April 12, 2017

Musical groundwater?

Posted by tomglee

Post by Kevin Befus, University of Wyoming

I don’t mean to get your hopes up, but keep them up there. I’m not talking about recording the sonorific excitement that is groundwater flow. And, I’m not talking about the squeak of a pump handle, the gurgling of a spring, the grumble of a generator, or the roar of a drill rig. Rather, I want to share with you some songs that reference groundwater in one capacity or another, though references to specific capacity have yet to be found. Groundwater might not be photogenic (http://blogs.agu.org/waterunderground/2015/01/25/groundwater-is-not-photogenic/)…more discussion to follow, but is it musical?

For the last couple of years, I have been amassing a playlist of songs that reference water (well, ever since I discovered how perfect “Once in a Lifetime” by the Talking Heads was for motivating me during graduate school…in my opinion, there is no better song to listen to before hitting submit on that manuscript or grant for good scientific mojo). Sifting through a couple hundred songs that sometimes only marginally use water to metaphorize the human condition, I have honed the list to an ordered version of what I consider “The best/only groundwater songs”:

1) Once in a lifetime – Talking Heads

See previous post for a thorough run down

2) Water of Love – Dire Straits

A yearning for water/love, deep underground and hard to find. Let’s hope for some recharge to elevate the water table and maybe even support the river’s running free.

3) I am a River – Foo Fighters

They find a groundwater system that thinks it is a river beneath a subway floor…a classic case of mistaken identity.

4) Hallelujah Band – Eilen Jewell

“I climbed down underground

To listen for a new sound

Found a river underneath our feet

Dark and silent, deep”

Sounds like a quiet unconfined karst groundwater system to me.

5) You Don’t Miss Your Water – Otis Redding

6) Cool Water – Sons of the Pioneers (later sung by Johnny Cash, Joni Mitchell, and others)

7) Water in a Well – Sturgill Simpson

8) Water – Jack Garratt

9) Our Lady of the Well – Jackson Browne

10) Crow Jane – Skip James (also Derek Trucks Band)

11) Well Run Dry – Phat Phunktion

My musical explorations have taught me love is like water. Groundwater? Maybe, depends on its amount, depth, and quality. Wells can be the source of good and bad waters, and we can have some say on whether it’s one or the other. These songs and others (that don’t reference groundwater specifically) bemoan or extol love/water, which comes or goes and can be so uncontrollable.

Groundwater can also be a source of contemplation. Water underground is often interpreted as “silent” (in both “Hallelujah Band” and “Once in a Lifetime”), but springs are allowed to burble and gurgle. So long as we have saturated conditions in a simple single-porosity system, I would bet the groundwater flow is generally difficult to hear. But remember, groundwater is under pressure (atmospheric, hydrostatic, or otherwise) and “wants” to break free (Queen references…couldn’t help myself), especially when in confined aquifers.

There is at least one more way groundwater systems can invoke contemplation. Back before powered pumps, drawing water from a well took time, and that time could be used to think through the triumphs and trials of life. Maybe that’s one reason why groundwater hydrologists are often excited to get into the field.

Quick aside, San Diego has recently started a music festival called GROUNDWATER, where modern house music is the theme. I have not yet sifted through their performers’ lyrics in search of water references, but I would gladly take your help. Words may be in low concentrations.

Join my musical adventures in groundwater and share your finds with us in the comments below!

For your hydrogeological musical pleasure:

feature image: IAH Netherlands Chapter