Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Defense of Whistling?

"Because girls and newsboys pipe ragtime without regard to the diatonic scale," wrote Schauffler, "why should my avocation be banned by polite society?"

Robert Haven Schauffler (1879-1964) was a cellist who became a successful journalist, writer and poet. He is best known for his colorful biographies including: Beethoven: The Man Who Freed Music (1929), The Unknown Brahms (1933), Florestan: The Life and Work of Robert Schumann (1945), and Franz Schubert: The Ariel of Music (1949).

He also wrote travel books, a series of books discussing and explaining holidays and observances: Thanksgiving (1907), Arbor Day (1909), and Washington's Birthday (1910). I helped prepare an edition of his book on Christmas (1907) for Project Gutenberg in 2006.

His colorful essay, "A Defense of Whistling" was first published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1910 and the next year was reworked and included in his book called "The Musical Amateur."

"My avocation consists in whistling to myself the most beautiful melodies in existence, and I go about in a state of perpetual surprise that no one else does likewise. Never have I heard a passing stranger whistling anything worth while; but I have my plans all laid for the event... .I shall chime in with the second violin or cello part perhaps, or, if he has stopped, I shall pipe up the answering melody.

"The human whistle is the most delightfully informal of all instruments. It needs to inglorious lubrication of joints and greasing of keys like its dearest relative the flute. It is not subject to the vocalists eternal cold. It knows no inferno of tuning and snapping strings, nor does it need resin..

"One of the best qualities of the whistle is that it is so portable. The whistler…shall have music wherever he goes: and to carry about a wealth of Schubert and Beethoven and Chopin is more to me than much fine gold. Brahms is one of the most whistle-able of composers, and my two specifics for a blue Monday are to read Stevenson’s Letters and to whistle all the Brahms themes I can remember."

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...