The Force that Drives the Water Through the Rock

Media Included

  1. The Force that Drives the Water Through the Rock - This piece, created during an artist-in-residence program at Grand Canyon, is inspired by a line from Dylan Thomas: 'The force that through the green fuse drives the flower.'
By Aaron Ximm

Aaron's composition, coming from a residency at Grand Canyon, seeks to make evoke the erosive forces that shaped the canyon, which are still happening today where visitors can hear them. His underwater recordings in particular convey the power of those forces -- in this piece, you can hear the grind and growl of rocks in motion against one another.

Artist's Statement

I made three recordings at about 40-45 locations along Hermit Creek, a feeder to the Colorado in the Canyon, starting at the confluence at Hermit Rapids and working upstream through a slot canyon along the first mile or so of that creek.

The three recordings respectively documented the underwater soundscape (with a hydrophone, i.e. underwater microphone) and two open-air microphones, one at water surface level to get the surface features; and one held above the water to capture the local ambiance. Together these three recordings offer a vertical snapshot of a particular moment in a particular place along the creek.

The project was predicated however not on documenting individual locations, but on the presentation of the entire creek's soundscape by concatenating those recordings -- so you can hear what the creek sounded like in each relative position as you move up and down along it (to 40 odd locations). The notion was that the changes in environment under- and above water create a changing set of 'notes' in the audio spectrum -- heard over time they become a melody of sorts. Well, three melodies, in counterpoint.

The point of the exercise is to make visceral and real that the erosive forces that shaped the canyon are still happening, in real time, right now, in front of us -- and that visitors can hear them. The underwater recordings in particular really convey the power of those forces -- you can hear the grind and growl of rocks in motion against one another.

With that last detail in mind I'd say the best one-shot sample of the project's output is the piece below, which I made by simply combining those hydrophone recordings. In it you hear the sound of Hermit Creek, as from a fish's perspective, swimming upstream from the rapids on the Colorado a few thousand feet up the watershed side canyon.

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.

The force that drives the water through the rocks
Drives my red blood; that dries the mouthing streams
Turns mine to wax.
And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins
How at the mountain spring the same mouth sucks.

The hand that whirls the water in the pool
Stirs the quicksand; that ropes the blowing wind
Hauls my shroud sail.
And I am dumb to tell the hanging man
How of my clay is made the hangman’s lime.

The lips of time leech to the fountain head;
Love drips and gathers, but the fallen blood
Shall calm her sores.
And I am dumb to tell a weather’s wind
How time has ticked a heaven round the stars.

And I am dumb to tell the lover’s tomb
How at my sheet goes the same crooked worm.