Much of Allan Blank’s inspiration came from great works of literature and poetry. Usually, I find the completed score, or sketch without the accompanying reference material. Such as the case with “Four Poems by Emily Dickinson”, where I have processed multiple sketches, but have yet to see a one poem…let alone four. However, “The Whistle” was different.

I often try to think of each unprocessed box as a gift. A historical present that simply needs to be organized, to be truly appreciated. Often, I have no idea what I might discover, yet after a couple years, I can generally assume that the box will contain a mixture of sketches an scores. Life (and the Allan Blank Collection) should have taught me by now to never assume. Inside this particular box was a very welcome surprise: a sketch (which should be expected) and it’s reference material (surprise!).

The Whistle: Sketch and Reference, from the Allan Blank Papers Collection

“When I was a child of seven years old, my friends, on a holiday, filled my pocket with coppers. I went directly to a shop where they sold toys for children; and being charmed with the sound of a whistle, that I met by the way in the hands of another boy, I voluntarily offered and gave all my money for one…My brothers, and sisters, and cousins, understanding the bargain I had made, told me I had given four times as much for it as it was worth; put me in mind what good things I might have bought with the rest of the money; and laughed at me so much for my folly, that I cried with vexation; and the reflection gave me more chagrin than the whistle gave me pleasure….In short, I conceive that great part of the miseries of mankind are brought upon them by the false estimates they have made of the value of things, and by their giving too much for their whistles.”—Excerpts from The Whistle by Benjamin Franklin 

The wise words of Benjamin Franklin created the framework for a Vocal Score by Allan Blank. Pictured above, is a sketch, where the composer was still attempting to find the correct musical interpretation for “The Whistle”.

For preservation purposes, I have placed the letter in a mylar sleeve. Not only with this stabilize the acidic paper which the “The Whistle” was printed on, the mylar will also protect the sketch from further damage. My intent is to keep the referenced material with the sketch so that researchers can see where Allan Blank drew inspiration. I’m looking forward to more surprises this unprocessed box has to offer and hopefully I will discover the completed score!