A Different Tune

The sound of whistling in the street is a rare, sweet pleasure.

Eschewing headphones rather to entertain strangers, the whistler and her clear and human music are a precious gift to passersby, who are irresistibly cheered.

“How lovely!” cried one listener on the streets of Edgartown recently, and the bold whistler pulled back her eager pooch to pause and say admiringly, “You should hear my father.”

Indeed to teach a child to whistle is not only to ensure amusements for the teacher, student and other onlookers. The exercise may be challenging — learning not a wolf whistle or a taxi call but an actual tune — but in time, when the child finally cracks the secrets of this most simple of instruments, he shares with his teacher, quite often his father, a lifelong joy, come what may.

Whistling requires just two puckered lips and the perseverance of a determined child. Yet a whistler carries the wealth of Schubert or Beethoven, as a wise essayist said almost a hundred years ago. Today, whistling music still carries a contagious optimism, perhaps more so as it has grown harder to find on the streets. And, perhaps, as worried as we all are these days about what we can and can’t afford, a little more whistling would help us all.