Annette Brown, Lifetime The story of June Carter Cash comes to life in the…
- Posted on Oct 23rd 2009 10:09AM by Stephen Dowling
You can add Sufjan Stevens to that list now. The chronicler of American states and occasional Yuletide cheerleader's latest opus 'The BQE' is a multi-media project fixating on 12 miles of concrete and metal bridging two New York boroughs -- the Brooklyn Queens Expressway (BQE).
The DVD, released this week, is a multi-media projec featuring moving pictures of the expressway amid a quasi-classical score compoased by Stevens. devised and unveiled live in concert in 2007 for the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the original performance used 36 performers including a backing band, wind and brass ensemble, string players, horn players, and some hula hoopers, performing in front of some occasionally trippy Super 8 and 16mm footage.
When commissioned Stevens had been given free artistic reign on one proviso -- the subject matter had to be something to do with Brooklyn.
"I'm not sure what they were expecting," Stevens tells Spinner, "but they knew I have a tendency to write about place in the American setting, so I think they felt I could come up with something. They didn't choose the BQE. I came up with that on my own."
So why did he choose this humble dozen miles of raised roadway? "I had spent a lot of time on the expressway, it's this massive architectural eyesore that runs through Brooklyn and Queens, it's only 12 miles long and it's inconsequential in terms of highway and expressways across the US, but in some ways its monumental in its
history, because it seems like an impossible, illogical endeavour, running this expressway through pre-existing neighbourhoods.
"To me it felt like an obvious thread, a thematic thread that connects everything about Brooklyn and Queens. By meditating on this one linear shape, I could discover things about Brooklyn as a whole."
Having immersed himself in music most of his career, the Detroit-born, Brooklyn-resident songwriter found it refreshing to work with other disciplines. "The film is the real primary art piece I think, the music is just an accompaniment, we spent a lot of time driving on it and photographing it and trying to capture it from different angles. You know, it's a very conventional approach to it. Choose a subject, and develop an intimate relationship with it and collect data. That is what the piece is about, it's about observation, it's a series of moving photographs."
'The BQE' is out now.