On the water *updated 13 September*

**** UPDATE: the sponsored swim has been cancelled due to a period of of national mourning following the death of the UK’s monarch. The swim will still take place at a different time, but anyone donating has been offered a refund. ****


For many in the Brighton area, living by the sea is a great inspiration. And Bridget Taylor, New Note Trustee, is no exception. This year, on September 17th, Bridget will be doing a sponsored swim to raise money for the New Note Orchestra. She told us about why she’s doing this, and we looked at some great water-themed music. 

A source of joy and comfort, an essential medium for transport, and the origin of life itself — waterways make up two-thirds of our world and have long fascinated humankind. It is no wonder that water has been a favourite muse for musicians throughout the ages.

Some of the earliest would surely have been folk songs about humans’ relationships with the water. Throughout time, people have sung about ships, boats, even submarines, and the trials and tribulations that have faced those working on them. 

Although made famous on The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds album, ‘Sloop John B’ is a Bahamian folk song that probably dates from the 1800s, though it was first transcribed in 1916. One of the earliest recorded versions is from Blind Blake Higgs. The song centres around the ship Sloop John B and the unlucky characters aboard it.


Music, including singing, played an important part in the life of sailors and those with close connections to the sea. “Poor Old Horse” is an old English folk song about the horses used to pull the canal barges that carried trade throughout Britain. Even though it was about the canals, for many years, it was sung by sailors to celebrate their first month at sea. Contemporary English folk band Stick in the Wheel recorded a faithful rendition on their 2018 album Follow Them True.

The Danube, the second longest river in Europe, has been of cultural and strategic importance throughout Europe for centuries. It was once the frontier for the Roman Empire, has been essential for trade since earliest times, and still acts as a border for many European countries. It also inspired one of Western classical music’s most famous waltzes: Johann Strauss II’s “The Blue Danube.”

Deep blue

Fewer bands are as associated with seas and oceans as The Beach Boys. From their earliest days, they sang about surfing, merging the instrumental sounds of surf rock with incredible harmonies to become the biggest band in America. However, musical director Brian Wilson was pathologically afraid of the ocean and kept away from it. This didn’t stop the band from creating some of the most famous songs about being on the water, such as “Surfin USA,” from their second album, all the way through to “Sail on Sailor” from their 1973 album Holland.

R.E.M. also sang about the joys of being in the water in their beloved track from 1992’s Automatic For the People, “Nightswimming.” The song describes times in the band’s youth when they would go skinny dipping at night, drawing on themes of innocence, nostalgia, and loss. 

Elixir of life

With water being so central to our existence, it’s not surprising that it’s used as a symbol. In “Once in a Lifetime,” David Byrne used the imagery of water holding him down to representthe consumer trappings of modern life causing him to watch his life flow by like a river. 

Fela Kuti, on the other hand, invoked water’s elemental power in “Water No Get Enemy” off of his 1970 album Expensive Shit. Based on Yoruba proverbs, Kuti reminds the listener that water is essential. The lyric,“If you wan cook soup, na water you go use,” suggests that those fighting for just causes work with nature.

But of course, water is not always safe. Of all the famous motifs from Hollywood film composer John Williams, surely one of the most threatening is the theme tune to Jaws. The gradually building pattern of two notes is now instantly recognisable and synonymous with the fear that something none too friendly will come at us. 

We have been assured that there are no sharks in Serpetine Lake, where New Note Trustee Bridget Taylor will be doing her sponsored swim to raise money for the orchestra on September 17th. 

“Swimming reminds me of my father, who taught me as a child, and who gave me the confidence to enjoy the water. I have never taken it too seriously, in terms of distance and timings, but when the opportunity came up to do a sponsored swim in the Serpentine, I thought it would be a good challenge to take on. It also gave me the chance to train with a friend in the sea and at Saltdean Lido this summer, which has been great, and to raise money for New Note Projects. I love looking up at the sky and back at the land when you are in the sea, it gives a different perspective on the world in all senses,” Bridget told us. 

Of course, we’re deeply grateful for her contribution. 

“I know from personal experience how hard it is to achieve and manage recovery from addiction. There is not enough support out there, and addiction still carries a stigma for those who have experienced it. So I support New Note Projects because it provides a safe and fun environment for people in recovery to work with their peers, develop skills, and create great music, of course! The quality of the music and the live performances with personal testimony open a window into the world of recovery — showing the community what can be achieved if time and money is put into these services.” 

Good luck, Bridget! You can sponsor Bridget by clicking on her Just Giving link. HERE


And to help you on your way, here’s a aqua-themed playlist




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