Grand Isle Diaries
Grand Isle is Louisiana’s only inhabited barrier island. As an early home to the pirate Jean Lafitte, the island has long maintained a sentimental and romantic place in the history of the Pelican State. Yet beyond the historical romance, Grand Isle serves as a literal buffer to the destructive hurricane forces for many inland communities such as Houma and New Orleans. The island is also the place of rest for migrating song birds headed north from Latin America in the spring. Taken together then, Grand Isle holds tremendous historical, environmental and cultural importance to Louisiana and the U.S.
In many respects, Grand Isle serves as the ultimate metaphor for Louisiana’s vanishing coast. It is steeped in rich history involving nationalities from across the world that created a distinct coastal culture. Yet, it is a place where environmental vulnerability makes the future uncertain, and where the residents are unsure about their long-term survival on the coast. This combined historical importance and environmental insecurity led to the creation of this project as a way to educate the public about these very important issues.
This soundscape project – Grand Isle Diaries – is an attempt to document Grand Isle’s rich history and culture, as well as its environmental importance, for today’s society and for future generations. The soundscape offers more than a simple collection of oral histories. Artist and composer Earl Robicheaux does a masterful job of integrating Grand Isle residents’ own stories with the sounds of the island to convey the environmental essence of this unique coastal community. Robicheaux uses the island sounds of local music, blowing wind, lapping water, ringing church bells, singing song birds, and the envelope of frog and insect night sounds to provide aural backdrops to Grand Isle stories in a way that brings to listener on a soundscape journey to the island. Close your eyes, take your shoes off, and become transported to the island … no matter where you are.
Notes by the composer …
I was given the honor to field record this project. Indeed, it was an honor to hear the many stories of survival and death which the residents of Grand Isle have experienced. I wanted to capture the saltiness of the air and water through the voices themselves. It is the job of any composer to reflect on any current social situation. I would extend this by including man’s current relationship to nature itself. The evidence for sea level rise is global – vanishing coastlines in Alaska, arctic tundra sinking and collapsing, the melting of massive glaciers around Greenland and Antarctica, islands in the Pacific and Indian oceans disappearing. Grand Isle remains as a metaphor for rapidly disappearing coastlines in the United States. It has been the only humanly inhabited island on the Gulf Coast and now faces extinction. It is a “canary in the mine,” if you will, with respect to all U.S. and global coastlines. I envisioned a project in sound much like the visual artist Joseph Cornell. All his boxed constructions appear to me as diaries. A remembrance, a keeper of dreams, and as such a barometer of change.
Special thanks to all participants: Clovis Rigaud, Russell Crosby, Roger Camardelle, Leon Camardelle, Ambrose Besson, Arthur Bellanger, Jeanne Landry, Sue Galliano, Ruven St. Pierre, Leoda Bladsacker, Frank Besson, Wilburn Bradberry and Mayor David Camardelle.
This recording is dedicated to the memory of Dovie Naquin, Pointe Aux Chene, La.
This recording is also dedicated to all those victims of the many hurricanes which have ravaged the island, especially the Cheniere Caminada storm of 1893.
— Earl Robicheaux
Song Name: “O mio babbino caro” from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi
Composer: Giacomo Puccini
Composer’s Performance Rights Organization: PD (Public Domain)
Publisher: Public Domain
Publisher’s Performance Rights Organization: PD (Public Domain) Permission granted by Unique Tracks for use of the Puccinni aria “O Mio Babbino.”
Field recorded, composed, edited, pre-mix at Atchafalaya Studios. Earl Robicheaux
Edited, post-mix, mastered at Garfish Studios. Michael Rock.
Production Supervision – Earl Robicheaux