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Project takes you state by state

Justin Tardiff | Monday, April 3, 2006

He is a Michigan native who claims to be a graphic designer, an amateur seamster, a crocheter of ski caps and a writer of short fiction. He played whistles for the Michigan folk quartet, Marzuki, and released a noise pop electronica album inspired by the Animals of the Chinese Zodiac.

He has released four other solo albums that he recorded, produced, and engineered all but one (“Seven Swans”), and he is a man who also plays most of 20 or more instruments incorporated into his music.

Many of you have heard his successful and very hyped indie album “Illinois,” the second installation of his epic conception – a CD about each of the 50 states that aims to capture different experiences, histories, and feelings of each region through music.

He is Sufjan Stevens.

“Illinois” is the second release of Sufjan’s 50 state project, the first embracing his home state, Michigan (“Greetings from Michigan, The Great Lakes State”). Stevens draws from personal experiences, state heritage, regional history, and political and social issues for his “Greetings from Michigan, the Great Lakes State” with songs about snowmobiles, Henry Ford, the Detroit Race Riots and love.

He has said he plans on approaching other states by doing a lot of observing, listening and research and then using personal experiences, relationships and history along with borrowing stereotypes – the same stuff he says he does for fiction writing.

Sufjan is passing on history through the oral tradition of song, which is such a rich and mystic way to tell a culture about itself. It’s not a textbook or a movie, but it’s personal interspection about coming to terms with being america in a way that is “a serious effort to combine history and myth and geographical color with stories in song.”

Sufjan wants to expand the project into other forms. He is contemplating a Christmas CD most likely for Vermont, and an EP or split 7-inch for Rhode Island.

Which state will come next is a mystery to us all, and if it is even possible to put out 50 releases, as this concept has eagerly claimed, is absolutely ridiculous. This is a monumental artistic endeavor that I promise will be nothing short of brilliant. I know that I am going to buy each release and I’ll be waiting anxiously for California.