Whistling or Lilting

Whistling or Lilting

"Why don’t people whistle any more" writes international champion whistler Steve Herbst in USA Today. "It is natural, free, and a great stress-reliever.—-The truth is, whistling seems an aberration today—it simply is not cool. What’s more, today’s youth and their parents do not even know how—-"
I do whistle frequently in public (usually The Music, but not always) although not in close proximity to others for any length of time, to avoid being annoying. I must admit that my lilting is usually confined to total privacy, except at a session.
What about you?

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Well, oldstrings,
whenever I feel afraid, I hold my head up high
and whistle a happy tune and no one ever knows I’m a fraaaaaaayd!

Less awkward than a forty-five in a leg holster, too.😉

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Interesting topic, because it goes deeper than just whistling.

I whistle a lot - while I’m working in the yard, driving, walking the halls at work, standing in line at the grocery checkout… I used to whistle to my young son while trying to rock him to sleep, which backfired when it got turned into a game of Name That Tune. My dad used to whistle and sing while he worked, but I can’t remember the last time I encountered anybody else whistling. Except my wife, who picked up the habit from me.

When I was growing up, it wasn’t at all astonishing to find an older gentleman or lady sitting on a public bench whistling or singing away - not busking, just singing for the pleasure of it. Women didn’t whistle, but lots of men did. And when three or more teenagers were gathered together, a song would often break out.

What’s different today? Have simple, whistleable tunes been crowded out of the public consciousness? Are people more self-conscious and embarrassed? When I was young, there was considerably less access to considerably less commercial music, so it was harder to be overwhelmed by the quantity and variety. Is that a big part of it?

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I whistle all the time at work - my job takes me into some very acoustically interesting places!

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I spent a couple of years teaching in Louisburg, North Carolina where they host the "International Whistlers Convention." Participants compete for the title of “International Grand Champion.”
http://www.whistlingiwc.com/
I’ve heard that the serious contestants avoid kissing for months before the competition lest it affect their performance.

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On that subject - If you’re in the UK, then on Sunday 12th at 9pm there’s a programme about the International Whistling competition on BBC4.

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There was an earlier post on the related topic of people who don’t, can’t, won’t, and couldn’t even contemplate any sort of performance in public, even just for their own amusement.
I find this really sad, and it certainly doesn’t apply to me.
Personally, I blame the media for the idea that only top-rank performers can perform, anywhere, and the rest of us are automatically substandard and cannot be tolerated, to the point of total self-censorship.
It occurs to me that, apart from ourselves playing, singing, and whistling, the only other antidote to this is karaoke. Oh, dear.

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…every chance I get. Irish tunes (The Music, as oldstrings called it), stuff from the Carmina Burana, Rock and Roll, Glenn Miller, Charles Ives (the stuff that has discernible keys and time signatures), about anything that I can think of that I like . Someone once wrote (much more eloquently than I can come up with) that singing just for the hell of it can be an act of rebellion, and so sometimes I think that I do it deliberately just to be a "character", or maybe just to hang on to my sanity. Pete, this touches a little bit on some of the comments made in your thread about listing sessions, don’t you think?

And don’t even get me started on the subject of "professional folk musicians"….but it isn’t only the mainstream media who are at fault for creating *them*.

I’ve heard some people out doing karaoke that are actually quite good. The sad thing, at least here in the states, is that some of them aren’t doing it just for fun, they seem to think that they’re on their way to a career in the "Music" industry. Interestingly, the few Japanese folk that I know don’t see it that way.

OK, enough ranting for one evening.

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I find myself whistleing and humming a lot in work. Usually the Indiana Jones theme tune ! I think it has something to do with never knowing whats coming through those doors next. I do get to sing to the babies during the nignt though a great way to learn and practice new songs and they don’t complain if I forget the words.

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im more of a lilter
i love to hear the differnent sounds in which people make…and if dun well it sounds amazing
i dont no if anyone has ever heard of teresa coleman (brilliant box player too) well when she lilts its all most magical…its like everyone in the room stops what ever they are doing just to listen her…theres so much emotion in a good lilt

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I used to whistle at work, but unfortunately my boss’s assistant hates whistling (cultural thing), and, for the sake of amiable work environment, I had to switch to listening to Internet radio. I still whilstle a lot when on delegations.

However, even though I have the practice and the experience, I’m afraid that there is too much kissing in my life to make me a serious contender in a competition.

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I used to love whistling when I was a younun but I remember parents & teachers trying to put me off by telling me that people who whistled sounded like ‘simpletons’! Course, maybe I just wasn’t very good at it! Either that or maybe I really am a …………….

