Msc Whistling

MSc Whistling - Matt Jones

Matt Jones

He loves his thin lips, the way they are barely visible even when pouting. They are sharp. They are weapons. Knives. Perfectly honed rampuris. Lady killers. Such a pale shade of pink that they disappear in just the right lighting.

He spends his mornings in front of the mirror. Pucker. Puccalo. Pucker. Pucker. Inhale. Exhale.



Then he massages his cheeks and jaw until his face feels like warm putty.

Even as a young boy, Frank knows that there is a certain special quality to those slender mouth spouts of pure tones and sine waves that can resonate all the way into the New Year and the mesosphere before breathing life into some dying star.

He walks to school at a leisurely pace and whistles old show tunes with such crispness that barking dogs fall silent and sway until they fall over, legs kicking in slow undulation into nowhere.

Perry Perry.

            Gavel pop, tambour, tambour—-

            Hold. One. Hold. Two. Hold and Hold.

Trumpeteer. Canterbury Swap.

                         Perry Perry.  Fixed Animo. Wet Blanket. One. Two. Three.

Picnic Blanket.

Hurdy Gurdy.

Four. Five. Six.

Inhale. Exhale.

Applause, from no one in particular, but he know someone is clapping their hands together somewhere.


After finishing secondary school, after so many early and long mornings of manually blowing up air mattresses and hovering peanuts in the sweet spot above his utopian pucker, Frank’s father tells him the following,

“Frank, your mother and I are proud of you. We’re thinking about getting a place in the Ozarks, not the poor part.”

And Frank flies to the West Oakland Academy of Oral Turbulence and Resonance on a Fred Lowery Fellowship to obtain his Bachelor of Arts in Respiratory Musicology.

He takes a full course load and falls in love with a boy two years his senior. Donovan Ronalde, the chieftain of the Men’s Whistling Choir and three-time master of the Pacific Rim Whistling Circuit, Semi-Juniors Division.

Frank is enamored with Donovan, overwhelmed, upset, and enlivened when their lips touch. They could click teeth for hours, the strain in Frank’s pants growing tighter and tighter, Donovan whispering in his ear,

“Yes. Put your enamel on mine. I want your enamel,”

each muted and hushed word tailing off into a nose dive of harmonic whining that penetrates his middle ear and reverberates down to that tightness in his pants and shakes him like a tuning fork that has been blown on by Aiobhill of the Dalcassians of North Munster.

After long, hard nights of teeth clicking and enamel scraping, Frank goes to his Lip Shaping Theory class, his mind wandering in between discussions of the alveolar ridge and its symbiotic relationship with the palatine tonsil, his eyelids sputtering between open and closed, but preferring closed. He likes to watch images of Donovan’s hairless, pasty form writhe over his own as projected on his eyelids.

In his Puccalo Practium class, he takes comfort in the soft burn of air escaping over his bruised and overworked lips, listening for the fluctuation in pitch as each gasp dips through the scabbed rivets of his kiss.

His Pucallo professor, Quinping Luu, scalds him for his lack of dedication.

“Mr. Castle, where is your resistance? It sound like you whistling into vacuum.” He demonstrates.

Fugu Flex.

           Fugu Flex.


“Do you hear? It just air. You should be here.”

Fugu Flex.

          Fugu Flex.

Tetraodintidae. Sautee.


Tears escape Frank’s eyes and singe his cheeks as they drip down toward his sore lips. He purses his lips and attempts to mimic his professor.

Fugu Frex. Fugu Frex.

Diodontidae. Fizz.

Professor Luu shakes his head.

“I hope you’re not mocking me Mr. Castle.”

Frank rushes back to his dorm after class and immediately calls Donovan. He tells him what has happened and that he needs to see him at his earliest convenience.

Donovan tells him that they are going into double overtime because of Regionals.

“I can’t make it Franklin. I can’t make you better.”

Frank hangs up the phone in disbelief and whistles a muffled tune into the cotton-meat of his pillow.

