All Things Flow: the song, the book, and the band

No single thing abides but all things flow. - Heraclitus

This aphorism by the ancient Greek poet/philosopher has been my guiding theme for many years. It has inspired a song, a rock band, and a textbook on fluid mechanics.

The Song

Here's the song in mp3 format: AllThingsFlow. I've come up with a couple hundred songs in my life but this is my, well, one of my favorites. The 3rd verse is about the place in the picture below. That's Moraine Lake in the Canadian Rockies, where I grew up. We scattered my Dad's ashes on this spot last October. You can see where the lake was starting to freeze over. As a boy I believed I could call down avalanches, and I would sit here for hours watching them come off those mountains.

Photo of Moraine Lake

The Book

Here's the book: All Things Flow: Fluid Mechanics for the Natural Sciences. I teach fluid mechanics to grad students in oceanography and atmospheric science, but most textbooks focus on enginering applications, like flow in pipes and turbines. So I figured I'd write my own, focused on nature. It also has a philosophical bent, like, what it is to walk through a world of fluids while using math to understand those beautiful flows on a more intellectual level. Figure 1, below, shows how three classic flow structures, vortices, waves and hydraulic jumps, occur in both water and air. The online version is free, or you can order a print copy.

Figure 1

Photo credits: Vortex in water by Paul Groom photography, Tornado courtesy of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Mozambique beach waves by Barry Tuck. Fog waves in the Canadian Arctic by Scott McAuliffe. Kayakers on Itanda Falls, Uganda, Sim Davis. Sunrise over Cataloochee Ranch, North Carolina (wikimedia commons).
If you're interested in oceanography or turbulence, you can find more about the work of Oregon State University's Ocean Mixing Group here.

The Band

The band was called The Flow. We played around the Willamette Valley from about 2006-2016, if memory serves. For a local band playing original music we did okay. We recorded two cds plus quite a few live tracks and videos. If you like you can download them here (the price is right!).

Our first cd was called (naturally) All Things Flow. At this stage the band included Don Thorp (vocals, drums), Mike Grattan (bass), Rita Brown (vocals, guitar, keys) and me (guitar, fascist songwriter). Susan Peck created the brilliant synthesized orchestra on the title cut. I especially like the album cover, made by my brother-in-law, Greg Smith and ace photoshopist Diane Thies:

All Things Flow front cover
Besides the title cut (above) the cd includes:

H.J. - About an old friend and bad influence.

I'm Too Cool To Talk To My Mother - Any resemblance to Kevin and Ryan Diltz is purely coincidental. (That's my stepsons, and they've grown into fine young men who talk to their mother plenty.)

Shining Blue - A sad love song.

Kenny - Sung by my wife Rita Brown (Corvallis Gazette-Times favorite female vocalist, 2010).

Don't You - A rare political rant to celebrate November, 2008.

Please Ms. Tease - I just imagined the great Don Thorp singing and filled in the blanks. It's got lots of Mike Grattan's trademark funky bass riffs too.

About You - My attempt to write like John, Paul & George.

Prairie Winds - A little Alberta humor.

Beat That Devil - Influenced by The Band. I'm not much of a churchgoer, but I do love gospel imagery.

Home Cookin' - Another one tailor-made for Don.

And the big finish:

Macon Jones - A folk ballad with a touch of Zeppelin. This is my "other" best song.

We recorded each song live in the studio, then replaced the tracks one by one, keeping only the original drums. Then each track had to be tweaked (equalized, reverbed, etc.) Technology enabled us to do this ourselves rather than rent a studio with a pro engineer. This is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, you can take all the time you want; on the other hand, you can take all the time you want. We took many, many hours, mostly trying to make up for our lack of expertise. If you'd like the real cd you can probably still get it on iTunes, Amazon, etc.

The small print: These songs are free for the taking, but are also copyrighted by yours truly (William D. Smyth). If you have a commercial purpose in mind, let me know and we'll figure something out.

Anyway, Don moved on to more lucrative ventures, leaving me to manage his vocal parts. There are, um, no recordings from that period. In 2010 the band split up entirely when my work took Rita and I away to Europe for 9 months. But on our return, miraculously, Mike was still speaking to us, and what's more there was a new drummer in town. After an audition that lasted about 10 seconds, Jed Irvine was invited (okay, begged) to join the band. AND having Jed upped our game to the point that we were able to entice Charlie Parker (the musical genius, not the sax player) to join us on keyboards. With Jed and Charlie aboard we started on our second cd, Spring Wind. Here's the cover, drawn by another artistic in-law, Linda Cline:

Spring wind front cover
Spring Wind is mellower than All Things Flow. See what you think.