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I’m a compulsive whistler and thigh, tabletop, steering-wheel drummer. I guess that qualifies me as a complete simpleton. Actually, it’s interesting to consider why whistling is so "uncool" as has been pointed out. I guess there’s an unpretentious abandon, maybe even a childishness that goes along with it. Now how can you be cool and taken seriously when your innocent? Man it’s a hard world out there, got to stop this nonsense..

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Somebody taking my name in vain? No? oh…
I’m lucky enough to be able to walk to work, half the time, and I whistle the tunes I’m learning.
When something I’m whistling becomes the wrong tune, I know I have to go and listen to both of them again.

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Have you ever noticed that when you start whistling, someone else always starts whistling nearby. Try it out on the street sometime & you’ll see that it really does work. I think our Whistle gene must be right next door to our Yawning gene!

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yea i’ve noticed that as well. and sometimes they’ll glance at you to acknowledge the ‘whislting’ thing and as if to say "you alright mate?"

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Whistling isn’t anywhere near as annoying as mobile phones ringing or people talking on mobile phones in the session and the like. If people can do those things I don’t think embarassment comes into it. I think it’s a fashion thing it just ain’t fashionable any more. I whistle and will contiue to do so … sod the fashion thing I just don’t care any more. Nothing wrong with whistling as long as it’s in tune … lol.

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sorry but I think that lilting sounds so awful and cheesy, it sends shivers down my spine

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A-Diddley-Cheddary-Caerphilly-Caerphilly-Mascarponilly-Camembert-Bree. Sung six to the bar, that does sound rather cheesy.

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I will whistle sometimes in private or when off on a walk, if I am alone and the streets aren’t too crowded. I will also try to gain familiarity with a new tune by whistling.

Like others have already said I remember hearing a good bit more whistling a few decades ago then now. I used to whistle all the time when I was a kid. I vaguely recall being told in school and by my folks that whistling in public was not a courteous thing to do. As Ptarmigan has said it seems I also heard about the “simpleton” connection. I suppose in retrospect these may be the reasons I no longer whistle as often as I once did in my past.

I’m sure the availability of recorded music has had some effect on folks whistling. When we were children and off on a foray into “the woods” (a strip of trees bordered by the Garden State Parkway on one side and a county road on the other with a small, highly toxic river meandering down the middle) the lot of us would whistle tunes together. We sometimes actually worked out “parts” in our ensemble whistling. I think this may have been because, as I recall, at age eight or nine the only “portable” music device was a transistor radio and the expense of such was normally preclusive for most families. Especially providing we’d most likely lose the radio in the woods, accidentally drop and smash it on a rock, or inadvertently drop it in the river anyway.

I too recall hearing older men sitting on a bench outside the soda fountain or barber shop whistling tunes either collectively or individually. I never really gave its demise much thought. I am going to make a concerted effort to whistle more.

Lilting, now that’s something that intrigues me and is something I would love to learn more about. As a result of my involvement in the Antiques industry I became an auctioneer and have been for many years although I do not apply this craft with any frequency anymore. I wonder if my experience in auctioneering is of any advantage whilst learning to lilt?

Thanks for spurring these great memories oldstrings.

Peace,
Ed

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I think Lilting can be great fun to listen to, & to watch, if the performer isn’t taking him or herself too seriously.

In those old recordings of Joe Holmes & Len Graham for example, these two men sound like they are both really enjoying themselves.

Lilting can be a useful way to pass on a tune to someone, when no instruments are at hand. Ian Robinson (R.I.P.) taught me the ‘Irish Giant’ by lilting it to me - & he was a Bodhran player, but, like all great Bodhran players, he knew all the tunes!

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Janek mentioned "cultural reasons" which reminds me that I was told in Russia that it’s considered bad luck to whistle indoors as all your money and good fortune will go out the window! Naturally, this knowledge got embedded in my brain and scrambled up and I found myself always starting to whistle among Russians, (Like Father Dougal with that red button.) then would see the looks they were giving me, or I imagined they were giving me, and shut up. Is it similar in Poland?

Fisherfolk also have this superstition, "Whistling up the wind"

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Surely there’s no need to ask PJA - now that you have the recipe! 😀

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Ha! As I’m reading this thread, I hear my son downstairs, whistling away. Nature or nurture?

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It took me awhile to realise that the reason so many older chaps are such good whistlers is because at some point it was important enough to them to practise! I would whistle, but I haven’t worked hard enough at it to stay on key.

Let’s all start a new fashion for whistling, then. Make sure you whistle in public at least one a day for the next couple of weeks. Report back here on how it goes.