Stunted perrys and guttural, spit-choked loose animos sink into the fabric and his body heaves and sucks some of the pillow into the back of his throat causing him to gag.

Bleating Goat.

He giggles at the sound that emanates from his throat before falling into a sleep filled with Donovan’s porcelain skin and flimsy musculature.


Frank graduates with honors and walks across the stage with confidence as Quinping pins the Toots Thielemans Excellence badge on his robes. He looks out into the audience and smiles at his parents, whipping a supersonic Lighthouse Arabesque their way, his mother sticking one finger in her ear while his father applauds softly.

After the graduation ceremony, Frank goes out to lunch with his parents. He tells them that he will be moving to La Gomera to attend the Universidad Silbo Gomero and obtain his graduate degree in Artes del Lenguaje Oral y Inmaterial.

His mother shudders and his father responds with the following,

“Frank, think about this. You’re an Academy man. They’ll eat you alive over there.”

Frank smiles gently and puts his hand over his father’s.

His dad pleads, “It’s barbaric, Frank.”

Frank replies, “It’s exotic, dad.”

Hot droplets pool in his mother’s eyes.

Frank pushes his chair out, stands up slowly, and says, “I trust you’ll pick up the check. I don’t make a lot of money.”

As he walks away, his father yells something about the Ozarks being unseasonably damp, something about his mother’s tear ducts. He’s not listening. He’s whistling a tune that he remembers from his childhood.


blink shimmy


shimmy blink.



blink shimmy


shimmy blink



The sun on La Gomera is merciless. Frank thinks about Donovan stranded on one of the beaches, no spf-enhanced chapstick, his lips bubbling into a charred, candy-pink batter that drips down his slender neck, staining his collar, drying and crusting over his pasty complexion. This makes him smile. So does watching Cleobald swim in the shallows of the Atlantic, his tawny-brown skin baking in the sun.

He met Cleobald during a seminar on Conjunctive Epitheleal Harmonizing. He had come over to study at Silbo Gomero from Senegal where had had spent the last ten years as a sex worker in Guimsam.

He says, “I was good at that, but I am better at whistling.”

He’s talking about the hundreds of women he had been with, the obese British divorcees with bad teeth and cream corn in the whites of their eyes. He speaks of the adventurous young Americans, the ones who stayed for a night and the ones who made him breakfast morning after morning after morning until he stole away to Dakar for a week until they left.

Frank asks, “Did you love any of them?”

Cleobald replies, “No. I did not.” And he closes his eyes under the merciless Gomera sun, puckers his thick, full lips, and produces sounds that Frank has never heard before, sounds that are serrated and sultry, shrieks filtered through the soprano turned into groans turned into the sound of the taste of Crème brûlée being processed by a thousand little buds.

Arabian torch (nest, nesting, nesting)

                           PAPYRELA RECONSTRUCTION

Flight of the Minoan.

Butterfly wings.

B         R               E            A        T         H

Frank shutters as each note tears off into the air between them to catch fire and burn up and into thin air.

Frank asks, “Was it a good life?”

Cleobald opens his eyes and the light from the sun pierces the area around his pupil so the fluid in his eye simmers like buckthorn sap.

He says, “It was a good life, but this one will be better.”


Doumas Fresco grew up in La Gomera and was considered by many, both inside and outside the university, to be the Silbador Jefe. He is also Frank’s thesis advisor.

During the first week, Doumas humiliates Frank in front of his prospective class when he asks him to perform the same piece that he had used in his audition sample.

Frank, chest puffed out, begins,

Perry Perry

Twinkle Twinkle

Sycamore, silt, soil


Perry Perry. Tambour Tambour

Helmholtz Squeeze (clamber,clamber, clamber)

Melting Butter, Perry Perry.

Rosenblatt Fibers (clotting)

Twinkle Twinkle, kettle corn


Doumas does not blink or breathe. He stares at Frank with such disinterest that he might as well have vanished.

He starts in slowly, telling Frank that the Helmholtz squeeze is a Western creation, robotic, stiff, soulless. He tells Frank and the rest of the class that his butter is margarine at best, his clotting so bad that it couldn’t save his own body from bleeding out from a paper cut.

