Last night Cuzco’s Plaza resonated to sounds seldom heard here. They belong to another world, high in the Swiss Alps. The Honroh Modern Alphorn Quartet brought out their long wooden horns and performed.
The alphorn is a development of a long horn found commonly in mountains from the Carpathians to the Alps. Originally used for communication they also contained musical potential which has become part of the folk heritage of the Alps.
The Hornroh Alhorn Quartet has sought to develop further the musical potential of their traditional highland instruments by creating new compositions, creating greater harmonic diversity, and making what they call sound paintings. When they let their instruments wail and a wall of deep shimmering sound arrives it is as if the world itself took voice to join in the variation and variety.
Their abilities and music are surprising given the apparent limitations of this instrument which is a long tube with a broad opening played with buzzing lips. It has no side holes of valves to vary the pitch and so is limited to the natural overtone series of the instrument along with the technical abilities of the players to “bend” the sound and create greater variety.
In last night’s performance this group which came to Peru to attend the Festival Internacional de Música de Alturas (The International Festival of Highalnd Music held in Lima the end of November) surprised and pleased all who were present with their scintillating and exciting varieties of music.
Indigenous Peruvians have their own kind of native horn, the pututu, but this music with its variety reminded more of the deep base of long pan pipes. You could hear it echoing off Cuzco’s buildings a sinking deep into the earth and sky like the communciations of traditional Andean music.
Tonight the Honroh Modern Alphorn Quartet will perform at 7 pm in Cuzco’s Municipal Theatre (on Mezon de la Estrella Street) in a free concert for all interested.
As they renew and expand the possibilities of their traditional instruments, they also maintain its symbolism in the vitality of Switzerland and its people.