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A refreshing trip home

MUSIC | “Profguyer” awakens the music side of his brain


Benjamin M. Guyer Illustration by Paul Ryding

A refreshing trip home
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It’s not every day that one comes across a full-fledged academic whose side hustle is crafting ambient, shoegazy electric-guitar music and selling it on Bandcamp.

Benjamin M. Guyer, however, is one such fellow.

A lecturer in the Department of History and Philosophy at the University of Tennessee at Martin and the author of the books How the English Reformation Was Named: The Politics of History, 1400-1700 and The Beauty of Holiness: The Caroline Divines and Their Writings, the 42-year-old Episcopalian—under the nom de guitare “profguyer”—released his debut album Domvs (old-school-­spelling Latin for “home” or “household”) in March.

Domvs

Domvs Profguyer

But despite song titles such as “First Hymn” and “Sabbath,” and despite his also using “Profguyer” as his YouTube online-lecture handle, Guyer sees no connection between his day job and his musical alter ego.

“I do history,” he told me, “so it’s always like ‘What’s the evidence? What’s the evidence?’ But there’s no ‘evidence’ in music, you know? So to be able to turn off that side of my brain and turn on the other side, which had been dormant for so long, was quite refreshing.”

“Refreshing” is a good way to describe Domvs’ effect. The water sounds running through the song “Konza,” for example, are those of an actual stream in the Konza Prairie Biological Station in Kansas, where Guyer and his wife used to hike. Also, Domvs has no lyrics, so it contributes nothing to 21st-century information overload. The open-ended spaciousness, meanwhile, that Guyer generates with his Fender guitars, an Epiphone bass, and occasional drums (courtesy of his producer Bo Kitzman) frees listeners to visualize gradually expanding vistas of their own.

Exactly how long had the music-­making side of Guyer’s brain lain ­dormant? “I gave up playing guitar in grad school,” he said, “and I came back to it during COVID. So this was totally a three-year, at-home project for me.”

Literally at home. “My wife was very tolerant,” Guyer said, laughing. “She let me set everything up right there in the dining room. It’s definitely not possible to do this kind of thing without a supportive spouse.”

So, other than activating the dormant part of his brain, why did Guyer do it? “I’ve studied the Black Death. So when COVID hit, I was, like, ‘Oh my gosh! Half of us are going to be dead in the next few years!’ And I started thinking, ‘Oh, what do I wish I’d done? I need to record a song!’”

So he did. “And then,” he adds, “one song became seven.” Here’s hoping that the good professor won’t need another pandemic to make more.


Arsenio Orteza

Arsenio is a music reviewer for WORLD Magazine and one of its original contributors from 1986. Arsenio resides in China.

@ArsenioOrteza

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