Brooklyn Festival: Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner & Nico Muhly @ Walt Disney Concert Hall | 4.22.13

If you're just joining us, I was two days recovered from the Antlers and their wall of sound performance in the high tech Walt Disney Concert Hall. The "Brooklyn Festival" continued there through the weekend, but I was only interested in attending the closer: "Planetarium," a solar-system inspired collaborative set of songs by Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner (The National) and Nico Muhly. The combination of Sufjan Stevens and the vague description, I was prepared for anything. Wordless orchestral composition in 15 movements, an educational film set to music and a giant diorama with costumed characters were all on the board. It turned out to be a bombastic, larger than life visual/audio feast full of video art, light shows, and prog rock songs from an alternate universe.

Despite the all-star lineup and musical talent on stage, the show was made by its visual component. Hanging above center stage was a 20 foot tall, pitch-black inflated sphere. I had originally thought it was 2 dimensional because of how much it sucked in light, giving no clues to its shape. When the songs were on, visualizer-style abstract video art was projected precisely onto it. For the song "Jupiter," a light flare would swirl in hot colors, resembling the giant's eye. For "Saturn," stripes with the texture of vinyl would run across the sphere and occasionally look like cut up close ups of its rings. For "The Sun," a snake-like trail of fire drew across the darkened orb, dying and sparking in a cycle as Sufjan sent adrift a short, "Redmond"-like ambient piece. For "Earth", a blue smoke that eventually faded into a 3 dimensional kaleidoscope with the texture of Earth's satellite photos.

Each was complimented by 360 degrees of colored spotlight constructions and lasers cutting across the darkened auditorium. I try my best, but it's almost pointless for me to try and describe the effect of the art. Even the video embedded above doesn't do it justice — it's one thing to see it in a tiny 560 pixel rectangle, it's another thing to be surrounded by it — it was the atmosphere of the night. The visuals were creative, playful and emotive, all set to the music of Sufjan Stevens.

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Essay | Days of Music

Shocking confession: My life isn't all too exciting right now. The best way I can describe it is a series of ellipses punctuated by an exclamation mark, and this pattern repeats until I start moving towards a career. All of that is to say in an unnecessarily abstract way: I do a lot of nothing, and then something, and then nothing.

I will spend three weeks applying for jobs with no bites. Then I will take a trip to Washington. I will spend three weeks staying indoors, forgetting what air smells like. Then I will work on a film set for 10 days. Then I will spend three weeks just to observe my mental and physical atrophy. Then I will attend three bad-ass concerts within 10 days of each other. HERE IS A BLOG ABOUT THAT LAST PART HOW ABOUT THAT SEGUE

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Review | All I Couldn't Sing

Sufjan Stevens is one of my musical heroes. I don't know when I decided this, but you can tell it's happened when you start making assumptions about an artist based on small inferences. You concoct a fascinating back story and song meanings that only you, the avid fan, understand. It's the reason you never meet your heroes, yet the basis of all hardcore fandom.

This tendency to fill in the blanks of your favorite artists is a little bit creepy, a little bit wrong, but completely within your rights as a fan with nothing better to do. It is part of the price of being a public artist; everyone gets to interpret and participate in art's communal conversation.

Sufjan Stevens is the kind of figure that gives you a lot of blanks. His interviews are rare, his songs are wrapped in mystery or mixed with fiction, and he is overall hard to figure out. We know that he is a writer, from Michigan, a multi-instrumentalist and a Christian. He also released one of the greatest albums in modern independent music, Illinois, which was a sprawling work about the state, past and present, fact and fiction. It won a million awards including album of the decade.

But Illinois was 5 years ago. Since then, he has put out a compilation of b-sides, a mixed-media orchestral suite, and commissioned a remix of one of his earliest electronic albums. In terms of original material, every once in a while we would get a song or two, small morsels at best, usually on charity-based compilations like Dark Was The Night.

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Decade in Decibels

Here we are! Look upon this new decade! The Tens are upon us, and all else is old! With that, here are the 10 albums from 2000 to 2009 that rocked my rocker, which in truth isn't all that notable, since I only started seriously listening to music in 2000 anyway. I mean, I was 12 years old. It's hard to develop any specific affinity for types of music before then.

Included is a handy, inaccurate metaphor that I haphazardly wrote up without a second thought. So if you're looking for an experience to correlate with listening to this hour of emotionally engaging music, maybe this add to your experience! Or maybe it will make no sense, and you will be weirded out, but then you look it up anyway because you have to know, that's just the type of person you are, always seeking, always curious.

I count a decade as '00 to '09, and save '10 through '19 for the next decade. I know years didn't start with zero, thus the first decade was 1 through 10. But 1970 was part of the 70's, not the 60's.

Whatever. List:

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