Sufjan Stevens: Fourth of July

Written by Christopher Cerrone


In category: Song of the Day

Published November 11, 2016

My good friend Sonya Belaya wrote a really beautiful guest post about today’s song:

Sufjan Stevens’ seventh album “Carrie and Lowell” reveals the possibility of turning darkness into something honest and powerful. These eleven laments seek to find answers during a very private struggle for Sufjan— reflecting on life, death, and finding God after the death of his mother who abandoned him. Sufjan quietly retreated to find these answers in simple orchestrations and haunting poetry that dive into a place of unapologetic grief. There is something very powerful about an artist who has found success on a mainstream level and releases music stripped bare. This shows the world that there is necessity in such vulnerability. To be this vulnerable is to know we are alive.

The sixth song in this cycle, “Fourth of July”, is a reflection on the night his mother died. Sufjan quietly cries and croons his love for the woman who bore him, the woman who weaved in and out of his life until her death. The words feel close, **like a private conversation occurring with the listener eavesdropping. He calls her many tender names: “dragonfly”, “star in the sky”, “my little Versailles”. These words are weighted, full of nostalgia and regret; realizations of how small we are in death. “Tell me what did you learn from the Tillamook Burn? or the Fourth of July?” He poses a question without answer. Life is utter destruction and infinite joy.

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Winner of a 2015 Rome Prize and a finalist for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize, the Brooklyn-based composer Christopher Cerrone is internationally acclaimed for compositions characterized by a subtle handling of timbre and resonance, a deep literary fluency, and a flair for multimedia collaborations. Hailed as “a rising star” by The New Yorker, his opera Invisible Cities, based on Italo Calvino’s classic novel was praised by The Los Angeles Times as “a delicate and beautiful opera…[which] could be, and should be, done anywhere.”

Join NYFOS and Cerrone for NYFOS Next: Christopher Cerrone & Friends on December 8 at National Sawdust.


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    This song makes me sob every time I listen to it.

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    Man, this song is so beautiful, and I don’t know why but it’s such a mood for me rn

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    that’s so sad! i hope can recover from it <3

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