Daniel Chae

christmas unicorn

inspiration, life, musicdchae2 Comments

sufjan stevens. I don't know where to begin. He evokes many many thoughts, responses, and emotions, but to sum it all up, it's safe to say that he's quite the impressive fellow. He just came out with a 58-track Christmas album - the video above is one of my favorites - a follow up to The BQE, a 13-movement orchestral work he scored himself. Not to mention his Michigan, Seven Swans, and Illinoise albums.

A part of his being that grabs me is his persona, and the way he plays off his faith, both privately and publicly. If you look up any video on youtube, you'll find an awkward, shy, awkward, introverted, awkward man. "Is this guy for real (angel suits at Austin City Limits)? I hear he's one of those Christians that are accepted by the indie world. I should check him out." He refuses to give people a christian knuckle sandwich, shoving religion, precepts, and doctrine in people's faces. He publicly acknowledges that he is Christian, but it seems he does it doing it in a very nonchalant way, almost carelessly. Dropping the f-bomb in his recent "Age of Adz" is a good example of this.

However, privately, it seems that he tells a completely story. If you look carefully at his lyrics, you will find some of the most sincere, honest, and true (-to-oneself) lyrics around, maybe even ever. "John Wayne Gacy Jr." is about a serial killer and rapist who sexually assaulted and murdered at least 33 boys, burying them in his backyard. In the song, he talks about how his "neighbors adored him for his humor and conversation", describing how it looks like he had it together so well all on the outside. Then he goes on to sing how "he dressed up like a clown for them [boys]", kissed them, took off their clothes, killed them, then burying them beneath his floor boards in his house.

The song ends with the following:

And in my best behavior I am really just like him Look beneath the floor boards For the secrets I have hid


Last Sunday at House Roots, Jimmy Brian and I were listening to Sufjan and doing some reading on him. Jimmy happened to be on his record label page and found Vito Aiuto - it turns out Vito is a good friend and pastor at the church Sufjan attends, and heads the record label with Sufjan (we're such stalkers, damn). Anyway, Jimmy noted, 'OH! this must be the same Vito from Sufjan's "Vito's Ordination Song" off of the Michigan album. He quickly mentioned, "man, that song is so good, the lyrics.. man." He googled the lyrics to that song, showed me, and I quickly glanced over them. "He must have wrote it for Vito when he got ordained as a reverend." I didn't get to really read through it, but I knew my heart felt like it was burning. I decided I would listen to the song and read the lyrics at home later. Then, it was onto watching more videos.

Before the night ended, I found myself on my bed with all the lights off as I was about to sleep. I remembered I was going to give the song a better listen. The song, from my understanding, was written for Vito, but it was written from God's perspective. Sufjan speaks God's heart, I'm assuming for Vito, and for all of us.

I always knew you / In your mothers arms / I have called your name / I have an idea / Placed in your mind / To be a better man I've made a crown for you / Put it in your room / And when the bridegroom comes / There will be noise / There will be glad / And a perfect bed And when you write a poem / I know the words / I know the sounds / Before you write it down / When you wear your clothes / I wear them too / I wear your shoes / And your jacket too I always knew you / In your mothers arms / I have called you son / I've made amends / Between father and son / Or, if you haven't one Rest in my arms / Sleep in my bed / There is a design / To what I did and said

These words hit me so hard. I was moved to tears. My heart felt like it was burning on the inside. On facebook, I proceeded to write "I want them to play this at my wedding. I want them to play this at my funeral." I mean it.

This is real fruit. I don't know what he's like on a personal level, but I know God sees that his music has moved me in such a way.

“Christianity is a faith that has no interest in power or no meaning in an environment of power or wealth,” he explains, his lilt turning slightly urgent but remaining delicate. “The moral imperative is a delusion, and [in terms of the election] I think it’s a distraction; [Christianity] is not a faith of morals or principles; it’s about a relationship, service in love to God and other people. If it were about morals and virtues, I don’t think Jesus would have pissed off so many Jews; he was doing things that were considered obscene. He was doing work on the Sabbath, he was a messy angry person. He definitely wasn’t guided by principles.. Morals, principles and laws are when faith is reduced to standards and those standards basically just bind us, and we become prejudicial, racist, self-serving when we’re guided by these laws... When a developed country uses Christianity in its policies, in government, in maintaining corporate wealth, that’s a bastardized rendering of a faith.” - Sufjan Stevens in an interview with Harvard's "The Crimson" newspaper.


Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving! If you want to get in the mood for the holidays, listen to "A Charlie Brown Christmas" by the Vince Guaraldi Trio