded in my “office” (as far as that heap of paper could be called so). I had found a make-you-own-melody music box by Kikkerland, which I could recommend to anyone who loves to punch little holes into a strip of paper with precision for about three hours or so.

Something was ringing a bell. For years I had been looking for ‘Im Röseligarte’. This famous collection of 400 years of Swiss Folk Songs was first published between 1908 and 1925. I had only found a few ruffled volumes. I didn’t know that in 2008 the Zytglogge Verlag had republished the whole collection. When I stumbled upon it in a bookstore at the train station of Bern during a short stopover, something was ringing in my ears (it was a cowbell).