I’d classify myself as a Sufjan appreciator, not a fan, but an enjoyer of. I have felt the illinoise. I was stoked on the night!
The approximately 30 minute piece is fully orchestral, with swelling crescendos, chilling tremolos, and thoroughly illing funkflexors. It was all accompanied by a grainy, three-paned video projection of Brooklyn-type images, and real live hula hoopers.
Basically, it was like some child was born who had only ever been exposed to the twee-est of the twee and the indie-est of the indie and (obviously) learned how to use a super 8 and learned that Brooklyn is cool and vomited up some stuff. And got a crush on a pretty, long-haired girl who hula hoops.
The music was enjoyable. I liked hearing the lush sounds of a full orchestra set to poppy tunes. I have been told that I took the accompanying video too seriously and that it was only meant to be a backdrop, but after staring at it for 31-odd minutes how could I not judge it? I mean really, have you ever sat across from chews-with-her-mouth-open and picks-her-teeth at a meeting? Try not judging her. It’s hard. It’s in our (my) nature.
So Sufjan’s synching up of movie’s scary parts with violin’s tremolos did seem sort of juvenile to me. And his “cool” effects like inverted colors and whatever-else seemed like “hey, I just got this cool thing called a computer and look what it can do!”
Sufjan’s tool of the trade.
To top it off, this piece is supposed to be about the BQE, right? He even wrote this whole freshman-in-college sounding essay in the program about the significance of its grittiness, and the whimsical juxtaposition of such a concrete monstrosity against hula hoopers. Pretty hula hoopers. But when his huge melodic climax coincided with some striking (and often seen) shots of Coney Island I thought to myself, “does the BQE even go to Coney Island?”
BQE bikers NOT on their way to the beach.
The answer is no, people. Coney Island is the EASIEST way to go Brooklyn and we all know it! It’s totally cool looking. It’s eerie and earthy and faux-modern and post-modern all at the same time! But it’s like putting on a rainbow-printed belt and calling yourself a gay rights activist. It’s like saying “in bed” after reading a fortune cookie and thinking it passes for a decent joke. It’s something we’ve all done, but that we hopefully grew out of. Or even if we didn’t grow out of it, we’re not getting comissioned by a major arts foundation to display it to crowds of thousands!
So, come on, Sufjan. Coney? Hip? Photogenic? You’re not telling me anything I didn’t already know there.
And maybe I’ve just seen too many undergrad modern dance shows (thanks sis) but glow-in-the-dark-hula-hoopers does not Art make. Get my drift? Say it forward or backward but at this level of performing I expect more. I just do. And I don’t care if that makes me a hater. It’s how I feel. My feelings.
Ahem. Anyway, nice try, Sufjan and BAM but do better next time. It’s only because I expect more from you.
Oh and to save me from total hateration (sorry Mary J, I know you don’t need this) the second half of the show was a straight up Sufjan concert and it was beautiful! I liked it and his weird, rambling story about running away from band camp and getting chased by an oboe-bird and learning the value of practicing. A totally pleasant evening marred only by the pain of wasted potential and the annoyance of hipster (metaphorical) jizz.
Sufjan is easy on the eyes (and ears and brains).