May 13, 2002
Chiff & Fipple Confronts Castro
I. THE CHIFF & FIPPLE GREETING
I sent out the last full edition of Chiff & Fipple over three weeks ago. I've been waiting to do another issue on a couple of things. I was hopeful to be able to announce the next big fundraising thing. (I'm not quite ready but more on that in a moment). And, I was waiting, frankly for more, uh, content. We're in a slow whistle news cycle, which seems to happen, as I'm sure you've all noticed, whenever a former U.S. president visits Cuba. It's amazing how all these things are connected.
But, light on content though I may be, I do have a few items, including a couple of business items for Chiff & Fipple members. I also have a pie which I'll be serving at the end of the issue.
Flook is the name of an English / Irish band consisting of Brian Finnegan on whistles & flutes, Sarah Allen on flute & accordion, Ed Boyd on guitars, & John Joe Kelly on bodhran. Sarah Allen has been good enough to keep Chiff & Fipple appraised of their work and activities. (Their CDs are tragically hard to come by in the U.S. I don't believe they've ever toured here). They play a kind of music which defies categorization and occupies some wonderful zone related to, but certainly not identical to, traditional Irish, jazz, "world music" and who knows what else. Of special interest to Chiff & Fipple is the whistle and flute playing of Mr. Finnegan, which is extraordinary. Chiff & Fipple's Music Review Bureau (manned this year by interns Holly, Haley, and Hallie) has been enthusiastic in praise of this band for years. Flook's previous CD, Flatfish, is one of our favorites.
So, we're happy to announce the new CD, Rubai.
Like Flatfish, it's a beautiful work. Often as energetic and invigorating as music gets, we get a chance to rest with the inclusion of some touching slower pieces. Brian Finnegan, as always, plays the whistle and the flute with an instantly recognizable technique which will thrill people who are relatively new to the instruments, and will leave veteran players scratching their heads with wonder. I also enjoy Ed Boyd's work here: On a couple of tracks his rhythm guitar soars to the edges of Pete Townsend's domain.
Now a warning: If you are a purist about traditional music and that's all you listen to, this CD will shock and horrify you. You will quickly organize meetings to try to do something about it. You'll hire steamrollers to flatten your copy. Don't buy it, unless you're up for something really fresh and exciting.
For more information: http://www.flook.co.uk. It's possible to order the CD through a link on that page. For people in the U.S.A., I'd also check with Thom Larson at http://www.thewhistleshop.com and with Margaret Tice Tayberry Music (http://www.tayberry.com ).
III. FROM THE MAIL BAG
A. Whistle...or Fender Stratocaster? You Decide.
Music has been a mystery
to me since I tried to learn the trombone in
the third grade. I failed miserably and have been daunted by the measured
sound ever since. No less in love with it but intimidated all the same. I
tried to gain mastery by use of the six stringed acoustic guitar but to no
avail. I learned some neat sounds, but nothing truly musical. Then I found a recorder in a music store. I soon discovered the Chieftains and pondered the difference between the recorder and the sound they got from their flutes. That's when I found a green-fippled Generation at a local music store with the warning " I have no idea how to explain this thing to you." I bought it anyway.
After some research and
experimentation, I could make melodic duplications of familiar sounding tunes.
Unfortunately, I was the only one impressed in my family and community. I
would take my dog for her evening constitutional so I could have an excuse to
play. I became famous with the neighbors.
My family objected and implored that I not play the whistle or any flute
like instrument where I could be observed in public. Eventually, I caved
in and stopped playing quite so obsessively. In the meantime, since my
family objected to the tinwhistle. I bought Fender Stratocaster with a 30
watt amplifier. I can rattle dishes in the kitchen from the back of the
house. They agree that a tin whistle sounds pretty good about now. My
wife begs me to abandon music. My step father has recently willed me his
banjo. She agrees with my children. What harm is a little whistle among
B. I Include This Because I Like His Writing Style
I am a re-subscriber, having read with much enjoyment your quite splendid columns when I was doing a contract in Saudi Arabia. I'm now in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, without my wife who is for the moment at home in Edinburgh, Scotland. I am therefore able to play whistle, which is nice, but I can also play my Highland and Northumbrian pipes without any worried ear-closing scenes from my life partner. It was she who upon advice from an Irishman who gave it and ran away, bought my a low D in aluminum without a maker's mark. How can anyone do that? I mean, not leave a mark? My theory so far has been that it's such a sorry instrument that they didn't want anyone to march over and beat them up. I am now encouraged by the mentions of how hard it is to master this beast, because it takes a whole lot of wind and the fingering is NOT the same as my collection of "ordinary" tin whistles, or my pouch of C/Bflat/D Susatos. I love the thumb rest of the Susatos, and have not found a satisfactory solution to the holding of the low D. I've tried a collection of rubber bands above the third hole, and I've seen someone with a jubilee (hose) clip there, but it's inelegant. I'm looking forward to feedback from the group on this. It must be a standard problem.
