Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Give a Little Whistle

When was the last time you whistled?

When I was a little kid, one of the doctors in my doctor's office was a world class whistler.  I mean, he had grace notes, he had warbles, he had vibrato, and his laser whistle pierced the entire office.  And as much as I hated going to the doctor (I had strep throat about four times a year), I loved hearing the other doctor whistle. 

I once heard my dad quote to Caroline, "A Whistling Girl and a Crowing Hen, Seldom Come to a Very Good End." (What?!)

In youth choir, we sang a Disney medley, which included one of the numbers from Pinnocchio:

When you get in trouble and you don't know right from wrong,
give a little whistle!
Give a little whistle!
When you meet temptation and the urge is very strong,
give a little whistle!
Give a little whistle!

So why do we not whistle?  What is the prohibition against whistling? 

I have posted before about the move towards professionalizing any performance art, and how it is probably the reason why we don't sing as a group.  It is actually something that makes me pretty sad.  But if you think that getting a job as a professional singer is tough, imagine your chances of getting a contract as a professional whistler?

It simply doesn't happen.

Whistling, in our culture, is a happy, frivolous activity.  It is the sound of the carefree.  The kid, fishing rod on shoulder, whistling while headed to the local pond.  The hobo, complete with bindlestiff over the shoulder, whistling, with not a care in the world.   

It is not the image of the serious corporate man.  The intense professional lawyer, whistling on her way to court?  Nah.  In fact, intensity of any kind seems to have zero overlap with whistling.

But why?

There are languages that use whistling to communicate detailed information, like La Gomera. But anthropologists are not even sure whether to include whistling in as a category of music. (My friends Louis Towles, Bruce Baker, David Finley and I tested this theory by trying out as walk-on whistlers for the award-winning Easley Marching Band.  We were summarily dismissed.)

And I have zero idea why it was not permitted for girls to whistle (the incomparable Lauren Bacall line notwithstanding).  That makes no sense to me.

Truth is, I love whistling, and realized how long it had been since the last time I had seriously engaged in a good whistle when I heard a co-worker whistling yesterday AS HE CAME IN TO WORK.  It was a tuneless whistle, but it might as well have been McFerrin's masterpiece, for the effect that it had on me. 

It made me smile.  And within a few minutes, I found myself singing the Pinnocchio tune in my head, whistling the refrain.  Almost immediately, the Andy Griffeth tune replaced it.  With some work, I forced that tune out with the unfortunate Scorpions tune Wind of Change. Then the Bridge on the River Quai tune.

And I smiled the whole time.  After all, who can avoid being happy while whistling?  And if it is true that our facial muscles control our mood, rather than the reverse, maybe - just maybe - we can become more happy by whistling.

I am certainly willing to give it a try. Maybe while sitting on the dock of the bay.  Wasting time.

1 comment:

Elizabeth Henderson said...

Yankee Doodle Dandy - ask Stacy… ;)