one song. that’s what it takes to shake your world and change it forever. one song. one melody and one set of lyrics – and one person to sing it. for me, that song, the one that changes it all, was “casimir pulaski day”, the delicately childish and sad folk ballad by sufjan stevens. oh the beauty in this song, in sufjan stevens’s gentle yet powerful voice, in the surreal balance of creepiness and loveliness. there is purity in this three-minute-or-so work of art. it touched my heart.
my friend aurore and i became great admirers of sufjan stevens. we loved how discreet and serene he was, and the infinite beauty he put in his celestial lyrics and enchanted melodies that sounded like jewels gently touching one another. i listened to his songs all the time. they became the playlist of my life. i would play them out loud in my room in the afternoon, and on my ipod at two in the morning, during all my sleepless nights.
it begins with a song, and then it’s a whole universe you fall in love with. i fell in love with sufjan stevens’s world. i watched him perform on stage on youtube, quietly clapping my hands when he put his paper wings on and started singing “chicago”. i went to the record store and, even though I already had his cds, I made sure “seven swans” and all the others were there, waiting for someone to take them home and enjoy the masterpiece. i cared about him and his career, keeping an eye on him from my distant paris.
i was in Berlin when aurore told me the big news. there was a date in paris in sufjan stevens’s tour for his new (and beloved) album “the age of adz”. it was the night my sister and i had gone to a weird hamburger spot under an elevated section of the berlin subway, and i think my sister freaked out a little bit when i started jumping around and giggling like stupid for about ten minutes. i couldn’t breathe or talk, i was so overwhelmed with joy and excitement. we were going to see sufjan stevens.
the show opened with a covered-in-fluorescent-stickers sufjan stevens playing with a keyboard and singing, his ethereal voice embracing the crowd like a very soft wave of silk. the artist raised his arms and two fabulous white-feathered wings appeared. the crowd went crazy. i was astonished and fascinated at the same time. sufjan stevens had turned into a swan.
he talked. he said funny things about his childhood and how his parents had brought him up thinking he was a star child who didn’t belong to earth but had come from another planet. he said wise things about joining his heart to ours and sharing a moment together. he talked about his inspirations for the album, showing us a picture of royal robertson, an artist who had had a great influence on his work. we were all hanging upon his lips as if he was a preacher in a church. i could have listened to him talk for hours. his voice sounded low and sincere, and i thought: “sufjan stevens is my hero”.
when i close my eyes, i can still see his face, his proud and amused expression as he looks at the crowd. he’s a beautiful boy, and i don’t see myself calling him a man. i held aurore’s hand and closed my eyes sometimes, too moved to watch, the mesmerizing music beating in me as if it had taken the place of my heart. at the end of the show, sufjan stevens put his old paper wings on, and we all had a lot of fun with the balloons that had been dropped from the ceiling. he played “chicago” and i nearly cried.
so this is it. a dream come true. i will remember the pure visual and musical beauty of this night forever. sufjan stevens, you’re my hero.
crappy pictures taken by me with my phone and a disposable camera.