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

Franziska Strack EMAIL logo

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.


Corresponding author: M.A. Franziska Strack, Department of Political Science, Johns Hopkins University, 3400 N. Charles Street, 338 Mergenthaler Hall, Baltimore, MD 21218, USA, E-mail:

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Published Online: 2022-03-18
Published in Print: 2022-03-28

© 2022 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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