To A Teacher

Leonard Cohen's recent albums - share your views with others!
User avatar
Joe Way
Posts: 1115
Joined: Fri Jun 28, 2002 5:50 pm
Location: Wisconsin, USA

To A Teacher

Postby Joe Way » Thu Nov 04, 2004 5:45 am

Dick and I have been having a little discussion about this song. It is one of the songs that didn't grab us right away. I thought I'd share of few of the thoughts that I've had. This is snipped from an email to Dick:

I have a bit of difficulty with "To A Teacher" as well. It is really the only spoken word recitation on the album. The other ones start out that way but become songs (even if curious ones) along the way. It is a great poem, though. You are probably familiar with Klein and the dementia that he slipped into rather early. There was an article comparing him and Layton that someone linked to the forum, but I can't find it now. He was passionate and represented the Canadian Jewish milieu and I'm sure reminded L of his grandfather who also was lost to dementia. The line-"How can I leave you in this house?"which, of course, references the looney bin-probably resonates with overtones of problems that Leonard and his mother faced with his grandfather who lived with them during his declining years. There is that line from "Ladies and Gentleman, Mr. Leonard Cohen" where L talks of his grandfather and in one of his lucid moments says to L, "Yes, you are the writer." The jazz background I'm sure is reminiscent of music from the jazz clubs where Leonard used to read poetry in Montreal.

I'd be very interested in others take on this one.

Joe
"Say a prayer for the cowboy..."
User avatar
Courtois
Posts: 10
Joined: Thu Oct 28, 2004 3:37 pm

To a Teacher

Postby Courtois » Thu Nov 04, 2004 4:06 pm

To a Teacher is, at least at the moment, my favourite piece (one can hardly say song) on Dear Heather.

The text has the most intricate figures of speech of all the texts on the album. As such the text is more akin to the lyrics up to and including The Future than to the prevailing lyrical minimalism of Dear Heather and Ten New Songs. I personally prefer the more elaborate poetry.

The joining of the poem and the musical accompaniment is simply very well accomplished: the timing lends a great rhythm to the words, in harmony with the instrumentation. I also find Leonard Cohen gets the right voice for the poem, sounding the acquiescence of someone who realises that the situation (of the subject ending up in an asylum) cannot be reversed - although he protests 'How can I leave you in such a house?'

I love the dragging of some of the words, accentuating the rhyme; and the calm, dry wit of 'Did you confuse the Messiah in a mirror and rest because he had finally come?'

I love the curious, near-comic wallpaper music, a steady low-key groove expressing the inevitabiliy of nature's course and of the degeneration of living beings.

Such accomplished musical treatment of this poem makes me eager to hear more in this rare genre.

Courtois
Last edited by Courtois on Fri Nov 05, 2004 3:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Tchocolatl
Posts: 3781
Joined: Wed Apr 02, 2003 10:07 pm

Postby Tchocolatl » Thu Nov 04, 2004 4:59 pm

Courtois, me too. He is fabulous.


Joe Way,

I listened to the song to confirm my first impression, after having found in which machine DH is - a Leonard Cohen's CD is in everything that can read a CD in the house these days.

"There was an article comparing him and Layton that someone linked to the forum, but I can't find it now."

I remember this link to this article, is it the one you are talking about?

My impressions? How can you sing a piece when the first two lines are?

Hurt once and for all into silence.
A long pain ending without a song to prove it.

I have difficulty to stay simple sometimes when discussing about Leonard Cohen's work (I'm too carried away). I will try.

This album was talking about the loss, an old idea of him. The loss that came by death, but the loss that came by the spirit leaving the body in an other way. Like for Mr. Klein.

What he is saying, I think (besides "I love you") is "it does not matter if you are now a sick man, you were and you are this giant that was (and still is) so important to me and I am proud of being your descendant" (poetically speaking).

Did you confuse the Messiah in a mirror
and rest because he had finally come?

I see this as a measure of what he is still think and feel about his teacher (with other degrees of understanding: the Jewish affiliation, his peculiar sense of humour tinted with tenderness, among others). "You may be confuse now, but you are such a great person that it is possible to see you as a Messiah, in a reflection ".

The next song is The Faith, like an hymn that has to come after the spoken tribute to somebody you have lost. And by extension, for all the people he had lost and paid a tribute to on this album and/or other albums or elsewhere. As it is inspired from a Québec folk song and a favourite of his mother, I imagine it has something to do with his roots and the important figures who stood along his path.

I think the order of the songs on the CD is important. For example, it begins like TNS ended, (listeners may think "ah! there it is, he is beginning to ramble, poor old fellow, he?") and than he is going somewhere else, completely. Completely.
Last edited by Tchocolatl on Thu Nov 04, 2004 9:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
***
"He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love."

Leonard Cohen
Beautiful Losers
Tchocolatl
Posts: 3781
Joined: Wed Apr 02, 2003 10:07 pm

Postby Tchocolatl » Thu Nov 04, 2004 5:08 pm

I know that Mr. Klein is dead (peace to his soul) now but Mr. Cohen signs this like if he is talking to him while visiting, that is why I took it by this end.
***
"He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love."

