A Beginner’s Mind began when the two musicians and Asthmatic Kitty labelmates decamped to a friend’s cabin in upstate New York for a month-long songwriting sabbatical. Watching a movie to unwind after each day’s work, they soon found their songs reflecting the films and began investigating this connection in earnest.
The resulting album is 14 songs (loosely) based on (mostly) popular films—highbrow, lowbrow, and everything in between. They wrote in tandem—one person writing a verse, the other a chorus, churning out chord progressions and lyrics willy-nilly, often finishing each other’s sentences in the process. Rigorous editing and rewriting ensued. The results are less a “cinematic exegesis” and more a “rambling philosophical inquiry” that allows the songs to free-associate at will. Plot-points, scene summaries, and leading characters are often displaced by esoteric interpolations that ask the bigger question: what does it mean to be human in a broken world?
The album’s artwork comes courtesy of Ghanaian artist Daniel Anum Jasper. In Ghana during the late ’80s, a novel “mobile cinema” culture emerged when enterprising film fans screened Hollywood blockbusters in the backs of pick-up trucks using portable generators. To advertise the movies, artists painted alternate posters inspired only by the scant information they had about each film. Sufjan and Angelo commissioned a pioneer of this form—Jasper—to paint a series of new works for A Beginner’s Mind (including covers for three 7-inch singles). Information about the project was deliberately kept vague so that Mr. Jasper could work without restraint.
Sufjan Stevens is an artist, songwriter and composer living in New York. He has released nine widely lauded studio albums and a number of collaborations with fellow musicians, choreographers and visual artists from the New York City Ballet and the celebrated director Luca Guadagnino to his stepfather Lowell Brams and noted dancer Jalaiah Harmon.
- Reach Out 3:43
- Lady Macbeth In Chains 3:42
- Back To Oz 4:25
- The Pillar Of Souls 4:04
- You Give Death A Bad Name 5:11
- Beginner’s Mind 2:36
- Olympus 3:07
- Murder And Crime 3:43
- (This Is) The Thing 3:13
- It’s Your Own Body And Mind 2:27
- Lost In The World 3:20
- Fictional California 3:03
- Cimmerian Shade 5:01
- Lacrimae 2:05