The Music of Water

1892 The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular  
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more » ... . SEPTEMBER I, I892. 529 THE MUSIC OF NVATER. i THE Music of Water may be divided into two 1 orders the natural and the artiIScial. The exist-1 ence of the latter may come as news to many, for; although music has made use of many strange ] mediums for the exhibition of sound, has extracted Z harmonious notes from the most unlikely substances water has nevers within the scope of ordinary experience, been subjected to such a treatment for the purposes of art. Doubtless the peculiarly romantic s sound of water in cascades and mountain torrents ISrst impressed man with the conception that water S might be employed as a material for consciously producing music. Water, more than any other element in nature, is the essentially musical substance in the world. Wind, which can whistle, sigh, and moan, if we were to trust only to the encomiums of poets would undoubtedly be conceded the superiority over water; but its sound is more commonplace, more coarse, and more intermittent. While the wind on a moor sighs in gusts and dies a hundred times ere one has walked a mile, the prattle of the brook by the wayside is continuous; and its never-ceasing murmur can be analysed with far greater success than can the spasmodic utterances of the blast. The gurgling of a brook is one of the most musically satisfying sounds in nature, because it embodies the trill-the essence of all variety, the sweetest decoration of musical melody, and the main element in the music of birds, whose warbling we acknowledge to be the most ISnished utterance of uneducated minstrelsy. None of the sounds intoned by the wind can compare for a moment with so artful an expression of tone as this. The rippling of a cascade owes its beauty to that same embodiment of the trill which is found in the brook, and even down to its most diminished form, the mere trickling of water from one moss-grown stone to another exhibits this special feature. Many End a singular beauty in the tone of a cascade when almost dried up in the summer time, it does little more than drip in silvery drops from its hollowed basin above to a slab of rock below. The secret of this pleasure is the regularity of the sound, which, by recurring moment after moment with a trifling interval between each, mimics the effect of musical rhythm and is mysteriously charming to the mind. Water alone, of a11 substances in nature, is capable of such rhythmic effects in its own natural state. Such, likewise, is the secret of the pleasure which many feel in listening to the patter of rain. There is a rhythm in the sound of rain, still more in that of hail, which has a fascination to those who choose to study it. It may be heard to perfection in the thundershower, owing to the lull in the air which generally precedes the advent of a storm; and in the pauses of a thunderstorm the rhythm of the rain may be listened to with awe as the essentially musical momerst in the conflict of the elements. To sit on a bridge and drop pebbles in a brook by moonlight, when all the world is still, is an occupation which those who are interested in natureXs sounds will sometimes beguile their fancy by pursuing, and never without delight. The crisp staccato note of the water as the pebble enters it is no less beautiful t}lan the full and copious tone with which the stone buries itself in the depths. The splash of water is a very varied thing, and, strange to say, it was this feature of water's music which lSrst attracted the attention of man to the artificial imitation of its melody. The Greeks, whose ear for the nicest gradations of sound must have been marvellously acute were accustomed to amuse their idle hours by a highly asthetic game, the object of which was to divine good or ill fortune in love. Originating pre-
doi:10.2307/3362890 fatcat:jvefqnboo5cgpdcqhevinvxgxu