The BQE is a mixed-medium artistic exploration of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway by Sufjan Stevens. The project originally manifested in the form of a live show, performed on November 1–3, 2007. The show consisted of an original film, directed and written by Stevens, accompanied by an orchestra performing a live soundtrack.
The album recording was made after the rehearsals for the show. It was recorded live during a one-day session in Legacy Studios' A509 orchestral suite (since closed and demolished) with most of the group in the same large room together.
A multimedia package of The BQE was released on October 20, 2009. The set consists of a CD of the show's soundtrack, a DVD of Brooklyn-Queen Expressway footage that accompanied the original performance (not a film of the performance itself), a 40-page booklet with liner notes and photos, and a stereoscopic 3D View-Master reel. There is also a limited edition version that features the soundtrack on 180-gram vinyl and a 40-page BQE-themed comic book starring the show's hula-hooping wonder women, The Hooper Heroes.
Regarding The BQE, Stevens said:
I intended to create a non-personal, non-narrative piece. I tried to reduce my own personal investment as much as possible, and I refused to incorporate one of my strengths, which is the song. I was relinquishing my greatest weapon.