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Artists Connect: Mount Eerie

September 5, 2017
3:30PM4:30PM
Gallery 244
Free with museum admission

Musician Phil Elverum, who records and performs as Mount Eerie, presents an intimate, in-gallery performance in response to Harald Sohlberg's Fisherman's Cottage (1906).

Co-presented with Empty Bottle

Artists Connect is a new series of in-gallery programs that highlight the creative process. Artists, poets, dancers, and musicians engage with works of art, making connections to their own practice and inspiring new ways of understanding the Art Institute’s collection.


About the Artist

Mount Eerie's albums have always aimed to push into new territory, both in sound and idea, but the thread of Phil Elverum's voice has remained constant throughout—soft and human amid the wide range of textures and worlds. Often the lyrics have attempted to grapple with big questions, the briefness and the smallness of human life being a running theme. On occasion the music has been called "black metal" ("Wind's Poem," 2009), "dream landscape" ("Clear Moon," 2012), and "raw and direct" ("Lost Wisdom," 2008).

The new album, "A Crow Looked At Me", sounds closer to the latter; minimal instrumentation, no production, clear and heavy words right up front. The difference here is the subject matter. In 2015 Elverum's wife, the French Canadian cartoonist and musician Geneviève Castrée, was diagnosed with a bad cancer just after giving birth to their first child. She died a year later. Elverum wrote and recored the album throughout the fall of 2016 in the same room where Geneviève died, using mostly her instruments; her guitar, her bass, her pick, her amp, her old family accordion, writing the words on her paper.

The songs are about the brutal details of that experience, from the hospitalizations to the grieving, the specific domestic banalities that become existential in the context of such huge and abrupt loss. These songs are not fun. They are pretty and they are deep, and they find a love that prevails beneath the overwhelming and real sorrow. It is unlike anything else in the Mount Eerie catalog in its unvarnished expressions of personal grief, metaphor-free.

The writing draws inspiration from Karl Ove Knausgaard, Julie Doiron, Gary Snyder, Sun Kil Moon, and Joanne Kyger (whose poem "Night Palace" is on the album's cover). The sound was influenced by the spare production of the 1996 Will Oldham album "Arise Therefore".


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