By Phil Lehman
The Music Runs Through It
Nothing can compare to the acoustics of towering canyon walls and deep mountain valleys. Add to this the seclusion and tranquility of a meandering river wilderness and you’ve found the perfect place to enjoy your favorite jams or make music of your own. Many outdoor amphitheaters tap into the feel and sound quality provided by these natural environments. Red Rocks Amphitheater springs to mind. Yet, these structures still can’t hold a note to the way a melodic adventure down the world’s waterways can transport you to an ethereal plane of existential experience. The way crisp tones reverberate off sandstone bluffs, or granite cliffs, to slowly dissipate beneath the gurgle of sweeping currents and lapping waves leave listeners hanging on every note.
A bit too far, you say? Not far enough by a long shot. Aaron Copland said, “So long as human spirit thrives on this planet, music in some living form will accompany and sustain it.” Wherever our spirit takes us, to the ends of civilization and into the wild, it will be on the wings of sweet music.
We Hear Music in Everything
Even in absence of playlists and musical instruments, nature provides our minds with patterns to apply and arrange into magnificent compositions. George Gershwin wrote, “I frequently hear music in the heart of noise.” The winds, the birds, the flowing mountain stream, the rustle of foliage, combine to create a delicate serenade. Not really, but we are built to perceive it as such. We are inclined to hear the music that doesn’t exist.
Music conveys our emotions, our hopes and fears. It captures our desires, passions, and heartache. Often, we are drawn to the seclusion of the river by these very hopes and desires the music we listen to present. It belongs in us, and we in it. Though, not everyone finds enjoyment in the same genre or mood of music.
In the words of Arnold Schoenberg, “if it is art, it is not for all”. What music is it that stirs your soul? What sonnet or ballad or pop hit motivates you, energizes, renews, or improves your current state of being? What lifts, inspires you to new or reimagined heights of possibility? Is it the moment the piano hits a crescendo in the intro of Bohemian Rhapsody? Or is it the impossible note held by Pavarotti at the climax of Nessun Dorma as he declares “I will win”? Whatever it may be, the power to captivate you is held within the passion of the arrangements of notes, and there is no better place for that passion to be exposed than in the remote solitude of river canyons.
Why is Music Better on the River
Obviously, music takes more affect when the listener has time to reflect, but that’s not all that is happening in this environment. The atmosphere already lends health properties to decrease your stress and lift your mood before the first note of any music hits your ears. This is tremendously beneficial to a heightened experience of listening. Additionally, the purposes for why you’re out there in the first place – for adventure, a chance to unplug, to discover – all these input themselves into the songs and anthems of your river trip. These tunes will also carry with them the positive connotations instituted during these river outings back to your busy day to day grind, and inevitable back onto the water when you return.
We enjoy concerts in the park, campfire serenades, and music when we walk, run, hike, and bike. Astronauts have even listened to music while in space. Yes, quiet is good. But listening to music is also good. Combine the two and you get The Sound of Silence. Doubly good.
Getting away from the stresses of life doesn’t include ridding yourself of the music influencing you. It’s opposite in fact. It is all inclusive to the influential music that has helped define you and anchor you where you’re at in this moment of time. Blasting down the river belting “We are the champions” enhances your experience and strengthens the memories you log away. So, belt away. Sing your little heart out and ride the waves.