I just caught myself whistling. This is how I know I’ve climbed out of whatever depression I’ve stumbled into with the added bonus of not noticing when. Suddenly, I was happy. It’s like those mid-century Disney flicks that blended live-action and animated sequences with predictably hokey results.
There’s a cartoon bluebird on my shoulder. And it’s painted in the Technicolor hues of dopamine and serotonin. And we’re whistling. Yep, my mental health looks like a crappy ad for Twitter, rainbows and all. Tweet, tweet.
The tune in question, thanks to some hazy, Google-aided memory, is “The Bugler’s Dream,” composed by Leo Arnaud, more commonly known for its use as an itinerant fanfare for the Olympics, as well as ABC’s Wide World of Sports. It makes you want to run, jump and hurl something and beat a Soviet-era Russian while doing it (anyone else nostalgic for the Cold War besides me and the makers of James Bond?).
It also makes you want to whistle. I’d use it as my personal theme music, the kind late night talk show bands play when guests stroll on set, if I hadn’t already claimed John Williams’ 1977 “Superman” theme as my own (the Man of Steel lets me use it on account of we both pretend to be journalists).
Here’s another whistle-worthy theme song – I first discovered it on YouTube as the credit music for “From Trees to Tribunes,” an industrial film for the Chicago Tribune with a title sequence that includes a rather damning depiction of the relationship between deforestation and print journalism, with elegiac images of trees being felled and reporters phoning in stories. The film is a semiotic mess but the music is quite stirring. For a brief period, I’d crank it up so I could hear it while in the shower. Though it made for a rousing start to the day, it also threatened to hasten an end to my marriage. So that stopped. But I’m still allowed to whistle, and – bonus – this is still legal in the state of California.
According to StupidLaws.com, both West Virginia and Vermont have laws that specifically prohibit whistling whilst underwater. No one can remember why. Suffice it to say, until ASCAP claims royalties for my aquatic renditions of John Williams’ scores, I’m in business.
Incidentally, I was listening to classical station KDFC when the “Trees to Tribunes” crescendo came crashing through the airwaves. I waited for the DJ to identify the tune and was bemused to discover it was the tail end of Franz Lizst’s “Les Preludes.” Up until then, the only thing I associated with Liszt was the fact that I knew a guy in Petaluma who sold Lizst.com for too much money back during the dot-com boom and decided he would become a writer.
I looked up his online bio: “Scott Southwick invented one of the pioneering search engines, Liszt.com, sold it before the dot-com bubble burst, squandered most of the money, and then used the last of it to open Sparky’s Ice Cream …” My total association with this man was probably less than half an hour. But he made an impression and, by all accounts, he did become a writer.
As a fellow scribe, perhaps he could answer this question: How does one write the sound of a whistle? WrittenSound.com, which bills itself as an “onomatopoeia dictionary,” gets as close as “vreeeeeeeeeeeeeeew,” which it contends is the “sound of a whistle of an old steam locomotive,” with the added assurance that, “This is a high-pitched one. A lower-pitched one might go ‘vroo-vroo.’”
Someone actually took the time to write that. And I quoted it. Yup. Now, I’m depressed again. Someone remind me to never whistle while I work again. The high notes only obscure how low you can go.