Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Sufjan Stevens and The BQE

Singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens crossed over into the classical realm with his The BQE when it premiered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2007. Named for the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, this orchestral suite-like work was a multi-media experience, complete with a video screening of road images to accompany the music. Since then, Stevens released the piece on a CD-DVD set, showcasing his vast talent and creativity to his fan-base. Today, we will look at The BQE and how it fits into Clef Note’s theme this month: Classical Crossover.

The BQE draws influence from classical-American composers such as Gershwin and Ives. The forward momentum Stevens uses reflects traveling vehicles. As various themes circle around, the music reflects the shifting of lanes. Stevens even uses the synthesizer during what sounds like a traffic jam midway through the piece. This may appear out of place surrounded by more traditional-orchestral timbres; however it accurately depicts the unknown adventure aspect when traveling in a vehicle.

Below you can listen to this example of a singer-songwriter crossing over into the orchestral realm. What do you think? Would you prefer to hear this on the stage at your local orchestra concert, or a pop concert, surrounded by screaming fans?



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