Water Music

The Volcano Room was created by water.

The Volcano Room was created by water. Now music is performed within this natural amphitheatre.

This week’s blog is by Laurie Loftin, Program Specialist in ACC Water Conservation Office

In my visits to schools, I often ask children to name something they can’t live without.  I get all types of responses: basketball, phone, family, video games, clothes, air, and water.  I write the responses and then ask the children to tell me which items on the list were not around 1,000 years ago.  I systematically cross these objects off to illustrate what is truly necessary for life vs. what is nice to have.  Recently a child added the word “music” to our list.  When going through the process of elimination, I felt uneasy at the thought of crossing out music.  No, it is not considered one of the basic necessities for our survival like water, air, and food.  But isn’t it essential for our survival, too?

I recently read the obituary of Alice Herz-Sommer.  Aged 110 at the time of her passing, she was the oldest Holocaust survivor.  She, along with other musicians, was spared from the gas chambers so she could give concerts for prisoners, guards, and the Red Cross representatives who came to visit.  When she describes playing for the prisoners, she says “they lived for the music.  It was like food to them.  If they hadn’t come [to hear us], they would have died long before.  As we would have.”   She compares music to food.  I compare it to water.  Each allows us to survive.

I recently combined music and water, travelling 333 feet underground to hear music from Athens’ own Widespread Panic.  The show was part of PBS Television’s award winning series “Bluegrass Underground”.  The band played in a subterranean amphitheatre called the Volcano Room, which is located in the Cumberland Caverns of McMinnville, Tennessee.

This acoustic marvel would not exist if not for water. It you were to look under the surface of Tennessee, you would find a thick layer of limestone bedrock.  Thousands of years of groundwater erosion of this limestone has led to Tennessee being credited with the highest number of known caves in the United States.  The Volcano Room was created when two rivers, one travelling north to south and the other east to west, crossed paths and formed a large whirlpool.  The swirling rivers carved out the incredible room I stood in.  Entering down into the cave I passed a waterfall and small pool, a subtle reminder of the water that created this incredible room I was entering.

I watched the crowd gathered in the Volcano Room and was awed.  Water had the power to create this space; music has the power to bring people together within it.  The world instantly became a smaller place as strangers soon became friends through a shared passion for a band.  From the time of the caveman, music is something we have passed on from generation to generation. Humans took a break from hunting, collecting water, and building fire to create music.  Why would we take time away from securing the “essentials” to do such a thing, when not gathering these items could certainly result in death?  We did so because music nourishes our spirit.  It provided comfort and inspiration for Alice Herz-Sommer and those she played for.  Music was instrumental in her survival to 110.  We need it.  Like water, it is something we cannot live without.  Music is the food and water for our soul.

I did not cross music off the list.


Little Lily sits by an underground water feature. We held her back from jumping in.


Little Lily was a Chilly Water frog. 🙂


Mining for gems is a fun family activity that uses water.


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