Dear Compulsive Atonal Whistler,

That is a beautiful sound you’re making.

Is it middle C? No wait, it’s flat now. Hold it—hold it longer… there you go. That’s about thirty seconds right there: C flat streaming out of that lovely hole in your face. Or is it coming from between your front teeth? My word, you’re alternating! You have two facial spaces from which to whistle. You must use these all the time. You must hone them, hollow them out, make them pipe-like.

Now let’s bring it back up to C. Could you produce a louder sound, actually? Do you hear that friendly fellow out front, leaning on his car horn? And that whine in your computer monitor? You need to compete with those. No, that’s not—you’re blending. That’s not what I mean. You need to rise above! You need to out-tone them!

Now see how I’m sitting quietly, reading? And you are noisily doing dishes and slamming god knows what together? I need an accompaniment. I need a tone. A single tone held for a very long time, and then a half-note drop, and then the first tone again. Don’t breathe in between, you’ll lose momentum. I know you probably can’t hear yourself over the racket you’re making, but all the better for you to produce that clear, organic, site-specific, spontaneous, Conceptual, performance-tone.


You’re an experienced CAWer now, so don’t lapse into melody. You know melody is strictly verboten. Melody is for amateurs. Now the pot-bellied old man drinking coffee, waiting for a bus, might whistle a melody. A succession of notes rhythmically organized into a phrase—so traditional. So … obvious. And that sparrow? God, how embarrassing. He just won’t stop with that little song. It’s a shame, really. He has such artistic potential.

Also, after we’ve been talking awhile, as we’re wont to do since we live together, and then I get up to go to the bathroom, or to walk down the hall, you should let forth the loudest, longest, most tuneless whistle you can possibly muster, while acting utterly distracted and aloof. You aren’t whistling for me in my absence. No. You are simply… being. You are present. Announcing your Self. In case I’ve forgotten where I’ve left you, or that you’re even here. Thank you for always. Being here.

Sasha J. Mann