Water Music

Marjorie Ryerson, Photographer and Orchestrator
Introduction by Paul Winter


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.

Visit Marjorie Ryerson's Water Music Project website at www.water-music.org. To hear podcasts on water and other environmental issues, visit http://h2opodcast.com/links.html.

Praise / Awards

  • "It's a shame we even need this book. But instead of celebrating water, our most vital and our most glorious treasure, we've mostly turned our backs on it, noticing only that split second in its life when it's between faucet and drain. In this volume, Marjorie Ryerson and her musician collaborators remind us why the boom of surf and the gurgle of a stream are among the sweetest sounds in the planet's vast vocabulary."
    —Bill McKibben, author of Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age
  • "The natural environment sustains the life of all beings in the world. However, nearly everywhere these days, it is undergoing extensive degeneration. Therefore, it is more important than ever that we all make whatever effort we can to ensure the conservation and protection of the planet, its air, its land and its water. "Our inner environment determines our attitude towards the earth's natural environment, our relationship with it, and our impact on it. The beautiful photographs and inspiring words in this book, Water Music, will remind readers of the crucial importance of water in all our lives. Only when enough people cultivate an inner environment that respects all forms of life, reflects a sincere concern for justice and equality, a genuine compassion for all beings, and projects all of this onto the outer environment, will the worlds water and other natural resources be safe for the future."
    —His Holiness the Dalai Lama
  • "In Water Music, Marjorie Ryerson and the many contributing musicians have brought insightful perspectives to the beauty, power and fragility of water.  By using the book to support water programs in the developing world, they have also found a special tribute to humanity's most precious resource." 
    —Senator Patrick Leahy, (D-VT)
  • "Without the accompanying words to 'fine-tune' our reactions, we might just as easily pass over the images, content to look once and move on. And that is perhaps this book's particular achievement: to give us reason to stop and think deeper thoughts. The author could not have chosen a group of more competent guides for such a journey. It is a journey worth taking."
    —John Martin, owner of Word of Mouth consulting firm, Bloomsbury Review, November-December 2003
  • "[A] stunningly beautiful book."
    Global Healing News, globalhealing.net
  • ". . . a gorgeous, full-color visual showcase and celebration of water, the substance on Earth that gives life. Marjorie Ryerson's truly splendid color photography combines wonderfully with insightful poetry, thoughtful vignettes, and music for sixty-six diverse and talented musicians from around the world. Simply put, Water Music is [sic] stunning and unique coffee-table volume which justifiably deserves inclusion into the personal, professional, and community library."
    Library Bookwatch, September 2003
  • ". . . a beautiful composite of 100 of [Ryerson's] photographs together with poems, essays, and song lyrics contributed by the musicians and all inspired by water. . . . [H]er work inspires us to think more innovatively and collectively about ourselves and how connected we are to this precious resource."
  • "Ryerson's photographs are breathtaking in their quality and variety, reflecting her fascination with capturing images of water in the United States, Canada and Europe over the last seven years."
    —Heather Stephenson, Rutland Herald, August 31, 2003

Look Inside

Copyright © 2003, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • 11 1/4 x 11 1/4.
  • 208pp.
  • 100 color photographs.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2003
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11338-5

Add to Cart
  • $35.00 U.S.