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Box player, Tommy Maguire, used to whistle tunes at Comhaltas sessions in London.
I´m not sure but I think there was a competition category for it.
You can´t get more traditional and "pure drop" than singing, whistling and lilting.

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….Or am I confusing him with singer, John Mackie ? Or did they both whistle ?
A better memory than mine may be able to enlighten us.

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Bobby Casey had a sometimes companion at sessions who would request that Casey play a certain tune by lilting part of it in an amazingly expressive manner. His entire face would be used to twist out the melody. He apparently didn’t know the names of any tunes, and perhaps didn’t need to know.

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Does anyone know of any lilting recordings as I would be fascinated to hear.

I tend to lilt in session (or in private) but wouldn’t dream of doing it in private. Its a case of just having the tune there and having to join in. I often worry if I’m putting anyone off but no one has asked me to stop yet , although quite a few have asked me where I learnt the tunes from as it was something they thought was fairly unique. I’ve even had musicians trying to learn tunes from me.

There’s the Scottish mouth music as well.

J

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"in Russia that it’s considered bad luck to whistle indoors….. Is it similar in Poland?"

At my primary school, I had a Polish headteacher. I remember her once talking in a morning assembly about whistling indoors. This was some 27 years ago, and I was a 5 year old with a short attention span, so I’m not sure if she said it was bad luck or just bad manners - or whether she was stating this as a fact or referring specifically to where she came from.

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Great! I particularly liked:
Les Charbonniers de l’Enfer, La Luette En Colere (The Angry Uvula) with that footwork to drive it along.

Oh, & those bird calls of Annie Johnston recorded on Barra the year I was born were fascinating too, especially that first one - the Grouse! 😉

Thanks for that feardearg.

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Track 2 is lovely when the fella introduces it as, "here’s a little bout of diddleing your you".

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My favoured method of annoying people is to play tunes on my teeth with a pencil. I can do rattling good versions of the 1812 the William Tell overtures.

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"Here´s a little bout of diddling for you"
There is a word - didling - with one d in the middle and pronounced approx. "died-aling" which means the same as lilting.
I´ve often heard it referred to as that, although it´s probably not the correct word.
The word "diddley", for me, only brings to mind the stage name of the Chicago singer/musician who was one of the main inspirations for the Rolling Stones.

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I started whistling as a child and been at it ever since - any old tune or ditty that I hear usually comes out somewhere along the way. Started playing whistles more last year and now moved to flute as another instrument apart from whistling. But I often reflect that flute playing is very close to whistling except that you can’t play flute while breathing inwards. I often whistle away walking down the street or waiting in a shop etc.- you get some funny looks but the occasional stranger will walk right up and say how good it is to hear people whistling these days. I guess it’s demise is something to do with the general consumer thing that Music is to be bought in the CD store, listened to on the iPod etc.

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“In those old recordings of Joe Holmes & Len Graham for example, these two men sound like they are both really enjoying themselves.”

Hey Dick,

Do you know if any of these records were re-issued on CD? I would like to find some CD’s featuring lilting if such are in the market. Can you recommend some titles?

Hey Feardearg,

Thanks for the link. Some nice stuff.

Peace,
Ed

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Once I was whistling Connemara Stockings in an elevator and a kid next to me yells "Your giving me a headache!" So goes the chance to teach the younger generation the wonder of ITM.

Now I don’t whistle as much, because it is too loud for those who have no tolerance of craic outside a pub. I have found lilting an interesting past-time, and am currently endevoring to perfect the skill.

Ho Hum

Though that will never happen.

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Ed, I would recommend that you contact John Moulden via his website at:
http://members.aol.com/jmoul81075/engsing.htm

He lives in Portrush, just up the road from where Joe Holmes used to live, Killyrammer, just outside Ballymoney.
If anyone knows the answer to your question, it’s John.

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Thanks Dick, I’ve written him.

Peace,
Ed

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I learned something here. I had no idea that this was lilting. When I had previously heard the word lilting, it brought to mind something peaceful, like the flight of a butterfly. I just looked it up:

1 a spirited and usually cheerful song or tune
2 a rhythmical swing, flow, or cadence
3 a springy buoyant movement

I guess I have been wrong. I don’t particularly like lilting, I guess. If someone was lilting nearby, I would think s/he was trying to aggravate those around or get arrested. (Maybe a good reason to learn how!!)

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"I don’t particularly like lilting" - I can only assume then, feardearg, that you just haven’t heard good lilting, cause, in the right hands it is great fun & an easy way to learn a tune, if no instruments are available.