Sunday, September 4, 2011

still-sound 4. Music that sounds like water

What I saw one afternoon when I came out of the Long Beach pool after swimming laps.

I've always had a thing for ethereal music. Within the ethereal music category sits a subgenre I like to call 'Music that sounds like water'.  Songs that fit this description I find impressionistic and synaesthetically pleasing. I break this subgenre down thus:

The Rocking Waves Song  
Long Time Coming by The Delays begins with a sound that's hard to describe - something like a whistle from a boat, perhaps announcing its arrival on a foggy morning. The sound makes me think of a lighthouse just as the sun is beginning to rise - the waves reflecting a silver light.  Strumming guitars and a marching dreambeat softly appear, setting the rhythm of gentle waves thinning out on shore.  It's one of the most bittersweet sounds I've ever heard in my life.

Porcelina of the Vast Oceans by The Smashing Pumpkins is a beautiful example of the musical equivalent of lapping waves.  A buoy rocks back and forth.  This technique was ingeniously used by Herbie Hancock in Maiden Voyage.  A simple theme repeats over and over, never really coming to a point, just rolling along.  A little rhythm played on a cymbal offsets the waves, creating a rocking motion.

The Shimmering Water Song

In Delius from Never Forever, Kate Bush pictures a shimmering stream reflecting sun (or moon) light in little piano sparkles.  The drum machine, hare krishna instrumentation and buzzing insects complete the picture.  My favorite pixie witch sings of a 'summer night on the water'.  Anyone who's into this kind of thing needs to do him/herself a favor and watch a clip of Kate performing this song on television.

The Oceanscape
The Cocteau Twins joined with Harold Budd and made The Moon and The Melodies in 1986.  The album is made up of dreamy soundscapes - or in this case, waterscapes.  Why Do You Love Me? was always my favorite track.  When I was in high school I had a digital
alarm clock that glowed with blue numbers and featured a built-in cassette player.  Every night before going to bed I would set the clock so that I could wake up to this song.  Arpeggios repeat on a watery sounding piano (a very Cocteau/This Mortal Coil sound) while an abstract, crystal clear guitar tone soars overhead; gliding down and up like a seagull.  I liked to wake up to this song because it was a gentle way to end my sleep, like a waterbirth.  In actual fact it was the little click noise the cassette player made when transitioning from pause to play that woke me up.  There was another track on the album, The Ghost Has No Home that suggested a hot, windless, summer day by a lake. A saxophone plays lazily as still water evaporates into the air.  I didn't like to wake up to this song as it sounded humid and hazy.  I required something more bracing.

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