The noisy, bustling
International District/Chinatown transit station might not be every performing
artist’s idea of a dream concert hall. Campbell Thibo isn’t just any artist,
The station’s amazing echo and Asian garden aesthetic are what
appeal to the Fine Arts graduate student’s desire to touch something deeper in
his audience. He considers the transit platform an underutilized performance
venue. If only he could eliminate the ever-present, deafening roar of all those
buses and trains, Thibo imagines the transit tunnel would be perfection for the
joys of his whistling. That’s right. Whistling.
As accomplished a
whistler as he may be—Thibo can whistle with aplomb classical music the likes of
The Four Seasons by Vivaldi—his unusual musical talent hasn’t quite found its
niche. Still, the whistler perseveres. This past March, he took his performance
art to the On the Boards production “12 Minutes Max” at Seattle’s Washington
Hall. He also performed before a captive audience at Seattle University.
People are apt to recall hopefulness when they hear music whistled, says
“People don’t whistle when they’re disappointed, unless maybe
there’s irony,” he says. “Whistling itself embodies sunshine.”
about it. “Whistling in the dark” is meant to keep your courage up. “Blowing the
whistle” exposes a wrongdoing with the goal of ending it.
while you work’ is a way to bring enjoyment to what you do,” adds the whiz
“Whistling is like a Braille map of our imagination,” he says.
“It’s a whole lot easier to reproduce a symphony by whistling than by singing or
playing a single instrument. It’s easier to be louder or quieter, easier to
reproduce sound that resonates in spaces. And it comes back to us and sounds
like we imagined.”
Whistling surfaced as an art form when Thibo was
recovering from a nasty three-week flu bug in the winter of 2011. He had
discovered dance—ballet—the year before, but recognized his body needed a rest
after he became ill. While others might recuperate with a good book or TV, Thibo
chose to indulge his love of music by whistling his way through a collection of
baroque and classical dances originally written for musical recorders.
Whistling and dance are only two of
Thibo’s many art forms. He sings alto and bass with the adventurous Seattle
vocal group The Esoterics, which performs the likes of a cappella opera based on
Zoroastrian hymns more than 3,500 years old.
One day last spring, he
hauled a stationary bike and a bucket of cherry petals to a street corner on
lower Queen Anne. The grinning, talking and singing pedaler asked passers-by to
toss handfuls of cherry petals at him. They giggled as they obliged and joined
his impromptu activity.
Check out a video
clip of the whistler in action.
Listen to audio of the whistler.