Ranger Kathryn's Arches

August 31, 2012

A geologic symphony

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 9:39 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Christopher Layer playing the great highland pipes at Grand View Point.

There I was at the Farmers’ Market in Moab, representing the National Park Service at a booth. Along came a musician, an artist-in-residence type, and BAM before you knew it a plan had arisen for him to provide live music for my geology talk the next week.

Music is a wondrous metaphor. It serves well when words fall short. It connects both halves of the brain, helps build relationships in our minds, strengthens our understanding. Crossing language barriers, it stirs emotion and is a powerful tool in the work of interpretation.

Ranger Kathryn, all ears, listening to bagpipe interpretation of geologic processes.

But… musical geology??? YES. Great composers have written about magnificent formations (Grofe’, Grand Canyon Suite) or mountains (Mussorgsky, Night on Bald Mountain) or an entire solar system (Holst, The Planets). Surely Canyonlands National Park could provide the inspiration for improvised interludes of flute and bagpipe and Uilleann pipe music between the movements of my own geologic symphony.

Improv keeps you on your toes and opens you to new ideas. The playlist that I use in my regular geology talk is comprised of classical music excerpts; this day it was whatever the musician was moved to play. I’ll let you try to imagine what lithification (process of turning sediment to rock) might sound like on the pipes.

Thanks, Christopher Layer, for moving me out of my comfort zone and bringing your creativity to my Sunday ranger talk!


  1. Sorry I missed this! Interesting how this association between music and geology keeps coming up.

    Comment by midsummerman — August 31, 2012 @ 10:08 am | Reply

    • Would love to hear other ideas about this connection. The more I explore it, the more fun it becomes…

      Comment by Kathryn Burke — August 31, 2012 @ 2:29 pm | Reply

  2. Hi Kathryn,
    Thanks so much for sharing your journey. Sawyer connected with you during our visit this past June and loves keeping up with you.

    Comment by TRACY PIEPHO — August 31, 2012 @ 11:45 am | Reply

    • To Sawyer: you are AMAZING as a junior ranger! I hope you can see as many national parks as possible. Keep your curiosity fresh! Ask lots of questions! Look at the world with wonder! And… study music! Hope to see you again next time you are in Utah. Have a great year at school!

      Comment by Kathryn Burke — August 31, 2012 @ 2:34 pm | Reply

  3. Christopher LAYER improvised music for a SEDIMENTARY geology talk???
    Too much!!!

    Comment by leroque — August 31, 2012 @ 12:56 pm | Reply

    • I did not think that would be lost on you, Dad. He’s also fascinated by geology.

      Comment by Kathryn Burke — August 31, 2012 @ 2:37 pm | Reply

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