Monday, May 12, 2008

The Religious Imagination: Page France, Sufjan Stevens, Half Handed Cloud, Danielson Family, and oh so Many others...

Danielson Famile
In a follow up of sorts to my last blog post, I wanted to post this abstract of a paper I will be giving at an upcoming Popular Culture conference. More to come as I work on the presentation--should be fun!
"(Im)personal Jesus: Rebirth of the Religious Imagination in US Indie Rock"
In a recent article from Pitchfork Media, columnist Chris Dahlen claims that “ there is almost no strain of music as secular as indie rock” and asks why “hipsters hate Jesus”. In the context of an irony saturated indie rock subculture, in which the proclamation of “truth” is not considered sacred, but profane, a selection of musicians are creating songs that are deeply subversive and uncharacteristically countercultural in their relentless search for meaning. This growing community of indie rock artists has given birth to a postsecular musical Renaissance, creating music pregnant with questions about mystery, transcendence, religious wonder, and personal doubt. Musicians such as Sufjan Stevens, Page France, Half Handed Cloud, the Danielson Famile, and many others continually challenge the “truth” claims of what they see as a media-induced virtual paradigm that has become the surrogate for a “traditional” religious one. All of these musicians are well versed in the glossy texts of their culture; they ironically bring the products, ads, films, and shopping spaces that we call home into the foreground of their work. They use these postmodern texts as tools to not only critique the seductive metanarrative that has nurtured their own popularity, but also to create space for spiritual exploration. This combination of biblical and contemporary consumer metaphors opens up a new, relevant discussion of an “ancient future” faith. The rise, and surprising acceptance, of these faith-focused indie performers has also instigated the emergence of anonymous online communities that discuss what were previously considered to be “outmoded” ideas of faith. Along with the song lyrics themselves, I plan to read these virtual patterns of faith discussion within the emerging texts of chat communities, online reviews, and Mp3 Blogs. This shockingly earnest and imaginative music has instigated a new conversation, a reflexive dialogue, that continually re-interprets questions of both faith and doubt for its audience.

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