The art of whistling

In mid-nineteenth century England, whistling was a common source of entertainment and as part of the general reception to a piece of music. An article in March 1854 in The Musical Times reported:

We were sorry to hear the vile practice of whistling again carried on to some extent at the concert; were the well-meaning portion of the audience to give information to the conductors when they are thus annoyed by anyone near them, the summary ejectment of one or two of the guilty parties would effectively cure the evil.

Another author, wrote thirty years later, in The Musical Times, on the practice of whistling for general entertainment:

Another not entirely new, and to me quite pleasing, fashion, we enjoyed a a short time since at an evening party. A young and pretty lady was seated at the piano, playing an accompaniment, to which she whistled, with exceeding cleverness, a lively air, following the notes precisely as in singing. Is the accomplishment – for it certainly is one to whistle perfectly – much in vogue here? It is said to be growing in popularity with the violin, guitar, and banjo playing. There are schools and teachers who give lessons – a pleasant task, one would think, to teach pretty lips how to pucker – at the houses of pupils. Two young ladies will whistle a duet to a piano accompaniment, or a quartet of ladies and gentlemen.

Cited in: Scholes, Percy (1947) The Mirror of Music. London: Novello & Company, vol. 1, p. 521.