Flood Moves Columbia Composer to Write Jazz Tune
Columbia-local and Jazz musician Mark Rapp saw the impacts of October's flood firsthand. It was devastating, forcing people out of their homes and businesses captured on the news and social media. Along with the devastation though, Rapp watched the flood bring out generosity and empathy - seeing volunteers, charities, and rescue teams lend a hand. Cooper McKim speaks with Rapp to investigate the meaning behind Water Be Still.
Rapp's composition details a fictional man who survived the flood and struggled with its impacts. The story was inspired by real events. Even as the rain stopped in Columbia, Rapp saw the river continue to rise. The lyrics of Water Be Still respond to that. He says, "people would think they're on the verge of recovery and the next news report, 'This river is still rising.' The first phrase is 'water be still, please, just stop already.' And the person's like, 'I'm not that strong, lord you've got to help, I cannot do this.' And then the person has to have their own inner convictions like you've got to find your own strength. And they finally decide, I will carry on, I will not give up."
Rapp says the music came to him quickly. The hard part was creating the story behind it. As news and social media accounted the flood's devastation, Rapp struggled to see the piece as anything but a testament to the storm's damage. Within days, he realized he wanted to focus on how people responded to the damage. "You see black and white, rich and poor, people rescuing animals, the best sides of humanity was coming out after this disaster. And that was beautiful to see," he says.
He says the first eight to sixteen bars are somber, but are quickly followed by a more optimistic, "child-like" tone. He hopes Water Be Still will help uplift people and remind them of what's important. He says, "So on the one hand yeah, things are bad. But we helped each other, and things are getting better all the time. That's the story of the blues, jazz, the story of dealing with life. We deal with it head one, we don't hide from it, we deal with it. And we become better because of it."
Rapp says he's always wanted to help people and he sees music as a way to do that. He made Water Be Still free online along with the sheet music and a video to ensure anyone who wanted to hear it, could. Rapp hopes the message of the piece lasts, saying, "So if these lyrics can in some way keep this spirit alive in South Carolina that we are still in this together, even when this flood is gone and everything is back to quote-unquote normal. Lets not stop helping each other, smiling at each other, you know."
Rapp recorded Water Be Still with friends. Amos Hoffman played the guitar and a middle-eastern string instrument called the oud. Glynis Martin played the bass, and Edwin Hamilton sang and played drums.
Mark Rapp says he owes a debt of thanks to Jangly Records and Paul Bodamer for their help and support in the production of Water Be Still.