Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It's time to take the "BQE"

Sufjan Stevens - "The BQE"
Asthmatic Kitty
-out now

An ambitious project on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, "The BQE" is clearly marked as Sufjan Steven's magnum opus. A classical suite in a foreboding thirteen parts, "BQE" is anything but: it is grand, magnificent, and patient. Commissioned by the Brooklyn Academy of Music and performed on November of 2007, fans of Steven's much-awaited suite are treated to audio, an intimate video, and even a 40-page booklet. Those same fans will note immediately that this piece, unlike "Illinois" or "Michigan,"
is far less personal, and lacks the vocals and intimate stories, as well as stand-out tracks of the previous two. The casual Stevens listener will still find his sense of playfulness and instrumental intricacy intact, albeit in a less familiar genre. To place Stevens amongst Copland and other classical American masters is tempting, but unfortunately not warranted here; while "BQE" is layered and lush, it still lacks a certain distinctness, memory, and overall arc that would otherwise place Stevens in that echelon. Nonetheless, this music is gorgeous, fantastic, and exciting for casual classical listeners or long-time listeners of "Illinois." Recommended.

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