Celebrating Water in Music
Water has been on my mind a lot lately... in some ways, it's pretty visible. Naming my studio The ARK was a way to put my name on my studio without saddling it with my unpronounceable name! As such, water is part of my logo, and is a huge part of my studio mural. I've been keeping my eyes on Standing Rock, and praying often for our water protectors- I am so grateful for them doing what I cannot and taking the time out of their lives to keep the rivers as clean as possible. A few years ago, a friend of mine posted on Facebook that he was listening to the rain and asked what was everyone's favorite rain music. The answers were interesting and diverse, and some of them stuck with me!
World Water Day was proposed in 1992 by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, and March 22, 1993 was the first World Water Day as designated by the UN General Assembly. World Water Day is observed internationally and is meant to inspire people world-wide to learn more about water related issues and take action. According to the UN website, there are currently 663 million people on earth living without access to clean water. I encourage you to read more about what the United Nations have to say about water: http://www.un.org/en/events/waterday/
Water is SO IMPORTANT! Water is a necessity for life- for health. According to Dr. Jeffrey Utz at Alleghenies University, the human body is 55%-78% water. According to the United State Geological Survey, 71% of the earth's surface area is covered in water. This does not include the water in the sky that exists as clouds, or underground aquifers. Without water, life as we know it would not exist.
Water is so essential to life, that it even transcends mere survival and is part of our spiritual nature as well. Water is more than just a fluid- it is a journey, it's adversity, it's time, it's an escape, it's knowledge. Today, in honor of World Water Day, I am listening to music inspired by water and sharing my own exploration of water. Consider it my mixed tape/love song to water. Because I am old enough to have made mix tapes. :). These are 24 of my favorite songs about water- 1 piece for every hour of the day. I hope you can listen and enjoy!
Water is Flexible and Fluid
Water is unique in that it can flow freely, but will fit within whatever container it is placed in. The spirit of water is adaptable, but strong. Water can be held within a paper cup, but over time can wear away rock.
Singing in the Rain- it doesn't matter what sort of adversity you face- adapt, and change your outlook. Although it might be raining, find your voice and sing.
I love this quote from Maurice Ravel about his piece Jeux d'eau- and at it's heart, it celebrates water, while showcasing the flexibility of form. "Jeux d'eau, appearing in 1901, is at the origin of the pianistic novelties which one would notice in my work. This piece, inspired by the noise of water and by the musical sounds which make one hear the sprays water, the cascades, and the brooks, is based on two motives in the manner of the movement of a sonata—without, however, subjecting itself to the classical tonal plan."
The Beatles, Rain. "Rain, I don't mind, Shine, the weather's fine". Same message as Singing in the Rain- adapt. Whatever the weather, your outlook is your reality- it doesn't matter if the rain comes, or the sun shines- the weather is fine if you decide it is.
Maria Joao Pires is my FAVORITE classical pianist. One of the things I love most about her is her flexibility with tempo. While many pianists push speed to create musical tension, Maria pulls back, making the listener CRAVE resolution. Her interpretations are fantastic!
Water Is Effected By It's Surroundings
The French philosopher Gastonia Bachelard defined different types of water: clear, running, stagnant, dead, fresh, salt, reflecting, purifying, deep, and stormy. These variations depend on outside stimulus: is the water clean, or is salt in it? Is it a running stream, or a still pond? Does it reflect, or is it covered with algae? Water can represent unity and peace, or struggle and adversity.
"When you're down and out
When you're on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you (ooo)
I'll take your part, oh, when darkness comes
And pain is all around
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down"
Life isn't always calm- neither is the water.
Life will throw a lot of different obstacles at you, there will be many different rivers to cross.
"Many rivers to cross
But I can't seem to find my way over
Wandering I am lost
As I travel along the white cliffs of Dover"
Water is Escape, a Journey, and the Passage of Time
I love Otis Redding's original version as well, but Sara Bareilles is fantastic in this live cover. Just ask Barry Manilow... the ocean, the bay, the sea is a great place to escape to. You can sit back and waste time.
This is a little backwards, because the mermaid is trying to ESCAPE the sea, instead of fleeing TO the sea, but still under the sea sounds like a great place to be!
So, I had to follow up the Little Mermaid with Octopus's Garden... because again, who wouldn't want to be under the sea?
"River in the rain sometimes at night you look like a long white train
Winding your way away somewhere..."
