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Wolf Whistle

The Wolf Whistle is the way we show our appreciation for the feminine form. And the ladies love it! From construction worker catcalls to cartoon wolves, blown in private or openly with two fingers, the “wheeeet-whooo” is a distinctly sexist melody. Can a melody be racist? Is there Classist Music?

Tex Avery used the Wolf Whistle in his Warner Bros. cartoons, but it originated in the Boatswain’s Call—a navy melody to signal all hands on deck. Fellow sailors repurposed the call in whistle form to signal an attractive woman on land.

Like other casual melodies, the Wolf Whistle follows the natural interval of an Octave (8va). It is similar to the Postprandial Tone, but in reverse. It has a palindromic quality, up an octave, down an octave, at a slow sultry tempo. The mouth Es wide in anticipation, then Os out in release. Though it isn’t inherently sexist, the Wolf Whistle is undeniably sexy.

Sexy as fuck.

Wonka Bars

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory has one of the most famous examples of the mystical flute TV trope. From out a secret pocket in his velvet frock, Willy pulls a penny whistle and plays a quick ascending melody to call upon his loyal oompa-loompas.

Check out this Wonka Bar. Of course, Willy would be into some proggy shit.

Normal Speed / Slowed Down

Like Wonka himself, the melody is all over the place and it is difficult to pin down to an unambiguous tone. It must be taken apart note by note to appreciate its horizontal effect.

Beginning on Middle C, moving up a fourth to an F, followed by a broken octave of B-flats, then another fourth between the A-flat and D-flat, transposed up a half-step from the D-flat, up to the D and A for a final fourth interval moving down now, and the last tritone between the flat-A and final D, so as not to resolve too perfectly.

Wonka’s Bar is a far cry from the inviting happy “hello” melodic meet-and-greet from Close Encounters. It has more in common with the Secret Item Melody from Zelda. Willy doesn’t go for that diatonic shit. He likes the mystic melody, a private passage of notes that we outsiders aren’t supposed to fully hear, played shreddingly fast for the ears of little people who answer back with bouncy Minor ballads—doopity-doo.

Can you think of more examples of the mystical flute cliché in TV and film? Put them in the comments below and get a free prize!

Promethean Melody

The 2012 movie Prometheus features a race of ancient astronauts called “Engineers” who created humanity from a black goo. That’s not a white goo, mind you, like the kind found here on Earth, inside each and every one of us—no, this is a black goo. It’s a distinctly Luciferean substance.

So in the scene above, one of the Engineers plays his tiny flute to unlock the ship’s holographic control panel. We know of this TV trope because they created it long ago, just as they created us. You see, Jesus was a hybrid human-alien—no goo required. The ancient pantheon of gods are nothing more than spacemen, who used their heightened gravity advantage to seem divine like a spacejam.

The Engineer plays his lick in E Phrygian (E F G A B C D). A triplet in descrescendo: E G F, E G F, e g f…

The background score drops a low E on the bass just before the flute melody, letting you know what key we’re in—E Phrygian.

The cliché of the hand-flute, either to summon a little servant or unlock a secret room, can be traced back at least a century or so. Coming up next, we’ll look at one of the most famous examples of the mystic flute cliché. Can you think of it? Guess which movie in the comments below to receive a free prize!

Chromatic Melodies

I like chromatic melodies, especially when they descend in tuplets. It can be mystical like a mystic cave, mundane as playground song, or silly and sad like a Catholic carnival.

Let’s take a look at Willow Smith’s “Whip My Hair”. This song features a highly-sexualized celebrity daughter whipping shots of paint into the faces of her classmates. In other words: it’s a little too racy to feature on this blog, which is far more concerned with eroticizing language.

whip it

“Whip My Hair” is a kind of playground song with a chromatic hook in the key of A minor. Chromatics closely mimic the tonality of human speech which jumps up and down in small intervals. Even without the lyrics, the melody has a mocking quality with the repetitive echo and the chromatic descent.

moogleThis next example from the RPG classic Final Fantasy VI is more like it. This melody descends chromatically in triplets.

final fantasy

Full Song

The 7/8 theme “Another World of Beasts” was composed by game master of melodies Nobuo Uematsu—the Beethoven to Koji Kondo’s Mozart. The chromatic triplets resolve on certain “sweet notes” of an Eb Harmonic Minor scale, from the fifth to the third to the seventh back to the fifth.

warp whistleKoji Kondo uses the downward chromatic tuplet in Super Mario Bros. 3 for the Warp Whistle melody. This short solo flute figure has a mystical flavor, similar to the Final Fantasy example, like a warping wind that sweeps your sprite into the clouds (which look suspiciously like white bushes).

