In-Depth Songscape: Katahdin Woods & Waters Recreation Area

In The Maine Woods, Thoreau brings us to the “mossy and moosey” forests, rivers, and lakes of the northernmost state of New England. His writing transports us from reading chairs and puts our minds among mosquitos and balsam air. “…at night the general stillness is more impressive than any sound, but occasionally you hear the note of an owl farther or nearer in the woods, and if near a lake, the semi-human cry of the loons at their unearthly revels.” With Sustain’s first Songscape songwriting retreat at Katahdin Woods & Waters Recreation Area, we will be bringing a new sound to the Maine woods. And it is our hope that this new song will be able to evoke the same imagery and feel of the landscape that inspires its lyrics and rhythms. With Americana folk band, Parsonsfield, crafting the music, we think we can bring a new wave of appreciation to the wilds of Maine.

Parsonsfield and Katahdin Woods & Waters Recreation Area (KWWRA) are the first participants in Sustain’s Songscape project. Songscapes are band songwriting retreats hosted at, and by, public land organizations. Sustain matches bands and public land stewardship groups for a week of outdoor recreation, ecological education, and landscape immersion. Bands use these experiences as inspiration to write a song. After the retreat, the song is professionally recorded and donated to the host land organization to use in their marketing materials. The song is also sold online, with proceeds being split between the musicians, Sustain, and the land group.

Sustain believes that crafting emotional connections to nature is integral to fostering an environmental ethic. Music excels at drawing out emotions in listeners, and it is our hope that Songscape songs will help craft connections between audiences and landscapes. We want bands’ audiences to be introduced to great public lands via great music. We also want bands who care about the environment to gather new fans from the organizations and landscapes that host them. Songscapes celebrate both the natural world and excellent music.

Parsonsfield, who will be staying at KWWRA from October 11-15 this fall, is a great band to kick off the Songscape project. Formed in Connecticut in 2010, the band has played their rowdy Americana folk music across the USA and throughout Canada. David Vescey, from The New York Times writes, “They harmonize; they play saws, mandolins and pump organs; they back their songs with crickets and squeaking screen doors; they are boisterously youthful yet deftly sentimental...”. Theirs is a sound that has its roots in Maine as well. The name, Parsonsfield, comes from the rural town in southwest Maine where they recorded their first album. Those crickets and squeaking screen doors were courtesy of the old farmhouse recording studio there, called Great North Sound Society.

Parsonsfield is excited to go back to Maine and have a week of outdoor fun and songwriting at Katahdin Woods and Waters Recreation Area.  This area is a special part of Maine, with world-class outdoor recreation opportunities including fishing, hunting, hiking, snowmobiling, canoeing and mountain biking.

Located in the shadows of Mount Katahdin, Maine’s highest and most storied peak, Katahdin Woods & Waters Recreation Area offers a sneak peak of land that one day could become a new national park and national recreation area. The land, bordered on the west by Baxter State Park and with the amazing East Branch of the Penobscot River running through its heart, includes unparalleled opportunities for traditional outdoor recreation and an opportunity to see firsthand the woods and waters that have helped to define the state. It is KWWRA’s hope that the Katahdin region, and KWWRA specifically, will gain public support to become America’s next national park and recreation area. This unique and beautiful landscape has such a rich history and ecology, and it deserves to be shared with the nation.

Post retreat, Sustain’s Green Roster Member recording studio, Dirt Floor, in Haddam, CT, is donating recording services on November 9. Parsonsfield will produce a polished version of the song they created up at KWWRA, and it will be for sale on the Sustain website shortly after. You’ll also see it in KWWRA’s marketing materials as they gather public support for national park and national recreation area designation. Sustain will bring you music videos, sound clips, and other media from the Songscape retreat, so keep watch on this new and exciting project.