Finally, I am curiously drawn to Binkie the Wonder Possum, and I love the tri-piscal dead end, so I'd say that the level of insanity suits my well being. Can't argue with that. Mountain Dew helps of course.
Tim de Gruyther
IV. PAT O'RIORDAN UPDATE: Why Some People Should Live Forever
From: Brian Dobson
I'm guessing you probably already know this, but just to solidify:
I spoke with Pat O'Riordan roughly four minutes and thirty seconds ago.
He confirmed his lead time is now a solid two and a half years, and
that he probably isn't going to be taking many more orders due to his
age or something like that. (he's gotta be almost 18 by now doesn't
My best to you always!
V. OK, FORGET PVC, WHO IS Nikolaj Trubetzkoy??
Perhaps you'd like to warn your readers about a possible health hazard of
whistling. To be sure, a smaller risk than getting bashed with a whistle by
irate roommates, but one with more at stake. PVC plastic is known to leach
chemicals into its surroundings, and for this reason PVC children's toys
are mostly out of production, for the sake of babies who try to eat them.
So putting one's mouth on a PVC whistle for extended periods (say 32 bars
or so) could technically cause whistlers to ingest some really gross stuff
like poisons and carcinogens. Check out http://www.myhouseisyourhouse.org/
for more information on PVC, or catch the documentary Blue Vinyl which was
on HBO this weekend. Then again, I don't know what type of plastic most
fipples are made of, so maybe almost everyone is at risk. Who knows, Clarke
could be using lead paint on their whistles. Not a huge or immediate risk I
guess, but there are a lot of greens out there promoting PVC alternatives.
Chalk one up for the tin with wood plug camp.
Thanks for the great site. I had a Feadog on the shelf for years before
discovering the whistle through a rock band called Jump Little Children
and now I've helped found the Cercle Tinwhistlique de Opium, a collective
of JLC fans (who are known as "opiates" after a song title) devoted to
learning the whistle parts in their music and the traditional songs they
play. Thanks to Chiff & Fipple, I've gone from a pathetic squawker to the
whistle version of Nikolaj Trubetzkoy (though still a sort-of-pathetic
squawker). Keep it coming.
1. To clear up possible toxic effects of PVC, I smoke a pack of unfiltered Camels after I play a tune on a plastic whistle.
2. On the Chiff & Fipple To-Do list (maintained by interns Erin and Moon) is an interview with Matt of Jump Little Children.
VI. FUNDRAISING UPDATES
1. Crisis Center campaign is going well and response by Chiff & Fipple members has been excellent.
2. I'm still working on the details, but here's the charity that will be the other beneficiary for this year's C&F fundraiser:
If you want to go ahead and contribute, please do so. When we officially start the campaign, you can email and let me know. We're working on credit card donations now.
The prize: Fred Rose African Blackwood High D whistle.
VII. A NEW CHIFF & FIPPLE SPIN-OFF NOT STARRING A FORMER SEINFELD ACTOR
NEW! The Whistle Annex A Chiff & Fipple spin-off site devoted especially to beginning players of the Whistle.
Including the Chiffboard Matrix: links to Chiff & Fipple Message Board threads, grouped by major topic categories!
VIII. NEW CHIFF & FIPPLE MASCOT: BINKIE THE WHISTLING WONDER POSSUM.
Thanks once again to the gang at INDUSTRIAL LIGHT AND MAGIC for the loan of their Cray Supercomputer for the creation of this graphic.
By the way, I discovered that if you take the cover off a Cray Supercomputer, you can dip a hotdog down into this weird vapor stuff and then instantly pull it out and if you drop it, it's so cold it'll shatter!
IX. A QUICK NOTE ON SUBSCRIPTIONS
At present, I'm continuing to use the yahoogroups.com list. However, for the time being, I'm doing all new subscriptions myself, manually. I'll send out each issue to the yahoogroup list plus to the database of new subscribers.
Bye for now!
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Lord, help us see how near is your kingdom.