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Sounds Like America: The Elemental Politics of Walt Whitman and John Luther Adams

Authors
  • Strack, Franziska1
  • 1 Johns Hopkins University, 3400 N. Charles Street, 338 Mergenthaler Hall, 21218 , (United States)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Zeitschrift für Anglistik und Amerikanistik
Publisher
De Gruyter
Publication Date
Mar 18, 2022
Volume
70
Issue
1
Pages
23–37
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1515/zaa-2022-2047
Source
De Gruyter
Keywords
License
Yellow

Abstract

Generating a conversation between nineteenth-century poet Walt Whitman and contemporary composer John Luther Adams, this article offers a sonic-elemental account of American geography and community. It argues that Adams and Whitman treat America as a constellation of elemental relations between bodies and materialities, and that sound helps to discern and describe those relations. In doing so, the article outlines initial parameters of an elemental politics that relates political actions to their surrounding soundscapes, thus emphasizing communality while rebuffing nationalism and spanning across multiple times and places while remaining rooted in specific present situations. To make this argument, the article draws upon scholarship in elemental media studies, new materialism, and soundscape theory. It treats both poetry and music as types of elemental sound art, appreciating that sonic vibrations affect bodies below the level of consciousness even when finding expression in perceivable language or music.

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