All my life I have played the alpine horn. Since before I ate solid foods, when all else I can remember is the smell of our family’s goats and my grass-stained knees beneath hand stitched lederhosen, the alphorn has been my calling. I was drawn first to the horn’s aesthetics, the smell of the wood, the smoothness to the touch, the slow grace of its curvature. Rolf, I recall my father saying, Rolf, this is an alphorn. This is what we play. And I blew into the mouthpiece and the mountains sang back and I was content in my knowledge that I would soon master the king of the valveless horns.
But now there is a pretender to the throne, and it fills my heart with sorrow to see it, let alone hear it. The vuvuzela, the Scourge of South Africa, I detest it. I though at first, it’s true, that it was just a flash in the pan, a passing fad, but it seems the shoddily crafted labrophone and its flatulent bellows are here to stay. Even my own beloved Swiss carry them now to our football matches, our flag emblazoned on the plastic bell as if it were some unholy tool on an army knife. It makes me sick.
And the children, in the village, you know what they are saying now? To their parents? Mother! Father! they cry, might I not just play my vuvuzela? I tire so of my alphorn, I do not wish to practice it, and the vuvuzela is very similar. And the parents, finding no adequate retort, comply with their child’s wishes. But these parents are fools. There are no similarities. In playing the vuvuzela there is no finesse, no grace. No curve. They are more portable, fine, but I remain firm in that one can bring an alphorn anywhere so long as one has the gumption. What do you want with a horn you can wave in the air? That’s no instrument, it’s a goat swatter. It’s obscene.
I bring my alphorn to sporting matches sometimes, when I have finished all of my exercises and when the weather is fair enough that I might safely traverse down the mountain. I find that recently I am the only one in attendance, be it at a football match or a goat race or a ski jump contest, who has brought an alphorn, when it past years I might be among four or five other alphorners at least. Many people, good people of Swiss blood, don’t even know what it is. Curious adolescents ask me how I light a pipe that large, or why I have such a funny looking hockey stick, all the while waving their vuvuzelas like madmen. Most of these barbs I am able to brush off, and respond with a brief lesson on the significance of alphorns to Swiss heritage.
But if another person asks me for a Ricola, I’m going to break my horn over their head.