The Theology of Death to Unsuspecting Toddlers, or What Sufjan Stevens Has Been Up To Lately

It’s been a long time since Come Feel the Illinoise!, or even The Avalanche for that matter, so I imagine Sufjan fans are slavering for something new. I’m not personally slavering, but I’ve pretty much sucked any freshness out of his existing oeuvre. I don’t know of any new albums in the works, but I did come across this little tidbit the other day, which reveals that what Sufjan has been up to lately, among other things, is rooting around through boxes of old recordings.

But he’s also been producing albums for his label, notably “Welcome to the Welcome Wagon,” in which, according to the album cover, “pastor and wife join voices in sacred folks songs for all ages.” Welcome Wagon is composed of Vito Aiuto and his wife, Monique (the same Vito of “Vito’s Ordination Song” at the end of Sufjan’s Michigan album, if you’re wondering). If you’re slavering for new a new Sufjan Stevens album, this is the closest thing you’ll get right now. His influence is everywhere on the record; aside from the vocals, he might as well have written and performed all the music. And what’s more, he’s done a little explicative write-up for each song on the label’s blog, The Sidebar.

What I’m most interested in here though is sharing the beautiful first song of the album with you, “Up on a Mountain.” You can listen to it and read Sufjan’s write-up here.

Here are a few passages from Sufjan’s description:

First things first: this is not complicated music. But church music—the kind that invites public participation—shouldn’t be. The opening track—one of the few “originals” on the album—appears as a Christian primer best suited for Vacation Bible School. “Up On A Mountain” works as a prelude in which cascading melodies and naturalist theology simulate the salvation of the soul and the soothing of human loneliness, all evoked in the metaphor of “heights.”

And more, describing the role of the mountain in Christian spirituality and its context in this song:

There is Mt. Sinai, Golgotha, and, in the New Testament, the Sermon on the Mount, the holiest of homilies. The “mountain” of this song is less substantial in size, but no less vast in meaning: the mount of Olives, which happens to be the unfortunate setting where Jesus was abandoned by his closest allies, the 12 disciples. Monique’s un-ambitious Sunday school recital here best suits the magnitude of the situation, as if she were instructing, in rueful, plaintive melodies, the theology of death to unsuspecting toddlers.

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4 comments so far

  1. Kristi on

    You just like that song because it’s in 6/8 time. :) No, seriously, it’s beautiful. The horns are great.

    • jeffreimer on

      I do have a weakness for the triple meter.

  2. RCochran on

    Thank you, my dear friend, for pointing out the existence of this awesomeness.

    • jeffreimer on

      You are welcome, my dear friend.


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