“And your perrys,” he adds, “they are clumsy and tangled. They will be the death of you.”

He then puts his finger to his lips and forces out a breath of air that breaks the sound barrier before turning on his heels and calling out as he walks away, “We’ll resume tomorrow.”


Since that first week, Frank spends all of his time doing one of two things: either whistling in his room until the air in his lungs feels recycled and glassy, staring out of his balcony at the waves as they roll toward the shore, or tracing the contours of Cleobald’s chest.

Cleobald says, “It’s not all about the exit, Franklin. It’s about the storm building. It’s about feeling it in your chest, calling upon it, and unleashing it.”

Poseidon’s Triton.

It is beautiful and elusive. Frank tries to emulate it.

Raindrops. Calk.

“No, no, Franklin. You’re trickling, still clambering. You need more practice.” And he slips out of bed, the muscles in his sides thrashing under his skin, his penis partially swollen and dangling between his thighs, rigid with tension and slick with sweat.

Frank wants to crane his neck out and blow on the tip, watch it rise for him, like the cobra for the been. He leans across the bed sheets and puckers his lips, but before he can get any sound out, Cleobald stops him. “You need practice, Franklin. I can’t make you better.”

He spends days and weeks and months working himself raw, his lips barely a shadow on his face after late nights in Doumas’ office.

“Listen to me,” he says, “watch my mouth as I do it.”

Byzantine flourish. Thunder

                                         Aphrodite’s Orgasm.

                 Frank rounds his lips and blows,

Constantinople’s wardrobe. Thunder

Cleopatra’s moan.

Doumas slams his hand down on his desk. “Damnit Frank! Listen!”

It is a Saturday evening when Frank goes up against the thesis committee. Doumas is seated in the front row. Frank can see Cleobald with a glass of rum and orange rinds in his hand, standing back toward one of the many tents at the edge of the garden.

Frank has spoken with his parents before going on stage.

His father said, “Good luck tonight, son. Your mother and I are very pleased with the relative humidity here.”

As he looks out on the rows of folding chairs, each filled with his fellow classmates, professors, and family, he thinks about the waves rolling into shore, the sun sinking below the edge of the earth that could never be reached. He purses his lips and begins,

Glissade, glissade,

Takoba swipe (climb, climbing, float)

His face flushes as the rises and dips in his melody line became more prominent.

Rhone soubresaut

Flicker Flicker Perry Perry Flicker (sweep)

His vowels and consonants drip to the floor like honey and leap like grease from a hot pan.

Tabmour Africain

Tambour Africain

Tambour Africain

A tightness in his pants.

Catamarran swirl.

Doumas’ ears red hot.

His mother with her finger sneaking into her waistband. His father with his eye on Cleobald.

           Nubian War Charriot. Famine.



The air infused with fire and flame.

Byzantine Flourish (flourish, flourishing, flourishing)

Frank with beads of sweat racing down his brow.

(flourishing, flourishing)

The ocean with the changing of the tide.

                       Kushite Resistance.

                       Trickle. Trickle. Perry Perry. Trickle (vaulting, falling)

Age of Alexander.

Ursine Whisper.

B       R       E       A       T       H

Frank opens his eyes and looks out at the mass of people in front of him. He feels dizzy.

There is no breeze to lick the salt from his skin and only tempered breathing coming from the audience. His mother with her finger stuck where it shouldn’t be, his father licking his trademark thin lips.

Frank feels as if he were caught in the world’s exhale, that space in the earth’s chest where old air never makes it out and new air never replaces the old. He puts his fingers to his lips and comes away with carmine on the tips.

Doumas stands up, mouth trembling, lips pursed, air fleeing from within,

An intimate moment.

Frank hears and responds, one octave higher, his H1 extending into the frequency basement,

Our Intimate moment.

An unnamed girl and classmate that Frank did not take the time to get to know stands up and shouts, “You did it, Frank!”


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