Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Steam-whistle Music

From Henry Thoreau's Journal, August 7, 1856:
... Heard this forenoon what I thought at first to be children playing on pumpkin stems in the next yard, but it turned out to be the new steam-whistle music, what they call the Calliope (!) In the next town. It sounded still more like the pumpkin stem near at hand, only a good deal louder. . . . At Acton, six miles off, it sounded like some new seraphim in the next house with the blinds closed. All the milkmen and their horses stood still to hear it. The horses stood it remarkably well. It was not so musical as the ordinary whistle.
There's a difference between Henry & me. I would have gone looking for the new machine, just as the sound of the carousel band organ ends my leisurely boardwalk stroll & hurries me toward Casino Pier. Finding the marvelous instrument, I might have written that it was no more or less musical than the ordinary whistle. But I believe that Thoreau did not have much of an ear for human music, despite the suggestive effect his flute-playing had on Louisa May Alcott.

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Yeah, well I think it's safe to say you're slightly drawn to that particular muse...
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