River Music
An Atchafalaya Story
5.5 x 8.5, 224 pp.
37 b&w photos. CD. Index.
Pub Date: 09/01/2011
Gulf Coast Books, sponsored by Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
  cloth
Price:        $24.95

978-1-60344-289-3
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River Music

An Atchafalaya Story

Ann McCutchan

With CD, Atchafalaya Soundscapes, by Earl Robicheaux

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. A CD of Robicheaux's soundscapes is included with the book. 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.

 

Award-winning writer and musician ANN MCCUTCHAN is an associate professor of creative writing at the University of North Texas and the author of three previous books. In 2010 she was writer in residence at the Thinking Like a Mountain Foundation in Fort Davis, Texas.

What Readers Are Saying:

"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

 


"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. The book sings."--Janisse Ray, author of Ecology of a Cracker Childhood

"At the center of the narrative is Earl Robicheaux who after a life changing event turned from musician to chronicling the Atchafalaya Basin through field recordings that are archived in museums and institutions such as the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. "--Swede White, WRKF 89.3

"Author Ann McCutchan. 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. ith 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."--WFAE Newsletter


"Ann McCutchan, associate professor of creative writing, takes readers on a journey along the Atchafalaya River Basin in Louisiana in her latest book, River Music: An Atchafalaya Story (Texas A&M University Press). McCutchan focuses on musician Earl Robicheaux, who records the sounds of nature and animals in North America’s largest rainforest during a time he endures cancer, Hurricane Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill. This is McCutchan’s fourth book, which includes a CD of Robicheaux’s work. Also this year, she released her third book, a collection of personal essays titles Circular Breathing: Meditations From a Musical Life (Sunstone Press)."--UNT Muse

 


"Louisiana’s Atchafalaya River Basin, the heart and soul of Acadiana, or Cajun country, is the focus of McCutchan’s compelling narrative. A weaving of cultural and environmental history, “River Music: An Atchafalaya Story,” also tells the life story of Louisiana musician, naturalist, and sound documentarian Earl Robicheaux. An original blend of nature writing, music history, biography, journalism and memoir, “River Music: An Atchafalaya Story” eloquently celebrates the 1.5 million watery acres that have shaped the lives of the people there and been transformed by the people in return. An epilogue written in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and the devastating oil spill that followed provides a fitting and emotional addition to this memorable book."--Daily-Review Online
 


"Author and musician Ann McCutchan blends memoir, reportage and nature writing in her 2011 book, 'River Music: An Atchafalaya Story...wide-ranging and memorable book..."--Diana Pinckley, nola.com


"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 Earl's personal story of becoming a musician and composer there are more stories---histories of the rivers and swamps and how they've 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


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