Water is instrumental. Rubbing your finger around the rim of a glass produces a pitch; glasses filled with different amounts of water produce different pitches; a glass harmonica consists of a set of such glasses. Think it’s goofy? Sure, but Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Strauss, and many others wrote music for it.
Water is frictional. Ben Franklin designed a glass harmonica in which glass bowls of different sizes were arrayed on a spinning rod. There’s no water in the bowls, but to activate the sound the finger had to be moistened.
Water is calm. Franklin successfully confirmed the ancient Greek experiment proving that pouring a small quantity oil would calm choppy waters. (That Gulf of Mexico must be darned calm, eh?)
Water is significant. Felix Mendelssohn wrote an overture entitled Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage, inspired by Ludwig van Beethoven’s (rarely played) cantata of the same name. Some 70 years later, Edward Elgar composed a theme with a set of variations, each of which described how he imagined the theme would sound had one of his friends written it. Elgar was comfortably but not passionately married, his youthful paramour having broken off their engagement and having left by boat for New Zealand. As for the set of variations, Elgar acknowledged the work’s “dark secret,” much argued over and never revealed. Unlike the other variations, which are titled with the initials of the friend in question, the last variation is titled “***” and given the descriptor “Romanza.” If that wasn’t enough to point to the “dark secret,” it includes a quotation from Mendelssohn’s overture to signify an ocean journey. Could the dark secret be his lifelong pining for lost love? Could it be anything else?
Water is bucolic. Beethoven’s Pastorale-Symphony (no. 6) describes a trip to the country. The second movement is “Scene by the Brook.”
Water is wet. The convivial frolicking occurring later in that symphony ends abruptly with the first drops of rain, which portend a virulent thunderstorm.
Water is a bad idea. Robert Schumann jumped into the Rhine river in the middle of winter in an unsuccessful attempt at suicide.
Water is a really bad idea. Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky knowingly drank a glass of unboiled water during a cholera epidemic, and died of that dreaded disease just five days later.
Water is noisy. Of Antonio Vivaldi’s four colorfully descriptive violin concertos that constitute The Four Seasons, “Winter” offers rain, extreme cold, and then the frightful sound of ice cracking.
Water is festive. That cracked ice no doubt comes in handy for the drunken bacchanal Vivaldi describes in “Autumn.”