Peter J Mercer-Taylor

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Professor: Musicology

Peter Mercer-Taylor, Professor of Musicology, earned his B.A. from Amherst College and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. He previously taught humanities and popular culture in the interdisciplinary honors college of Valparaiso University, joining the University of Minnesota faculty in 2001.

Mercer-Taylor's scholarship has been divided between 19th-century American hymnody, the 19th-century German classical tradition (Felix Mendelssohn in particular), and contemporary popular music, including the work of the Bangles, Manfred Mann's Earth Band, Elvis Costello, Bill Staines, and R.E.M. He has spoken at numerous conferences and symposia, and been interviewed on NPR, BBC Radio 2, and Minnesota Public Radio. Mercer-Taylor’s articles have appeared in a range of journals, including 19th-Century Music, Popular Music, Journal of the Society for American Music, Musical Quarterly, Music & Letters, and Journal of Musicology. He is the author of Gems of Exquisite Beauty: How Hymnody Carried Classical Music to America (Oxford University Press, 2020) and The Life of Mendelssohn (Cambridge University Press, 2000), and the editor of The Cambridge Companion to Mendelssohn (2004).

Mercer-Taylor's work on 19th-century US hymnody also encompasses the website, an anthology of scores and piano recordings of 278 pre-Civil War hymn tunes based on classical music, together with a growing showcase of choral recordings of them. This project was supported by a 2020 NEH-Mellon Fellowship for Digital Publication.

Educational Background & Specialties


  • American hymnology
  • Felix Mendelssohn
  • history of popular American music and culture
  • 19th century Romantic German music
  • music history 1750 - 1900
  • Gems of Exquisite Beauty: How Hymnody Carried Classical Music to America. Mercer-Taylor, Peter, Oxford University Press, Author, 2020. Link
  • “Brass Topoi, Abbreviated Recapitulations, and the Bildungsreise: A New Approach to the First Movement of Mendelssohn’s ‘Italian’ Symphony": Mercer-Taylor, Peter, ed. Benedict Taylor, Oxford University Press, Rethinking Mendelssohn, 38-59, 2020.
  • "Listening for the 'Still Small Voice' of Mendelssohn's Domestic Elijah": Mercer-Taylor, Peter, The Journal of Musicology, 32 40-77, 2015.
  • "Mendelssohn and the Legacy of Beethoven's Ninth: Vocality in the 'Reformation' Symphony": Mercer-Taylor, Peter, ed. Jürgen Thym , University of Rochester Press, Mendelssohn, the Organ, and the Music of the Past: Constructing Historical Legacies, 61-88, 2014.
  • "'The Calliope crashed to the ground': Linear and Cyclic Time in Manfred Mann's Earth Band's 'Blinded by the Light'": Mercer-Taylor, Peter, Music Theory Spectrum, 35/2 1-19, 2013 .
  • "Mendelssohn in Nineteenth-Century American Hymnody": Mercer-Taylor, Peter, 19th-Century Music, 32 235-83, 2009.
  • "Between Hymn and Horror Film: How Do We Listen to Cradle of Filth?": Mercer-Taylor, Peter, ed. Eric Christianson and Christopher Partridge, Equinox, The Lure of the Dark Side: Satanism and Western Demonology in Popular Culture, 39-59, 2009.
  • "Beyond 'the Herald Angels': Recovering Mendelssohn the Hymnodist": Mercer-Taylor, Peter, CrossAccent: The Journal of the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians, 17/2 19-35, 2009.
  • "Bill Staines's 'Bridges' and the Art of Meta-Folk": Mercer-Taylor, Peter, The Journal of the Society for American Music, 1/7 423-52, 2007.
  • "'Stupid, stupid signs': Incomprehensibility, Memory, and the Meaning (Maybe) of R.E.M.'s 'Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite'": Mercer-Taylor, Peter, The Musical Quarterly, 88/3 456-86, 2005.
  • "Mendelssohn and the Institution(s) of German Art Music": Mercer-Taylor, Peter, ed. Peter Mercer-Taylor, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge Companion to Mendelssohn, 11-25, 2004.
  • Cambridge Companion to Mendelssohn. Mercer-Taylor, Peter, Cambridge University Press, Editor, 2004.
  • The Life of Mendelssohn. Mercer-Taylor, Peter, Cambridge University Press, 2000.
  • "Two-and-a-Half Centuries in the Life of a Hook": Mercer-Taylor, Peter, Popular Music & Society, 23/2 1-16, 1999.
  • "Songs from the bell jar: autonomy and resistance in the music of The Bangles": Mercer-Taylor, Peter, Popular Music, 17/2 187-204, 1998.
  • "Rethinking Mendelssohn's Historicism: A Lesson from St. Paul": Mercer-Taylor, Peter, Journal of Musicology, 15/2 208-29, 1997.
  • "Unification and tonal absolution in Der Freischütz": Mercer-Taylor, Peter, Music & Letters, 78/2 220-32, 1997.
  • "Mendelssohn's 'Scottish' Symphony and the Music of German Memory": Mercer-Taylor, Peter, 19th-Century Music, 19/1 68-82, 1995.