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Accretionary Wedge #10: Geology in song lyrics

June 15, 2008

The theme for this month’s Accretionary Wedge geoscience blogging carnival is the aesthetics in geology — in literature, painting, poetry, all the arts. This is being hosted by and was the idea of John VH over at Geologic Musings in the Taconic Mountains. Go check it out.

As I write this post, most of the rest of the geoblogosphere’s posts on this subject are out. Go read those. At the risk of sounding all excusey, this week has been a crazy one and I’ve had no time to sit and think about this. But, I didn’t want to bail out completely, so I used this as one of those word-association experiments. What’s the very first thing that comes to mind? What came to my mind when thinking about this topic is a song by the band Phish from the early ’90s called ‘Rift’.


Last night, in the moments my thoughts were adrift
And coasting a terrace, approaching a rift
Through which I could spy several glimpses beneath
Of the darkness the light from above could not reach
I spied wings of reason, herself taking flight
And upon yonder precipice saw her alight
And glared back at me one last look of dismay
As if she were the last one she thought I’d betray

So much better I said to myself
And drawing quite close to the top of the shelf
I struggled with destiny upon the ledge
And gasped when defeated he slipped off the edge
And silence contagious in moments like these
Consumed me and strengthened my will to appease
The passion that sparked me one terrible night
And shocked and persuaded my soul to ignite

Why this song? Probably because it came up on my iPod on random the other day (that’s a pretty boring reason, I know).

Firstly, and obviously, the title of the song is geologic … rift! The imagery that the lyrics allude to are unambiguous. The words ‘precipice’, ‘edge’, ‘ledge’, ‘shelf’, and ‘terrace’ conjure up images of standing at the rim of a vast valley or basin – a rift valley as it were. The bottom of this rift valley is dark, there is an impression of it being bottomless. What is down there? What does it mean to ‘slip of the edge’ and into the darkness?

Although the imagery might be unambiguous in this case, the metaphor is subjective and interpretable, which is why we enjoy art in the first place. Enjoy this month’s theme and, as I said above, please go check out the fantastic posts by the others.


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