Spring is finally here!
One of the lovely markers of spring is hearing the whistling of birds in the trees. I will admit that there are occasions when birds start whistling at ungodly hours in the morning, and this can be annoying. I also recognize that the term “ungodly hour” does not describe a precise time of day. For some it might be 5 in the morning, for others 9 in the morning, and for others still, it might not even be the morning at all but rather the afternoon. Whenever your ungodly hour, the whistling of birds at that time can be a drag. On the other hand, it is still birds whistling and that sound always has its charms. While I’m on this topic, that topic being whistling birds, because I’m going to be pivoting a bit on the topic in the next few paragraphs, it is important to distinguish between birds whistling and other sounds that birds make – for example the cawing of crows. Crows cawing is not a soothing sound at any time of day. This may be why a large aggregation of crows is sometimes referred to as a murder of crows because murdering the crows is what people might want to do after hearing them cawing.
But back to whistling. Birds are not the only animal that whistles, people whistle too. I think whistling is great. There are folks who are professional whistlers and can amaze you with their skill, but you don’t need to be one of those people to enjoy whistling. I often find myself whistling as I’m walking down the street, running errands, or doing whatever.
I will admit that I didn’t begin whistling regularly until 10 or 15 years ago. Rather than whistling, I used to just sing snippets of songs that came into my head – and I can tell you there are a lot of those snippets hanging out in my head. In most cases I had no idea those snippets were even there and then suddenly I’m singing some tune that I hadn’t thought of in years. And then I had an epiphany.
My epiphany came one day when I was walking into the copy room at work. I had in my head a song by a local Toronto band called Frank Atom. They were a great band but don’t bother looking up their tunes on Spotify or looking for their videos on YouTube because it’s as though they don’t exist, which is a real shame because they did exist, and they wrote some really good songs.
The song in my head that day was a catchy ditty of theirs called ‘Porn Star’. Now don’t get the wrong idea based on the title, the song actually was a sensitive portrait of a man who lived alone in his apartment and was uncomfortable with people. And, as with a lot of really good songs about loneliness and anguish, the tune itself was kind of upbeat providing a contrast between the music and the lyrics (see for example ‘I’m A Loser’ or ‘Help’ by The Beatles, but there are thousands of examples). The chorus of the song, as I recall, went something like “There’s a porn star in my pants/and he’s dying to get out.”
Now I can give you all the context for this song, but I know that if I walk into the copy room singing “There’s a porn star in my pants/and he’s dying to get out” there is no way to justify or explain things because there is no justification for walking into a copy room singing those lyrics. And that was my epiphany. I realized that if, rather than singing the lyrics to that song, I whistled them, nothing bad could happen. If someone asked me what I was whistling I’d just say “Oh a song I can’t remember the name of” and if they asked what the lyrics were I could say “I forget them. That’s why I’m whistling.”
When the members of Gordon’s Acoustic Living Room get together, we don’t do a lot of whistling. We don’t need to whistle because we play a wide array of instruments, some of which make whistling type sounds – come on down flute and tin whistle – and some that don’t. And we can explain songs that need explaining because we play in clubs where people gather to hear the songs that we’re playing (and no, we don’t have ‘Porn Star’ in our repertoire yet because it’s actually not an easy tune to play).
Speaking of playing in clubs, we will be at the Free Times Café (College just west of Spadina) on Sunday, May 21. The show starts at 8pm and since Monday is a holiday you can stay until the end of show around 11pm. We’re going to be taking the summer off from playing at the Free Times (though we may have other gigs, we’ll let you know) so you’ll want to see us now or you’ll have to wait until September 10th. And if you need yet another incentive to come to the show, in honour of spring there will be no cover.
Hope to see you there.
P.S. In case you were wondering, bagpipes do not sound like birds singing, they don’t even sound like crows cawing – indeed the sound of bagpipes has been found to be very effective in keeping crows away from gardens and farms, unfortunately, it also keeps the gardeners and farmers away too.