Sometimes the river is a journey to a new land- both real and metaphorical. Water carried Ulysses to an adventure in the Odyssey, but took him back home in the Iliad. Big River is Roger Miller's musical version of Huckleberry Finn- and the river certainly carried him on a life-changing adventure
Water is wisdom, knowledge, and growth
We've all heard the term "a fountain of knowledge". Being the Doors fan that I've always been, I had to include this song. Ray Manzarek is one of my favorite pianists! His use of the keyboard bass is also really fun to try to do on the organ! As I listen to this song now, I find it interesting to think about the idea of drowning in knowledge- which is my interpretation of this song. In the age of the internet and smart phones and google, when all information is available to all people, is it possible to possess too much knowledge?
Water is Reflective
Both literally and metaphorically- water reflects the world back to us. We can approach it to pray, meditate, or ponder, and maybe the water will show you the answer- or reveal our inner demons. And as you're looking at what the water shows you, don't forget about Narcissus and lean too close.
"As I went down in the river to pray
Studying about that good old way
And who shall wear the starry crown
Good Lord, show me the way!"
"We'll come again next Thursday afternoon
The in-laws hope they'll see you very soon
But is it in your conscience that you're after
Another glimpse of a madman across the water"
I LOVE Elton John so much! He was the first pianist I was hyper aware of as a child- he is so amazing on so many levels!
Water is Purifying and Regenerating
I did NOT get to watch enough Soul Train as a kid! This is FANTASTIC!!! From the blue plaid suit to him passing out roses to all the ladies, this is a great performance! And I am being completely sincere- when I went to copy the link, I accidentally hit the wrong button because I couldn't stop dancing!
"Take me to the river
And wash me down
Won't you cleanse my soul
Put my feet on the ground"
It's not particularly spiritual- in this case he's trying to cleanse himself of a bad woman who took advantage of him, but still the water is cleansing.
"You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand
And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine"
I love this song! It's one of the few that I can do halfway decently on the ukulele- which is always fun!
Water is Destructive
I found this interesting... nearly every civilization on earth has some version of the Great Flood myth! Noah and the Ark are well known to Christians, but Noah is also an Islamic prophet- and the flood exists in the Koran. Atlantis? Flood. Samaria, Mesopotamia, Greece, Ireland, Wales, China, India, Korea... there is a Wikipedia page dedicated to the Flood Myths in every culture- it is worth exploring. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_flood_myths
"So say my name and don’t forget
Water still ain’t got me yet
Nothing but I’m bound to roam
Waterbound and I can’t get home"
Water is Death and the Supernatural
In Greek mythology, once you die, your spirit crosses the river Styx into the Underworld. Sometimes water is the transition.
"Deep River, my home is over Jordan
Deep RIver, Lord. I want to cross over into campground."
I have taught this to many kids over the years. I really love the accompaniment- it's one I should go ahead and create a practice recording for.
"I am wading deep waters, trying to get home"
The sound isn't great in this live version, but I really enjoy watching them play. It's a beautiful song.
Water is life and the life cycle
Science has shown that the first life on earth came from our oceans. As fetuses, we are surrounded by water. We see water flow as blood through our veins, as sap in trees, as nectar in flowers. Water is the beginning of life, and sustains life. And it is cyclical. Water comes from the sky as rain, is absorbed by the earth and trickles to our streams, which connect to rivers, which connect to oceans. Then water evaporates, becomes clouds, which in turn become rain.
"I will be rocks, I will be water, I will leave these to my daughter"
"Two drifters, off to see the world
There's such a lot of world to see"
"Bright before me the signs implore me:
Help the needy and show them the way.
Human kindness is overflowing,
And I think it's gonna rain today."
Nina Simone is my typical go-to for this song, but here's Randy Newman live. For me, this song shows the cycle- people need help, you help, and kindness flows.
Of course I had to include this classical favorite. Legend has it that Handel wrote it to curry favor with the future king George. The cycle of life- the cycle of rulers.
"Now I taught the weeping willow how to cry, cry, cry
And I showed the clouds how to cover up a clear blue sky.
And the tears that I cried for that woman are gonna flood you Big River.
Then I'm gonna sit right here until I die."
"But you know I could stay here
And watch the clouds fall from the sky
Because this river is wild
Godspeed ya, boy
This river is wild"
Watching the cycle happen... and yes, life is wild!
Thank you so much for reading! Now go practice!
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is a professional pianist, teacher, singer, and Music Director currently residing in Snohomish, Washington. She is the Director of Music at Peace Lutheran Church in Monroe, WA, and also teaches private piano, voice and ukulele lessons at The ARK in Snohomish, WA.