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Sufjan Stevens & Angelo De Augustine A Beginner's Mind

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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 monthlong 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? Stevens and De Augustine wrote everything with a deliberate sense of shoshin-the Zen Buddhist concept for which the record is named and an idea that empowered the pair to look for and write about unlikely inspiration without preconceived notions of what a film had to say (The I-Ching and Brian Eno's Oblique Strategies also served as incentives along the way).

The movies became rhetorical prompts, with the songwriters letting their distinct reactions and creative instincts govern their process. The underlying objective was empathy and openness, absent of judgment: to observe with the eyes of a child.

1. Reach Out 2. Lady Macbeth In Chains 3. Back To Oz 4. The Pillar Of Souls 5. You Give Death A Bad Name 6. Beginner's Mind 7. Olympus 8. Murder And Crime 9. (This Is) The Thing 10. It's Your Own Body And Mind 11. Lost In The World 12. Fictional California 13. Cimmerian Shade 14. Lacrimae

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