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February 8, 2012

Whistling while you work a lost artistic form

Daily Illini (IL):

There is a musical skill accessible to almost anyone, and it crosses nearly all genres of American music — the simple art of whistling. From the soulful ‘(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,’ the effortlessly cool ‘Pumped Up Kicks,’ to Snow White and her woodland creatures’ sunny tune, ‘Whistle While You Work,’ — whistling is part of the musical experience.

“Whenever I’m walking around this campus, I’m always whistling,” said John Wagstaff, head of the Music and Performing Arts Library. “Maybe it’s because I’m a musician, but I’ve always got music going through my head. And sometimes, I’m just so excited about the pieces going through my head, that I have to go and externalize it by starting to whistle.”

Wagstaff said whistling is a great form of self-expression, and is a wonderful, cheerful activity that lifts one’s mood. Whistling’s benefits include the fact that it is great lung exercise, a mood elevator and a stress reducer, according to professional whistler Robert Stemmons in an NPR interview.

While whistling has made its way into mainstream music, such as Maroon 5’s ‘Moves Like Jagger’ or Britney Spears’ ‘I Wanna Go,’ whistling seems to not be held in as high esteem as it was during its golden age in early 20th Century Vaudeville. “I almost think there is a little bit of a revival of whistling in some music, but it may be viewed a little more casually than it used to be,” said John Sterr, senior in FAA.

According to the music periodical BRIO, whistling was a popular form of variety entertainment on the music hall and Vaudeville scenes of Europe and America during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Many professional whistlers would whistle songs as well as do birdcalls and other wildlife impressions.

“I think people liked hearing the whistling because they all felt like they could do it, and if they worked hard enough at their own whistling, maybe they could be just as good as that person on stage,” Wagstaff said. Read more.

Posted by acapnews at February 8, 2012 12:00 AM