Police muffle horn blower’s wail, but not his spirit | AspenTimes.com

Police muffle horn blower’s wail, but not his spirit

Eben Harrell
Aspen Times Staff Writer
Seven year-old Kyle Blair of Dallas meets an Alphorn head on as Thomas Carroll of Old Snowmass welcomes vistors of Ajax with his 200 foot horn on New Years day. Aspen Times photo / Daniel Bayer.

In spite of what you may have been feeling, the loud, wailing noise in town midday Thursday wasn’t just your New Year’s Eve hangover.

It was Thomas Carroll of Old Snowmass, who bellowed out various notes from a 20-foot-long alphorn at the base of Aspen Mountain.

The noise was too much for some head-sore tourists, however. In response to a noise complaint, police arrived a little after noon to muffle Carroll’s playing.

According to Carroll, alphorn history stretches back 2,000 years to the Celtic tribes who originally settled the northern slopes of the Alps. It was used to signal flocks of cattle and sheep to return to their shepherd. It was also used as a horn of war.

Carroll received the horn as a present from his mother, who lives in Germany. His inexperience with the horn quickly became obvious, at least to him, as it took him two weeks to figure out that a mouthpiece is required to play the horn.

Carroll, not a large man, managed to produce quite a sound from the horn, although most of his notes cracked. He clothed himself in what he described as “authentic Alpine attire” ” a suede jacket with Elk-horn buttons, brown trousers, a pin purchased in Switzerland in the 1930s, and a floppy hat with a plume of feathers on the back. It was unclear whether he considered his black sunglasses authentic.

Carroll denied accusations of self-promotion, claiming he wasn’t there to toot his own horn. The performance was in part to celebrate his Celtic heritage and in part to protest what he sees as a decline in family activities made available by the tourist industry.

One of Aspen’s finest, Police Officer Mike Tracy, arrived to stop Carroll’s performance.

“We had a noise complaint, and you are going to have to stop blowing your horn,” Tracy told Carroll.

There was an unconfirmed report that the noise complaint came from guests at The Little Nell hotel who were trying to sleep off the previous night’s revelry.

“This is a first for me,” Tracy admitted. “It was a viable noise, so we have to honor the complaint.”

Carroll was upset by the officer’s request to cease playing. He talked Tracy into one last blast, then disassembled his instrument.

“This is exactly the sort of stuff I’m complaining about,” Carroll said before leaving. “There’s a lot of change going on here. Is this town going to turn into a town of five-star restaurants, millionaires and ticket police?”

[Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is Harrell@aspentimes.com]


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