Wednesday, 4 November 2009


The Brooklyn-Queens Expressway is an incidental 12.7 miles of urban roadway built over the course of several decades (1939-1964), spear-headed by the master architect Robert Moses to accommodate for the increase of commercial and commuter traffic in New York City's outer boroughs. The roadway was a painstaking piecemeal project, poorly planned, badly built, and relentlessly encumbered by the obvious obstacles of the era: red tape, neighborhood protests, World War II, and a congested borough whose sequestering layout proved ill-fitting for the automobile. The resulting expressway-a pockmarked, serpentine, congested BQE-has become one of Brooklyn's most notable icons of urban blight. And, for Sufjan Stevens, an object of unmitigated inspiration.

The official album release of The BQE follows nearly two years after its original performance at BAM, providing the songwriter (and his various collaborators) ample time to wrestle out all the thematic incarnations of the project, and to attempt an appropriation of Wagner's Gesamtkunstwerk ("total work"). The resulting album might be best described as a grand creative franchise-incorporating movie, symphony, comic book, dissertation, photography, graphic design, and a 3-D Viewmaster® reel-in which a songwriter's interrogation of one of New York's ugliest landmarks expands athletically to forums and formulas outside of the song itself. In fact, the BQE is everything but a song...

Sufjan Stevens - The BQE (Asthmatic Kitty)