The Questions People Ask a Whistlemaker
Misha Somerville answers questions often asked about an unusual and incredible profession.
Low whistles are part of a family of musical instruments which are the oldest melodic instrument in the world. In 2009, a vulture's bone excavated from a cave in Germany turned out to be a whistle not unlike the ones we have today. Dated at an astonishing 35,000 years old, a time when Neanderthals and humans co-existed on the planet, it's the oldest known example of a musical instrument and remarkably, according to the archaeologists who found it, it still works.
Since prehistoric times, the whistle has woven its way through history, from the tribes of Papua New Guinea to the Celts of outlying Europe. It is a musical instrument with many forms and a colourful history – so widespread it has a form in almost every culture in the world.
Unlike many musical instruments and styles, the Low whistle has somehow avoided being formalised. There is little in the way of "accepted technique" - it's more a case of "however you feel like playing" and so it has always retained lots of character and been a musical instrument that is synonymous with "the folk".