Just when you think the national news can’t get any worse, a Tribune article reports that whistling has gone out of style. It seems the younger generation isn’t whistling while they work and they certainly don’t warble while they walk.
Milton Briggs, who was inducted into the Whistlers Hall of Fame in 1998, explained that “organic” human sounds are no longer “mainstream.” This includes yodeling, making that cooing sound blowing through cupped hands and squeezing your hand in your armpit.
The usual suspect – technology – has wiped out whistling. Young people today have so much canned music available, they don’t feel the need to produce their own melodies. They’d rather listen to ear buds than entertain themselves.
I think this is a shame, because I’m a marathon whistler. I was like a human iPod in my youth. I have carefree memories of whistling “An American in Paris” on my walks to summer school. It was a long walk and I needed concert-length pieces to get me there. After I graduated from eighth grade, I whistled my whole classical catalogue during a two-week road trip in a van, which had no radio.
I came by my whistling habit honestly. Half my family walked around the house whistling, humming and singing. I was just another member of the chorus. I even used to entertain my friends by whistling, until they begged me to stop.
This type of music-making is also unwelcome in my present home. I don’t even realize I’m whistling until my daughter brings it to my attention. She finds it maddening. I’m just as bad at the office, unconsciously whistling the last song I heard on the radio, even if it’s a tune I really hate. (By the way, whistling is forbidden in the offices of the New Yorker magazine. The editors fear it might distract a writer who’s having a good idea.)
Speaking of songs I’m not crazy about, a high school counselor I know maintains that rap isn’t really music because it can’t be hummed or whistled.
Like rap, not all whistling is musical in nature. People used to whistle for a cab, their dog, or their team to win. The two-finger whistle is now almost extinct. The only positive is that you no longer hear desperate males using this as a mating call. They play the car horn instead.
OK, so another organic art form has been lost to the ages. I found even worse news in a related article. The American Whistle Corporation is manufacturing thousands of metal whistles. Who’s using these whistles? Their main customers are cops, coaches and referees.
These are the kind of whistles that mean you’re doing something wrong, need to run more laps, or fouled an opponent.
Wouldn’t you rather hear my rendition of “An American in Paris”?
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.