The chromatic melody has a lazy kinda sound like the end of a sentence that lands on the gentle sigh of a period. Depending on tonal context, it can sound whimsical, childish, or otherworldly. Can you think of any chromatic hooks? Do they descend in tuplets? If so, put them in the comments below.

Morse Code

Morse Code is in G. It’s a minimalist monotonal music that relies on rhythm for comprehension. Drag your cursor over the black stemmed noteheads.

The Morse G can be played in two lengthsthe quaver (1/8 note ) and the semiquaver (1/16 note), or dit and dah. Try spelling out some of these words. Don’t forget to rest, one dit’s worth between every note, three dit’s worth between each letter, and five between words.

Do The Wart

There is an unnamed melody which everyone knows in their heart of hearts, heard in the mind’s ear, appearing in variations from Pop and Classical to Nintendo. Let’s call this melody the “Wart Melody” after the villainous frog: King Wart.

In 1988′s Super Mario Bros. 2, the agile Luigi takes on final boss Wart while his haunting 8-bit theme plays in the background. The frog-king’s chamber is designed for intimidation: walls lined with Phanto masks, never-before-seen tiles on the ceiling and ground, and a dream machine in the center that spits out crit-hitting vegetables.

Like many Halloween movie themes (such as Halloween), Wart’s Theme evokes the spooky by using adjacent Minor Keys. Listen to the bustling bassline separately to identify the switch from G Minor down to F# Minor.

Click to hear bass solo

And the melody up top is a series of Minor Sixes chromatically descending in parallel.

Click to listen to Wart’s Theme

The chromatic melody avoids dissonance by passing through just as the bass does in speedy horizontal movement, and resolving into a Minor Seventh chord (G Bb [from the bass] D F [in the melody]). The voices are inverted Minor Thirds (Major Six) and along with the chromatic movement add to the overall spookiness of Wart’s Halloweenesque Theme.

The Los Doggies song “Buddha Thompson” utilizes this melody in fakebook form. The harmonic movement found in the descending Natural Minor key (i VII VI) is known as an Andalusian Cadence.

Click to Listen

Instead of the modernist polytonality found in Wart’s Theme, we have a flattened-out diatonic version of the melody, a cliche found in countless songs and honored here in “Buddha Thompson”. The composer of Wart’s Theme is Koji Kondo, and along with game designer Mr. Miyamoto, he is named directly in the 2nd line.

When I was an Andalusian cadence yes and how I played yes on the busky streets yes in minor in mind in me a cover of Tales by Yes and yes I said yes I will Yes…

Variations on Wart’s Theme:
“Tales” by Yes
“Dunkirk” by Camel (Full Song)
“Vital Transformation” by Mahavishnu Orchestra

Can you think of more songs that sound like this melody? Put them in the comments below. It’s no coincidence that the only examples I could think of were Prog and Mario as Mario is Prog.


Did you ever notice how clock time is counted on the wrong beats? It goes “tick-tock” when it should go “tock-tick”, like drums do. In the popular drum beat, the lower tone kick drum is played on the One, while the higher tone snare drum on the Two. Boom pah, boom boom pah, not pah boom, va-va-voom.

It’s as if Father Time’s daily meter has been shifted off one beat—a truly off-beat. We seem to be missing a moment, like when the Pope casually killed 11 days off the Gregorian Calendar. We are always trying to catch up to the future and the past by clocking into the present, yet we find ourselves living in a borrowed beat from another bar—the famous quarter-beat delay of consciousness. Tock-tick? What is this folk jam with downbeats all around? You would make a hoedown of the day’s ballad?

Pcch boom, pcch boom.

Similarly, the heart beat goes “lub dub” and not “dub lub.” Where did this missing proto beat disappear to? Did somebody turn the beat around, and forget to turn it back? We begin life on an upbeat, but we’re not sure how we got up there.

And yet if down-beat feel is the most natural to us, why does Pop Music feel so good to be uppity on the up-beats? Is it a kind of music therapy that turns our downs upside-down? What is it about the stomp-clap stomp-stomp-clap pattern of “We Will Rock You” that is so primal it’s featured at every sporting event, yet seems to conflict with the inverted pattern we find in the heart beat and clock-time? Four-on-the-Floor music found in Electronic Dance and the recent explosion of retro Folk, will challenge any notion of a tick and a tock, by refusing to count to 4, and just counting 1 over and over, but as long as there is Rock and Pop and Pop-Rock, drummers will be required to reverse our common notions of time and dub-a-lub, set the tempo at 60 Bpm, for 21,600 measures a day; that’s the 4/4 life.

Popular Songs that Use the Tick-Tock Beat:
Radio Friendly Unit Shifter” by Nirvana
“Birthday” by The Beatles
“Birdhouse in Your Soul” by They Might Be Giants
“Party Poison” by My Chemical Romance
“Comin’ Home” by Hum

Can you think of more songs with this beat? Please write them in the comments section below.