An interdisciplinary journal about regions, places, and cultures of the US South and their global connections
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  • Rebuilding the "Land of Dreams": Expressive Culture and New Orleans' Authentic Future

    Nick Spitzer, University of New Orleans

    29 August 2006

    Folklorist Nick Spitzer, host of Public Radio International’s American Routes, discusses the impact of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans musicians and craftspeople and argues for their central role in rebuilding the city. He considers a repertory of New Orleans music filled with references to the city’s geography and past natural disasters, illustrating how contemporary musicians revisit and revise tradition.

    Rebuilding the Land of Dreams


    Use the scroller to the right of the playlist to watch all eight parts of the talk and the question and answer session.


    About Nick Spitzer

    Nick Spitzer, folklorist and anthropologist, is known for his work with community-based cultures of the Gulf Coast, American vernacular music, musicians, craftspeople, documentary media, and public cultural policy. He is the creator and host of Public Radio International's weekly program, American Routes, based in New Orleans and heard on over two hundred and twenty-five stations. Spitzer was founding director of the Louisiana Folklife Program and senior folklife specialist at the Smithsonian Institution. He has produced ethnographic films, radio documentaries and CDs on traditional culture, and he is co-editor of the book Public Folklore (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992).

    With the exception of the Q & A session, the video of Spitzer's lecture was made at Emory University on March 9, 2006 in a presentation sponsored by the American Studies Program. All contemporary images of New Orleans are used with permission from Nick Spitzer, unless otherwise noted. For information on historic images, see Recommended Resources. Documentary footage included in Part 4 of plasterer and Seventh Ward resident Earl Barthé creating a molding in his workshop is courtesy of Marjorie Hunt.

    Recommended Resources


    Marjorie Hunt, Creole mason.

    Marjorie Hunt, Creole mason.
    Harper's Weekly, March 30, 1861; p. 196.
    Photograph of Basin Street, circa 1900.
    David Wharton, "View from Algiers Ferry."
    David Wharton, "View from Algiers Ferry," New Orleans, Louisiana, 2002.


    Selected excerpts from American Routes "After the Storm" series:

    Interview with New Orleans native and trumpeter Wynton Marsalis (RealMedia, 17:32 min.)

    Spitzer visits pianist Henry Butler. (RealMedia, 10:52 min.)
    Butler discusses returning to a home that had taken six feet of water during hurricane Katrina.


    © American Routes
    American Routes
    A Public Radio International show hosted by Nick Spitzer.
    © American Federation of Musicians
    American Federation of Musicians: New Orleans Local 174-496
    Union of New Orleans Musicians
    © The Brookings Institute
    The Brookings Institute
    Special Edition of the Katrina Index
    ©  The Hurricane Digital Memory Bank
    Hurricane Digital Memory Bank
    Collecting and preserving the stories of Rita and Katrina.
    Hurricane Katrina Maps
    Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection at University of Texas, Austin
    ©  Hurricane Katrina & Rita Clearinghouse Cooperative
    Hurricane Katrina & Rita Clearinghouse Cooperative
    Established by Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge.
    Katrina Scatters New Orleans' Musicians
    A National Public Radio report from September 14, 2005.
    © The Guardian
    The Day the Music Died
    An audio slide show from The Guardian's website.,,1841653,00.html
    ©  NOLA
    "Everything New Orleans"


    Print Materials

    Brinkley, Douglas. The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. New York: William Morrow, 2006.

    Hankins, Jonn Ethan ed. Raised to the Trade: Creole Building Arts of New Orleans. New Orleans, LA: New Orleans Museum of Art, 2003.

    Spitzer, Nick, John F. Szwed, Robert Farris Thompson and Roger D. Abrahams. Blues for New Orleans: Mardi Gras And America's Creole Soul. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006.

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