In the face of scorching temperatures and after trudging through last year’s non-soon, there’s nothing Tucsonans welcome more than the sounds of a summer storm.
It’s the smell of the creosote, the pitter-patter of rain drops, the crackling of thunder and the croaking of the toads after a good soaking.
A new project, launched by Tucson Water in partnership with local artist Alexandra Jimenez, seeks to capture the sounds, and the feeling, of monsoons, with the help of the community.
Tucson Water is one of four utility companies in the country to win a $20,000 grant from the U.S. Water Alliance’s inaugural Water, Arts, and Culture Accelerator program, designed to bring artists and utilities together to address water issues.
“... A big part of the inspiration for this project came out of identifying early on as a team that listening was something that Tucson Water wanted to engage in with the public,” said Jimenez, who worked with others in the community and at Tucson Water to develop the concept for the Chubasco/Monsoon audio project.
“They (Tucson Water) have wanted to build trust in the community and create more active relationships, and listening is key to any relationship building.”
Kelly Wiehe, with Tucson Water’s Public Information and Conservation Office, said visual artist Jimenez will bring art projects to communities around the Santa Cruz over the next year and will make sure that Tucson Water learns of any concerns that are expressed.
But at the center of the project are the audio recordings of the chubascos.
Originally, Jimenez thought a phone number people could call to listen to the sounds of the rain would work.
“The more we talked about it, we realized people wouldn’t stay on the phone that long,” said Jimenez with a laugh.
“Then we thought we could put it on a YouTube channel that you could listen to and people could experience a storm whenever they want, whether it is a drought or in the winter.”
That was the winner. Three minutes of quietly listening to a monsoon can be an eye-opener, said Jimenez.
“When we do that we notice things, birds, flies, all sorts of stuff about the environment around us. Just the exercise of it is a way to commune with the rain.”
Paying attention to the rain is especially important now, said Jimenez.
“Rain amounts have fallen because of global warming,” said the Tucson native. “It’s been interesting remembering my storms as a child and hearing them now. Most people can attest that the severity and strength of storms have changed.”
When we listen to the rain, we become more aware of water issues.
“It’s reflecting on our water cycle, where our water goes. I think it’s a reminder of the preciousness of water in Tucson.”
Capture the rain
Tucson Water and Jimenez are asking for help recording the sounds of the rains for Tucson Water’s Chubasco/Monsoon audio project.
If you have a smartphone, just hit record when it’s raining and upload your audio at tucsonaz.gov/water/chubasco. There are tips on how to make a solid recording on the website.
And if you have memories about the monsoons, jot those down at the site, too.
Once the sounds have been recorded, Jimenez will work with professional sound engineers and sound artists. The plan is to debut the audio on YouTube on June 24, 2022, — that’s Día de San Juan, when Tucson traditionally holds a fiesta to celebrate the start of the monsoon.