The Percussive Soundscape of Bayou Coquille

IPhone post:

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.



  1. I like to think the incessant rhythm of us slapping away mosquitos and flies – and poisonous caterpillers – contributed to the soundscape!

  2. I earnestly suggest you get into a studio as soon as you can and record something, like you used to do. All that stuff in your head ought to go somewhere other than into a blog! (Yes I know you’re in the middle of a move to FL, but seize the first opportunity! Oh, and of course FL has the ‘Glades…)

    1. Amen to that…

      I don’t have access to the studio much longer (a couple months), so I need to strip everything of mine off the hard drive in there. Meanwhile, I need to pump up my MacBook software so I can have comparable sessions at home. I’m waiting to see what they want me to get for equipment in Florida for field recordings. SO…EXCITED… !!!

      p.s. I’m hoping to hop on a stage krewe in FL somewhere to have studio access again. I would hate to lose those skills by not using them!

      p.p.s. I’ve been video-recording almost everything I hear with my iPhone. Will post things once in a while.

      1. Yes you really MUST retrieve everything from the UNO hard drive – I used to have lots of recordings by you but heaven knows where they are – and pimp/pump up the MacBook (can I get fries with that?) ‘s software.

        Ah… the toys, the toys! You’re a closet techie, admit it! 😀

  3. The tracks you’re talking about were peeled off the studio hard drive years ago and transfered to Vicki (my old iBook). If I can get a new keyboard for it ( it’s the one that had a stroke in the chicken noodle soup incident) then I will move them onto this one and re-send them… 🙂

    P.S. – Closet my arse 🙂

    1. PS. Abby Sciuto would simply take out the hard drive and… um… do some magic to it, and be able to tell you the colour of your mother’s eyes, let alone find some lost tracks! 😀

  4. (Just listening to the exchange of comments and smiling)

    An interesting (theoretical) project could be to layer the sounds of the bayou with the sounds of the oil “clean-up”, if it can even be called that yet.

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