Project Title

Phil Elverum and American Transcendentalism

Presenters

Academic department under which the project should be listed

RCHSS - English

Faculty Sponsor Name

Jeanne Bohannon

Abstract (300 words maximum)

Music outside of classical or jazz canon has the reputation of being viewed as “low-art” by academia, an often classist description that erases the voices of non-traditional work made by non-traditional artists, no matter the influence that art or artist may have accrued. The work of Phil Elverum, an American indie/folk/experimental songwriter known best for the music created under the monikers the Microphones and Mount Eerie, has a strong case to be made as a descendent of American Transcendental literature, and therefore elevates his music to the “high-art” worthy of academic study, and continues the conversation for other art to be considered similarly via a more equitable lens of academic writing. Through a textual analysis of his work, this presentation aims to compare and evaluate the distinct thread that can be run from the work of prominent Transcendentalists, such as Walt Whitman, and the themes they would incorporate to the work of Elverum as a modern version of the pastoral writing that was common at the time of the movement. In his own words, Elverum describes his recent writing as “Close and direct. Dense with easy words. […] Say everything as it is.” In addition, this paper will closely examine how Elverum has furthered the conversation begun by the Transcendentalists. Additionally, the textual analysis will be supplemented by Elverum’s own words in various interviews with journalists, in which he echoes and reinforces the connection between the thematic elements of both his work and Transcendentalism.

Project Type

Oral Presentation (15-min time slots)

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Phil Elverum and American Transcendentalism

Music outside of classical or jazz canon has the reputation of being viewed as “low-art” by academia, an often classist description that erases the voices of non-traditional work made by non-traditional artists, no matter the influence that art or artist may have accrued. The work of Phil Elverum, an American indie/folk/experimental songwriter known best for the music created under the monikers the Microphones and Mount Eerie, has a strong case to be made as a descendent of American Transcendental literature, and therefore elevates his music to the “high-art” worthy of academic study, and continues the conversation for other art to be considered similarly via a more equitable lens of academic writing. Through a textual analysis of his work, this presentation aims to compare and evaluate the distinct thread that can be run from the work of prominent Transcendentalists, such as Walt Whitman, and the themes they would incorporate to the work of Elverum as a modern version of the pastoral writing that was common at the time of the movement. In his own words, Elverum describes his recent writing as “Close and direct. Dense with easy words. […] Say everything as it is.” In addition, this paper will closely examine how Elverum has furthered the conversation begun by the Transcendentalists. Additionally, the textual analysis will be supplemented by Elverum’s own words in various interviews with journalists, in which he echoes and reinforces the connection between the thematic elements of both his work and Transcendentalism.