Analogies between Stuart Saunders Smith and the Transcendentalists




Stuart Saunders Smith, Transcendentalism, freethinking, oneness, silence, anti-materialism, anti-technologism


The life and work of North American composer Stuart Saunders Smith (1948) have shown features reminiscent of the 19th century philosophical movement known as New England Transcendentalism. Here I discuss how ideas divulged by Transcendentalism and transcendentalist philosophies, in particular oneness, freethinking, anti-materialism, anti-technologism, and silence reflect in Smith’s life stances and compositional process. Based on a belief that oneness binds all living beings via a universal soul, Smith seeks to symbolically unify composer, performer, and audience through the use of silence and a compositional technique called co-existence. In turn, anti-materialism and anti-technologism manifest musically in his frugal use of instrumentation, and in his refusal to write for electronics while evoking naturalistic themes, respectively.


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Author Biography

José Augusto Duarte Lacerda, Federal University of Mato Grosso, Brazil

As an advocate of new music, José Augusto Duarte Lacerda, also known as Zeca Lacerda, has worked alongside composers such as Steve Reich, John L. Adams, George Lewis, Elliott Sharp, Jeff Herriott, James Romig, Gabriela Ortiz, Christian Wolff, Bob Becker, Lewis Nielson, and Stuart Saunders Smith, having premiered works by the latter seven. In Brazil, he has performed with the country’s premier orchestras, such as the Brazilian and the Petrobras symphony orchestras. Zeca currently teaches at Universidade Federal de Mato Grosso, where he also directs the university’s percussion ensemble [re]Percute UFMT. He has released an album of solo vibraphone music, through Soundset Recordings, and has published an article on Percussive Notes. Awards received include Percussive Arts Society and Zildjian scholarships. He earned a Doctoral degree in Contemporary Music from Bowling Green State University, a Master’s in Music from the University of Miami, and a Bachelor’s in Music from Universidade Federal de Santa Maria.


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How to Cite

Lacerda, José Augusto Duarte. 2023. “Isolation: Analogies Between Stuart Saunders Smith and the Transcendentalists”. Per Musi 24 (December):1-20.



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