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 Post subject: Mystery instrument on "Whispering" - Paul Whiteman acoustic
PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2017 4:19 pm 
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Victor V
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On the acoustic release of "Whispering" recorded by Paul Whiteman for Victor, there is a novelty instrument that gets a solo on the chorus at about 1:00.


For years I have been certain that it is a musical saw, played with a violin bow.

Someone on Youtube suggested it was a "wipperwool" [sic].

Others have suggested it was a slide-whistle.

Google couldn't provide a match for a musical instrument called a wipperwool ( or "whip-poor-will" )...


Does anyone know for sure what the solo instrument is ? (I'm sticking with saw. )


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOhkc1a-zCo
De Soto Frank


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 Post subject: Re: Mystery instrument on "Whispering" - Paul Whiteman acous
PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2017 4:50 pm 
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Victor IV
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Brian Rust in the "American Dance Band Discography", 1975 edition, vol. 2 p. 1917 shows Warren Luce on slide whistle this session.

Hope that helps.


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 Post subject: Re: Mystery instrument on "Whispering" - Paul Whiteman acous
PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2017 5:39 pm 
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Victor V
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It very well may be a slide whistle, since it sounds like it is a blown instrument... or a theramin, which is heard in a number of different recordings as an ethereal sounding instrument...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6KbEnGnymk
"The phonograph† is not of any commercial value."
Thomas Alva Edison - Comment to his assistant, Samuel Insull.

"No one needs a Victrola XX, a Perfected Graphophone Type G, or whatever you call those noisy things."
My Wife


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 Post subject: Re: Mystery instrument on "Whispering" - Paul Whiteman acous
PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2017 5:48 pm 
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Victor IV
Joined: Tue Jan 21, 2014 12:55 am
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Location: Eugene/ Springfield Oregon USA
Curt A wrote:
It very well may be a slide whistle, since it sounds like it is a blown instrument... or a theramin, which is heard in a number of different recordings as an ethereal sounding instrument...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6KbEnGnymk


The final and released version of "Whispering" was recorded 23. August 1920 in NYC. The theramin was invented in the Soviet Union in October of 1920, and patented here in USA in 1928... so it can't be a theremin although I agree it sounds a lot like one.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theremin

It's definitely a slide whistle.


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 Post subject: Re: Mystery instrument on "Whispering" - Paul Whiteman acous
PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2017 9:01 pm 
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Victor II
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I'd often wondered about the sound in that passage of "Whispering" as well over the years, but never researched it. I guess what one might wonder at this point is whose idea was it to stick that thing in an instrumental to begin with? :lol: Perhaps the recording engineers thought it would be a novelty -- and it did indeed record well acoustically.
Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect. ~ Mark Twain


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 Post subject: Re: Mystery instrument on "Whispering" - Paul Whiteman acous
PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2017 9:15 pm 
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Victor V
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Slide whistle, without any doubt. Best played by a trombonist, for obvious reasons! :)

Both the theremin and the musical saw do indeed produce a sound very similar to the slide whistle. The difference is to be found in the articulation of the initial sound of each phrase, what musicians call the attack. Neither the theremin nor the musical saw is capable of initiating a sound with a clean attack, as we hear on "Whispering," although the saw, played with a bow, can come closer than the theremin. On a wind instrument, the sound must be initiated with the tip of the tongue behind the upper front teeth, withdrawn at the precise moment to release the air behind it and starting the tone, whether produced by the lips in vibration (the brass family) or a reed (woodwinds). The trained ear can usually distinguish among all of these possibilities.

As for the why of it in "Whispering," the use of the slide whistle falls into a category that's called a "novelty" in the business. It seems quite appropriate in a piece entitled "Whispering," doesn't it?


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 Post subject: Re: Mystery instrument on "Whispering" - Paul Whiteman acous
PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2017 9:36 pm 
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Victor IV
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CharliePhono wrote:
I'd often wondered about the sound in that passage of "Whispering" as well over the years, but never researched it. I guess what one might wonder at this point is whose idea was it to stick that thing in an instrumental to begin with? :lol: Perhaps the recording engineers thought it would be a novelty -- and it did indeed record well acoustically.


I don't know if Whispering is the first dance band record to use a slide whistle, but it's not novel to find on dance band records. A slide whistle player could probably get right into the horn with the thing and get good recording quality. Not sure if a Theremin would have recorded as well (acoustically). I have an electrical Victor 78 called the Victor Theremin Record, I think from about late 20's or so.

Here's Whiteman's Avalon with a slide whistle: https://youtu.be/emE-5eZvOWQ

International Novelty Orchestra - Swanee River Moon: https://youtu.be/hj6ITOPMv-Q


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 Post subject: Re: Mystery instrument on "Whispering" - Paul Whiteman acous
PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2017 11:54 pm 
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Victor V
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The melody in the chorus of "Avalon" (slide whistle in the Whiteman recording) was stolen from Puccini. Anybody who knows Tosca would recognize it. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avalon_(Al_Jolson_song) , third paragraph.


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 Post subject: Re: Mystery instrument on "Whispering" - Paul Whiteman acous
PostPosted: Wed Mar 01, 2017 12:35 pm 
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Victor II
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That slide whistle is used in several 1920's recording on several labels.
I've heard it in; That Old Gang of Mine, and The Sheik of Araby to name a couple that I remember.


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 Post subject: Re: Mystery instrument on "Whispering" - Paul Whiteman acous
PostPosted: Thu Mar 02, 2017 9:33 am 
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Victor V
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Thanks for all the replies, gentlemen ! :)

I'm a little disappointed that it's a slide whistle and not a saw... but perhaps that gives me a purpose: learn the chorus on the Saw. :mrgreen:


"Whispering" lends itself to the Saw, or trombone, as most of the notes in the chorus are right next to one another (diatonic / chromatic) rather than skipping several pitches between notes.

Playing a tune such as Vincent Youmans "Sing Hallelujah" (spells out pitches of a chord, notes are NOT next to each other) would be MUCH more challenging on such an instrument. ;)

Certainly "anything goes" in the Roaring Twenties...
De Soto Frank


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