Yesterday I went trekking through Bayou Coquille at the edge of Jean Lafitte Park just outside New Orleans (on the West Bank). Four hours worth of walking mid-day during a Louisiana June lends itself to stopping once in a while to wipe the sweat off your face. Once your feet stop shuffling and after swatting a few giant flies toward the hammocked spider webs on either side of the trail, you’re left with gaping senses – sight for sure – but the sounds belching from the bayou were the most intense I’ve ever heard in nature.
I grew up in the woods of New England, but this was an entirely new experience.
Once you begin thinking in terms of soundscapes, it’s hard not to. Think of it as the typical sounds you’d hear in any particular environment. Forests, farms, restaurants, music clubs, neighborhoods, or regions can lay claim to their own soundscapes. Likewise, one particular place can have different ones depending on the time period – writers/poets use this concept alot to depict an era.
At times on the trail, wildlife laid out call & response tracks so clear and organized that I have no doubt early Louisiana music was influenced by it. Frogs and toads seemed to warn eachother along the trail that we were coming…the child inside me imagined that they were letting the gators know we were on our way…we saw seven!
So the question of the day: was it music? It’s not influenced by humans at all. Much of it sounded organized – complex percussive rhythms for long stretches. I bet a composite rhythm that looped at times could be transcribed and analyzed.
Anyway, if you’ve ever listened to one of those cheesy nature-sound albums as a relaxation tool and wondered if a place that wrought with sounds existed in nature, hike through a bayou in southern Louisiana. It felt prehistoric at times, and the soundscape was certainly memorable and unique.
Lastly, I’d like to note that the gulf oil spill is only a few miles away from the area I hiked, so I can only hope it will be as beautiful and unscathed when I return.