For photographer Marjorie Ryerson, a fascination for water grew from the challenge of capturing on film the astonishing breadth of ways in which water presents itself -- the way, for instance, that Lake Superior at sunset turns from deep blue to gold, and then to copper, blazing red, dusty pink, pewter, and black. For rhythmist Mickey Hart, water recalls a boyhood transformation while hearing the percussion of falling rain; for mezzo-soprano Susanne Mentzer, water is where she found her voice as a little girl, while singing in a culvert under Whiskey Run creek; bluesman Wesley Jefferson can feel the tumultuous history of the Mississippi in just one touch of the river's flow; as pianist and conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy writes, his first visit to the sea was like nothing he'd ever experienced -- until he heard his first symphony orchestra.
Water Music as a book began with exquisite photographs, and when she sought a text for her images, the photographer turned to music for counterpoint. For the sixty-six musicians gathered here, the relationship between water and music is both natural and spiritual. Violinist Pamela Frank understands her passion for water and music to have arisen from their shared ebb and flow; flutist and composer Mary Youngblood explains that her life as a musician was inextricably linked with having been born under the sign of Cancer; and from his mother's astrologer, Phish bassist Mike Gordon learned that water would be his "window to the cosmos." It is in the marriage between water and music that Samuel Adler found inspiration for his orchestral piece, "City by the Lake," and Bruce Cockburn the source of his song, "Water into Wine."
Libby Larsen and Jane Ira Bloom bring these pages to life with music; Bobby McFerrin and Carol Maillard with poetry; Pete Seeger and Patricia Barber with lyrics; Randy Newman, Dave Brubeck, Emanuel Ax, and Sarah Chang with prose. Eugene Skeef tells the story of Nomvula and her sacred drum, a bringer of rain in the Valley of a Thousand Songs. Randy Weston relates a boat trip down the Nile, where he exposed the Egyptian passengers and crew to the music of the Master Gnawa Musicians of Morocco -- their own ancient, ancestral music, which they had never heard. Together, Ryerson's photos and the words and music of these renowned musicians remind us of why we must heed the message in Paul Winter's introduction -- in spite of our reverence and our awe, we have placed this most essential element in peril. And so, we too are called upon to remind ourselves of the preciousness of water, before the damage becomes too severe to be undone.
The net royalties from the sale of this book will be donated to the Water Music Fund of the United Nations Foundation.
Copyright © 2003, University of Michigan. All rights reserved. Posted September 2003.
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