Today’s Switzerland has been under constantly changing rule since the 1st century (Romans, Burgundians, Alemanni, Franks, German Empire, Habsburgs). Accordingly, from today’s perspective, the country’s musical history has developed across borders over many centuries, so that Switzerland has both assimilated and cultivated a wide variety of influences to the present day, and with its central musical achievements and personalities, it has left significant traces in other nations. Swiss music is therefore today characterized by a variety of styles and sounds, traditions and innovations that are firmly anchored in cultural life.
The musical diversity in a synthesis of outside influences and one’s own traditions is reflected above all in folk music, which therefore has very different regional characteristics and in which marginal music-historical phenomena have been preserved over the centuries. The oldest genres include the historical songs, which since the 14th century have been commenting on contemporary events as sounding history books such as in Werner Steiner’s “Liedchronik” (1532–36) or in the “Chronicon Helveticum” by A. Tschudi. The ideals and events of the French Revolution are not only reflected in the also historical “Chants révolutionnaires et patriotiques”, but also, as an expression of increasing national consciousness, in the Swiss songs by J. K. Lavater, which emerged in the 18th century. set to music by H. G. Nägeli and Johannes Schmidlin (* 1722, † 1772). At the same time, interest in the musical traditions of the Alpine residents grew. B. brought forth the cattle series, which has been documented since 1545. These originally purely instrumental, non-strophic chants accompanied a. rounding up and milking the cows and found their way into the works of composers such as L. van Beethoven as pastoral elements, G. Rossini or H. Berlioz. Today, the Kuhreihen is mostly played either instrumentally (especially on the alphorn) or when arranged as a polyphonic choral song. Likewise, in the Swiss Alps there is still a non-strophic invocation or alpine blessing as a call to prayer, with which the herdsman asks for protection for the alp. Characteristic music, initially in Swiss German dialect (now also in French), developed in the 19th century from the textless non-strophic (natural) yodel to the strophic yodel song influenced by the romantic art song, which today is mostly accompanied by the Schwyzerörgeli, a type of accordion. In addition, there is a rich repertoire of folk songs, both in standard language and in dialects, in which nature and home are sung about as well as love and work,
The instrumental folk music goes to the medieval minstrels, drummers, pipers and others. back playing on the shawm, hurdy-gurdy, bagpipes and dulcimer; The use of the alphorn, which has experienced a renaissance since the 1920s, is also documented as early as the 16th century. From the extensive repertoire of folk dances, Ländlermusik developed at the beginning of the 20th century, which later changed to Ländlermusik under the influence of jazz. Typical dance musical instruments are clarinet, trumpet, (bass) violin, zither and Swiss orchestra. One of the regional specialties is the Appenzell string music, which in the original line-up consists of two violins, dulcimer, cello and double bass, but can now also be heard in many other formations. In addition to mandolin and guitar ensembles, the small brass bands known as bandella are typical of Ticino. Since the beginning of the 19th century, folk music has developed into a nationwide movement that has produced numerous new songs in a popular tone, the material is preserved in (scientific) collections (the Swiss Folk Song Archive was founded in 1906) and is now a living part of Swiss culture: in schools, choral societies and instrumental ensembles as well as in numerous interest groups and at traditional festivals such as the Unspunnenfest, founded in 1805, or the Federal Yodelling Festival, which has been taking place since 1924.
Jazz, pop and light music
In addition, film composers such as Robert Blum (* 1900, † 1994) or P. Burkhard have emerged with his operettas in the diverse Swiss music scene. In addition, jazz has been established since the 1920s and is now cultivated in numerous renowned festivals such as the Montreux Jazz Festival founded in 1967. In an examination of traditional folk songs and influenced by G. Brassens, the Swiss chanson (in Bernese dialect) was established in the 1960s by Mani Matter (* 1936, † 1972), who, along with other songwriters, belongs to the group of Bernese troubadours. As a political singer-songwriter, a.o. Aernschd (Ernst) Born (* 1949) and Walter Lietha in appearance. With Polo Hofer (* 1945, † 2017) as the founder of Bernese dialect rock, his own Swiss pop and rock music has also developed since the 1970s. In contrast, the Trio Doppelbock has dedicated itself more to entertaining folk music.