Whistles of the Wiser: Andrew Bird

Almost every breath contains some fragments of an escaping melody. If I shape my lips so as to whistle, my breath will take on a musical shape like sonic vapor. Words are much trickier. I would forgo words altogether if I didn’t love singing them so much. My choice of words and my voice betray so much and that’s what’s so terrifying and attractive about it […]Words get under my skin the same way melodies do. Something catches my attention and I file it subconsciously. It often begins with an archaic or obscure word I have not defined. I just like the sound of it and its elusive meaning gives it a mysterious shine. On the menu of a local cafe is an item called “salsify.” Before I reach for the dictionary I let my imagination run wild and decide that salsify is a burrowing bronchial root like a rickety old mine that burrows deep into something. It turns out that’s mostly correct which encourages me further. All I know is “salsify mains” sounds good to me.

Andrew Bird, from “Words Will Tell.” NyTimes, March 2008

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~ by Em on May 13, 2009.

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