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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution


 
The Essay
Show #545
Whither the Whistlers?
David Gunn

There was once, in a land far far away, a town of whistlers. Every person -- indeed, every dog and cat, mole and moose, llama and lammergeier, teamster and teakettle -- everyone and nearly everything whistled. The sole exception was the town's avian population, which consisted of ladybirds, jailbirds and early birds. They refused to whistle. They did squawk rather a lot, though, which is the basis for another story entirely. The second most common question posed by visitors was "Why do you all whistle?" The answer is part diphthong, part apocrypha. The full name of the town was "Leb-hanahg mil zeen d'lahg-bnor ngai q ththi raxte epludiu v'misf pyogjiw," and, even for the town etymologist, the name was a lot easier to whistle than it was to pronounce. (The commonest question, by the way, was "Will you please stop that infernal racket?!")

In this town of whistlers, there lived a crofter, or tenant farmer. Her name ... well, it escapes me at the moment, however I just knocked back a large gingko smoothie, so my memory should be restored anon. There were loads of crofters in the town, and each one naturally whistled whilst he or she worked. They didn't however, whistle in anything approaching harmony, so a kind of cacophonous cloud hung over the town. Worse, each one tended to cultivate what everybody else was growing. So when one winter a crofter raised a healthy crop of rutabagels, the next year, everyone was growing rutabagels. The predictable result was an oversupply of rutabagels, which were never much in demand in the first place. Tensions amongst the crofters rose, as did the timbre of the whistling. Eventually, the dissonance grew so disagreeable that the crofters decided to form a guild to regulate exactly what was grown in town. The crofter (whose name I still don't recall but for the sake of story coherency will call "Her," no matter I'm nearly positive that isn't her name) was an excellent grower of music, especially beet music. Or, indeed, most any music in which roots played a vital role. However, the guild directed her to raise her voice. It was a compromise, really -- the guild initially wanted her to raise children, but Her's protestations were so immediate and vigorous that the guild offered her a second option.

According to the agrostological calendar, the ideal time to plant voice is when the moon is in the Seventh House and Jupiter is aligned with Mars. Which this year occurred on a Saturday. Having selected a plot of ground that received the requisite full shade, Her sowed her voice seeds into the earth a finch deep and six finches apart. As she covered the seeds, Her was aware of a vague aroma of gravy. Odd, that! At one point, she unearthed a tendril from the previous season's beet music, and she immediately began to whistle its intervals. A cold front swept through just then, and the accompanying wind whistling in the willows seemed to do so at the octave. Hours later, after she had planted all of her voice, Her retired to her cottage, still carrying her beet music tendril. By force of habit, she placed it in the sink, ran water over it, and checked it for any sign of Pralltriller. Several planting seasons ago, her crop had been nearly wiped out by the dreaded ornamental fungus. But outside of a touch of appoggiatura, this one appeared healthy.

Time passed. The moon moved into the Dog House, and a cold spell settled upon the land. For a while, the town crier sounded more sneezy than whistlesome. Eventually, the moon crept into the Hot House, warm weather returned, and with it, all the crops began to burgeon. All the crofters were whistling with anticipation over the impending "something for everyone" harvest. But, it was not to be. Due to an administrative error, the guild had given everyone fricasseed.

The exasperated crofters promptly disbanded the guild and reverted to their old ways. Sure, there was the occasional superabundance of rutabagels in town, but at least Her had her beet music back.

Today, the moon is in a different house, the house of Kalvos & Damian. Joining the moon is a crofter from a land far far away who, amazingly, has her own whistling component. So now it's up to you, our listening audients, to join the three of us -- four, if you count the moon -- in the house.