Sufjan Stevens – Influential, Simple, and Yet Complex

I don’t think I will be very good at describing Sufjan Stevens other than to say his music is beautiful, sometimes simple, often deep with feeling and allusions to important matters of the human spirit, and sometimes remarkably complex.

So there you have it.  Ha!  I think there are a few things to appreciate about this artist. First, he plays lots of instruments and his recordings often consist of him playing many tracks himself.  This is where it can sometimes get super complex.  When he performs live he needs a bunch of musicians with him on stage to even come close to reproducing what is on the record.  (See the second video below.)

Next, he has produced quite a lot of music covering a wide range of themes.  Some highly personal and some broad and far reaching. He works with lots of artists, but in a way he seems like a DIY (Do It Yourself) when it comes to putting it all together.

Finally, the feeling of his music is often spirtual or at least meaningful but Sufjan has been consistent in not attributing his music to any specific religion or philosophy.  Nonetheless his music is often deeply moving.

So there you have it.  Its simple, complex, beautiful, and certainly unusual.

I’ve included two videos.  The first is brand new – from his new Planetarium project working with  Bryce Dessner of the Nationals, drummer James McAlister, and classical composer Nico Muhly.  There is going to be a song for each planet and other parts of the solar system.  This one is Venus – just released this week.  (I’ve got tickets to see Planetarium live in July – can’t wait!)  The next video is him performing live with a lot of people on stage.  Listen to how complex the arrangement gets and marvel at the out of this world performance.

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