Song of the day: ‘Sister’ Sufjan Stevens

I bought the album Seven Swans a while back, but hadn’t got round to listening till recently. On first listen it was a bit like, yeah, acoustic American folk, nice enough, but on repeated listens, has depth and sincerity.

It’s probably not the most immediate song on the album (he album opener ‘All the Trees of the Field‘ probably is), and this live version doesn’t transmit as well as the album version, I have to say. I think mainly because the album version has drumming on it, which emphasises the interesting rhythmic pattern the song is based on. In that version it more obvious that the song is based on a 6 beat ‘patterns’ broken in two halves. But the two halves are not equal lengths, like a waltz, 1,2,3, 12,3, but something much more unusual: 1,2,3,4, 1,2 (with the emphasis on the ‘1’, of course.) This means the melodic patterns that fits around it always sounds a beat late or a beat early. Took me a little while to figure out what was going on!

Then it slips into a waltz beat near the end with the trumpets, which is a nice transition.

So, that’s kind of the mechanics of it, which is all very well, but the main thing is that it has a lovely melody. The sort you can lose yourself in. The other exciting feature is that the vocals don’t come in until right at the end, so that’s kind of unusual.

This is Sufjan teaching the crowd to sing the song, which is great too:


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