Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

The alphorn in western art music : a cultural and historical study

Jones, Frances Anne


Frances Anne Jones


Christopher R., 1952 Wilson


To the modern audience, the visual and aural qualities of the alphorn are quintessentially evocative of the Swiss Alps. While the alphorn has been used both literally and metaphorically by many Western art composers in works written for the concert hall, the theatre, the church and the salon to evoke this quality, this phenomenon has been neither investigated in critical musicology nor subjected to historical scrutiny. In this thesis, I seek to identify those appearances, discuss their significance and site them in their historical and cultural background.

There will be an introductory examination of the use of the alphorn in both mountainous and non-mountainous landscapes in order to assess to what a composer might refer. This will then inform an exploration of how a composer may have become aware of the acoustic characteristics of the alphorn, why a composer might have chosen to incorporate an alphorn or alphorn-suggestive material in a composition and upon what grounds he may have believed that his audience should understand such a reference.

Many examples of citations will then be discussed and their historical and cultural contexts examined in order to determine the relevance of this material to the anticipated audience. The music examined will span from the eighteenth century to the present day. It is primarily music written in central Europe; in addition there is discussion of the use of the alphorn in the UK and there will be references to alphorn-inspired material across the globe.

The influence of modern experimental music, rock music and brass techniques on both formal composed repertoire for the alphorn and on alphorn playing in Switzerland will be investigated in brief. Finally some assessment is given as to the overall significance of the alphorn in composed repertoire and the cross-fertilisation of influences that have blurred the boundaries between art music and the traditional music of the instrument as it is found in Switzerland today.


Jones, F. A. (2014). The alphorn in western art music : a cultural and historical study. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Oct 22, 2015
Publicly Available Date Feb 23, 2023
Keywords Music
Public URL
Additional Information Department of Music, The University of Hull
Award Date Oct 1, 2014


Thesis (68.8 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2014 Jones, Frances Anne. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

You might also like

Downloadable Citations