Spring Wind - A song of reassurance for scary times.

One More Time - An exotic (for us) love song. The intro was a group improvisation. Later, we had to "learn" it so we could do it on stage.

Almost Didn't See You There - Dang crazy cyclists!

Katie Moon - Hard times for an old friend. That's our friends' son Taz Thenell on the fiddle. Purely improvised, one take.

Jupiter - About an amazing young woman we met at the Oregon School for the Blind.

Teddy - Encounter with a street punk. Rock is so much youth music; it's hard for an old fogey to write it truthfully. I had trouble finding the story until it occurred to me that Rita could sing it from a mother's perspective; then it wrote itself.

Wake Up Jenny - A ballad in the style of the great Lightfoot. Taz again on the fiddle; Charlie on the melodica; Rita on the whistle.

Megan's Lament - A relic from days of yore when Rita and I were a folk duo. Certain naysayers in the band tried to convince me to not to include this song. But with faith in my art I perservered, and sure enough, it sucked. (Just kidding. You might like it. But it doesn't really fit the cd.)

Walk Away - An 80s-style power ballad.

Menai - "Menai" is the Welsh name for the Isle of Anglesey, where Rita and I lived for part of our European sojourn. Amazing, stunning place; wonderful people.

No Place to Cry - There's a treasure here - a Rob Birdwell cornet solo.

Harbour - I wish I'd written this one, but it's a cover by Vienna Teng. We were honored that our young friend Madison used it in a dance performance. You have to be young, because it's in 5/4 time. If I tried to dance to it I'd be in traction.

Screamin' Yellow Thunder - Song about a school bus, with an echo of "Thelma and Louise". Rita made up the story; I just made it rhyme.

Spring Wind (acoustic) -This is my original demo for the title cut, with extra guitars and harmonies added later.

We always felt like our studio recordings missed the energy of a live performance. Playing live, you're singing to actual people, not just a microphone and a wall. The result is technically less "clean" and may in fact have lots of mistakes, but is much better in terms of genuiine communication. So, we decided to try it. We set up a show at Imagine Coffee in Corvallis, our favorite venue. With help of artistic in-law #3, genius sound engineer Steve Smith, we recorded the show. We warned the audience that anything they said would be preserved for posterity, which inspired them to talk through our songs less than usual. We never managed to make it into an actual cd, but some of the songs came out pretty well. Here are a few samples.

Other - This is about the difficulty, and value, of understanding what life feels like to another person. It gave us a chance to experiment with some world music styles, inspired by the incredible Derek Trucks.

High Water - My attempt to remedy the dearth of songs about climatology.

Down The Lane - A tale of income inequality.

Free Money For Millionaires - Political songs often have a short shelf life. This one was written in advance of the 2016 election, and it forecasted the tenor of the debate about as well as the pollsters forecasted the results.

Carry Me To The River - A song from a nameless war.

Blow It Away - Our goodnight song. Tip your barista!

Encore? Okay, we have the random video collection.

Here's a fun song that didn't make it onto either cd for no good reason at all, (I've Got the) House To Myself:

And this is us attempting a classic rock, erm, classic, at the Old World Deli: Yes's Roundabout

Here's Blow It Away again, recorded at the 2014 Corvallis Independent Music and Arts (CIMA) festival. At the end you'll hear a cool spontaneous jam with the Adams Elementary School Marimba Band.

Here is Other, this time at Emerson Vineyards, August 2016.

And finally, we were honored to play in a tribute concert for our hero and mentor Neal Gladstone. Here are excerpts from two of Neal's songs, Blackberry and Adhesive Steve:

We had some guests for that special show: my fellow oceanographer Jenny Thomas on trumpet, Alia on flute, and Jay Yaich on keys. Alia and Jay joined the band soon after.

So thanks for looking through this compilation. I confess it feels a bit self-indulgent. The Heraclitus quote that is the theme has also inspired other endeavors, from yoga studios to plumbing supplies. I was fortunate to get to the URL first. If you are one of those folks, let me know and I'll link to your page.

Take good care,

Pic of me