Publisher: Texas A&M University Press, 2011 Order through Amazon,Barnes & Noble, or your local independent bookstore.
Louisiana's Atchafalaya River Basin, the heart and soul of Acadiana, or Cajun country, is the focus of this compelling narrative by Ann McCutchan. A masterful weaving of cultural and environmental history, River Music also tells the life story of Louisiana musician, naturalist, and sound documentarian Earl Robicheaux.
With Robicheaux as her guide, McCutchan embarks on a musical, visual, literary, and historical tour of the Atchafalaya, where bayous, swamps, marshes, and river delta country have long sustained nature and culture, even as industry has changed both the landscape and the people. Along the way, she and Robicheaux pay homage to distinctive voices of the region's singular soundscape, including Acadian and Native American elders, birds, frogs, alligators, wind, water, and weather, which Robicheaux chronicles in archival recordings and musical compositions for museum exhibits, radio programs, and repositories such as the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. In counterpoint, McCutchan recounts Robicheaux's remarkable struggles as a jazz and classical artist, Katrina victim, cancer survivor, and steadfast son of the Basin devoted to remembering, preserving, and sounding out the ecological and cultural riches of his home.
An original blend of nature writing, music history, biography, journalism, and memoir, River Music: An Atchafalaya Story eloquently celebrates the one-and-half-million watery acres that have shaped the lives of the people there-and been transformed by them in return. An epilogue written in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and the disastrous oil spill that followed provides a fitting and poignant coda to this memorable book.
River Music also includes a CD of Atchafalaya soundscapes recorded and composed by Earl Robicheaux.
Intelligent and richly engaging, this book is an eco-cultural exploration of Louisiana’s dreamy and disaster-prone Atchafalaya Swamp as it washes through the life of one of its most curious creatures, the composer and acoustic ecologist Earl Robicheaux.
-- David Abram, author of Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology and The Spell of the Sensuous
Here is wonderful book that takes the reader on a journey to the Gulf Coast and to the rivers and the bayous of Louisiana where as child, Cajun musician and composer Earl Robicheaux learned to love the natural sounds of the wind in the mossy cypress trees, the bird songs and calls, the hums and buzzes of insects, the splash of the river, and the sounds---songs and music---of the people who made their lives there. Years later these were the sounds Earl Robicheaux recorded and used to compose his sound poems and symphonies. Within Earlʼs personal story of becoming a musician and composer there are more stories---histories of the rivers and swamps and how theyʼve changed, histories of the people and cultures of the Gulf Coast, from long ago to the present. Bravo!
-- Leslie Marmon Silko, author of Ceremony and The Turquoise Ledge
Musician Ann McCutchan brings with her a fine sensibility as she tells the story of the Atchafalaya basin and its culture through the mesmerizing character of Earl, who, like the place, is engaged in a herculean struggle. Despite all odds, both the Atchafalaya and Earl hang on. The prose here is brilliant and clean. Reading this gentle, lyrical book feels like poling effortlessly along the Atchafalaya, listening to Bach. This book sings.
-- Janisse Ray, author of Ecology of a Cracker Childhood
A "wide-ranging and memorable book . . . In River Music, McCutchan expertly blends nature writing, music history, biography, journalism and memoir to craft a fitting tribute to one man -- and to his endangered environment and irreplaceable culture."