Being in Time: Sufjan Stevens and waves of time

Virginia Woolf, in The Waves, captures the miracles of childhood by allowing her characters to speak in the unformed language of children still experiencing the world without the words and tools by which to name and measure it. The characters grow up, and riding successive waves of time, find their voices, their phrases, their eddies and habits… Personalities emerge, each a series of waves rippling out from a central point, people as time, on an ocean of time, each meeting another as waves of disturbance… Sufjan Stevens played like that last night, at Zellerbach Hall in Berkekley (give em the axe.. where? in the neck, in the neck…) in a show that captured the dynamics of a music that tells stories of childhood with nostalgia and some amount of fragility at the same time. Backed by the Pacific Mozart Ensemble, strings, horns, an over-sized drum kit, guitar, banjo, piano and harmonium, his songs I suspect rose higher and louder than is usual for one of his shows. But when it came down, and the instruments took a pause, his voice came up to fill the gap, and you truly could have heard a pin dropping most of the time.
I don’t know this artist, so I have some catching up to do. But I was blown away. Songs that went like musical numbers; songs that carried childhood and which preserved childhood somehow in the singing and playing of them. Strange songs, theatrical songs, songs that seemed to animate and come to life as if Hayao Miyazaki were at work on one of his animated masterpieces. Songs completely lacking in aggression but filled with rising sound — as if adding voices might drown out the singer’s uncertainty.

Other reviews:
Sufjan Stevens inspires with sweet symphonies
Sufjan Stevens at Zellerbach Hall 10/11

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