November 7, 2009
“That terrible mood of depression of whether it’s any good or not is what is known as The Artist’s Reward.” — Ernest Hemingway
It used to be so easy to think of Sufjan Stevens as happy guy. He made great music, he sang like an angel, he loved Jesus. But a recent interview with Sufjan has shown us that Sufjan’s life is not so simple. The interview seems to show that Sufjan has lost faith in music, or at least, publicized and distributed music. He points out how the industry has changed, and how the album no longer holds up. Because of this, he feels that his concepts can never be fully realized. He goes as far as to say, “What is the point? What’s the point of making music anymore?” He then finds fault in himself, explaining that, “I’m starting to get sick of my conceptual ideas. I’m tired of these grand, epic endeavors…”
So has Sufjan maintained his faith in God as he has lost his faith in music? I know that many musicians have tried to find happiness through either medium and often switch between the two. Most notable Bob Dylan, who became a Born Again Christian during the 80’s after growing up Jewish.
I also find the comparison between Sufjan and Jeff Mangum interesting. Mangum had similar struggles with religion, and also, had the experience of creating a work of art that is considered a masterpiece. For Sufjan, Illinois is the work of a life time, much like Neutral Milk Hotel’s In The Aeroplane Over The Sea. These albums are culminations of these artist’s lives. Conceptualized by one creator. Soon after the release of In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, Mangum announced that Neutral Milk Hotel would not release anymore albums.
“I guess I had this idea that if we all created our dream we could live happily ever after. So when so many of our dreams had come true and yet I still saw that so many of my friends were in a lot of pain … I saw their pain from a different perspective and realized that I can’t just sing my way out of all this suffering.”