The Sartorial Garden

Water Music

"Happy in all that ragged, loose collapse of water, the fountain, its effortless descent and flatteries of spray." Richard Wilbur

The soothing flow of a fountain is not just a lovely sight – the mere sound of water has proven health benefits. Moving water can induce neurochemicals, enhancing relaxation and a feeling of wellness and peace. It’s no wonder that Japanese gardens or medieval cloisters included gurgling or splashing fountains that bring a sense of serenity.

Creating the perfect sound for your water fountain is both an art and a science as well as personal preference. Some fountains cascade, while others rush, splash, dribble, bubble or gurgle. Imagine the drip, drip, drip of a kitchen faucet that becomes an irritant versus the babbling brook as it dances around rocks. Water echoes the environment that surrounds it, and different water features can produce very different watery sounds.


The sound that a fountain makes is determined by the path that the water takes as it is circulated through the fountain elements. Do you want your fountain to drown out street noise or to be a quiet, contemplative centerpiece?


The fountain’s water pump can be turned up for greater volume and more of a waterfall sound and turned down for a gentler trickle, but there are often many more variables than just water volume. Other components determining a fountain sounds are the distance the water falls; the amount of water falling; the size and depth of the basin; the number of spouts or jets; and the type of material the basin is made of.

A wall fountain or flat fountain will usually be quieter than tiered fountains, since the water splashes from level to level. If the water rolls down a surface like a ledge, the water gently moves with very little noise.

Studies of the acoustical characteristics of water fountains show that listeners prefer a more natural sound with a lot of variability and randomness (think of the soft and pleasant purling-rippling sound) rather than the consistency of a single stream of water. But any type of water feature adds a lovely aural dimension, a vibrant soundscape for your landscape.

One of our favorite water features at New England Garden Ornaments are decorative masks or plaques from which water pours into a cistern or pool. These fountain spouts – usually lions, masks, or medallions – are seen throughout majestic gardens in France and Italy. Or consider a majestic centerpiece, like an English lead fountain with multiple tiers that adds a touch of old-world elegance.

The soft burbling of a fountain, the sound of the wind in the trees, your footsteps on a walkway. While ambient sounds, white noise and green scape apps are all the rage for digital devices, we prefer the real thing, a fountain of water near by.


          “Happy in all that ragged, loose collapse of water, the fountain, its effortless descent and flatteries of spray.”

Richard Wilbur in A baroque wall fountain in the Villa Sciarra.

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