Leonard Cohen
Beautiful Losers
User avatar
Jonnie Falafel
Posts: 325
Joined: Tue Jan 07, 2003 9:36 pm
Location: Arezzo, Tuscany, Italy
Contact:

Postby Jonnie Falafel » Thu Nov 04, 2004 7:14 pm

Having read the reviews prior to release I wasn't looking forward to the "spoken word" pieces. However, I revised my opinion on the first hearing and now conclude that the spoken stuff is far more successful than the more conventional songs. Because of and To A Teacher don't hold up on the page but hearing them was such a revelation. I find To A Teacher incredibly moving, "how can I leave you in such a house", "Did you confuse the messiah in the mirrror and rest because he had finally come" shows such a huge empathy with insanity. Conversely the songs which satisfy in print (The letters & There for You) don't work well musically at all. Am I the only one who finds the soporific meanderings of Sharon Robinson devoid of originality, totally interchangable and based around the same "melodies"? Sharon should go. But please lets have more of the Recent Songs band!!
User avatar
Joe Way
Posts: 1115
Joined: Fri Jun 28, 2002 5:50 pm
Location: Wisconsin, USA

Postby Joe Way » Sat Nov 06, 2004 6:06 am

Dear Courtois, Tchocolatl, and Jonnie,

Thanks for your insightful posts. Courtois, have you heard Leonard read the poem that starts out, "I heard of a man who says words so beautifully."? I'm not sure what song, but Tori Amos uses it as a preface to one of hers. He does declame well! Do you have, "Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Leonard Cohen."? His talents for this started at an early age.

Tchocolatl, thank you so much for providing that link-that was, indeed, the article that I was looking for. I read it again and and was struck by many of the insights. For example, the author's discussion of words and silence and its relation to LC's work. (For an artist with so many years between books and records-which side is he on!) I also think that it is quite an irony that he dedicates the Byron poem to Layton-the man who urged all to have no influences, but to develop one's own voice. If Dear Heather is an album of influences, I am convinced the Leonard's next work will be his own pure voice and will probably be "out there" even more than DH.

Please keep posting your wonderful observations-they are much appreciated.

Joe
"Say a prayer for the cowboy..."
User avatar
lizzytysh
Posts: 25329
Joined: Thu Jun 27, 2002 8:57 pm
Location: Florida, U.S.A.

Postby lizzytysh » Sat Nov 06, 2004 5:19 pm

I loved this, Tchocolatl ~
My impressions? How can you sing a piece when the first two lines are?

Hurt once and for all into silence.
A long pain ending without a song to prove it.
I very much enjoyed the remainder of your analysis, but what a beginning 8) ! It's such a poignancy that Leonard has shared with us in these two lines.

Thanks to you, Joe, Courtois, Tchocolatl, and Jonnie. I am so thoroughly enjoying what everyone is saying here. That phrasing sounds, perhaps, not so deeply meant, but it is.

~ Elizabeth
User avatar
Courtois
Posts: 10
Joined: Thu Oct 28, 2004 3:37 pm

I heard of a man

Postby Courtois » Mon Nov 08, 2004 11:53 am

Joe Way wrote:Courtois, have you heard Leonard read the poem that starts out, "I heard of a man who says words so beautifully."? I'm not sure what song, but Tori Amos uses it as a preface to one of hers. He does declame well! Do you have, "Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Leonard Cohen."? His talents for this started at an early age.
Twice negative: I don't collect Tori Amos (in fact I'm only familiar with her accomplished cover of Famous Blue Raincoat), and I haven't heard Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Leonard Cohen - which is no longer regularly available, I suppose.

Maybe in the poetry section of this board there could be a Favo(u)rite Leonard Cohen Poem(s) thread, if that has not been done before too recently. Time allowing, I'll give my two cents'.

Best,
Courtois
User avatar
margaret
Posts: 1853
Joined: Thu Nov 07, 2002 1:21 am
Location: UK

Postby margaret » Mon Nov 08, 2004 2:10 pm

Courtois,

"Ladies and Gentleman, Mr Leonard Cohen" is a video made in 1964/5 in black and white, running for about 45 minutes. It covers Leonards poetry tour of that period and documents his early life and includes him reading his poetry. This was made before he embarked on his singing career. It was the first video material I was able to buy, and as far as I know is still on sale if you order it from a store, or through online suppliers like amazon.com in video or on dvd. Copies also appear on the auction site ebay quite regularly.
User avatar
Courtois
Posts: 10
Joined: Thu Oct 28, 2004 3:37 pm

Ladies and Gentlemen

Postby Courtois » Mon Nov 08, 2004 3:38 pm

Thanks for the info, Margaret. I see on Amazon that Ladies and Gentlemen... Mr. Leonard Cohen is even available as a DVD. Perhaps this goes a way to indicating that there is a demand for Leonard Cohen reciting his poetry...

Courtois
Tchocolatl
Posts: 3781
Joined: Wed Apr 02, 2003 10:07 pm

Postby Tchocolatl » Wed Nov 10, 2004 5:51 am

Joe Way wrote:Tchocolatl, (...) Please keep posting your wonderful observations-they are much appreciated.
Joe
Thank you Joe, it is warmly appreciated. :P

"I am convinced the Leonard's next work will be his own pure voice and will probably be "out there" even more than DH."

With him we never know. I'll wait patiently like I waited for DH.

:D
***
"He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love."

Leonard Cohen
Beautiful Losers
User avatar
Joe Way
Posts: 1115
Joined: Fri Jun 28, 2002 5:50 pm
Location: Wisconsin, USA

Postby Joe Way » Thu Nov 11, 2004 7:43 am

I would highly recommend that anyone who doesn't have "Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Leonard Cohen" obtain a copy. It is indeed, still available from Amazon. Although I had a taped copy, I bought the DVD and have not only enjoyed it, but it has helped me understand better some of the foundations of Leonard's work.

You will get to see a very young Leonard address an audience in a lecture hall at Mcgill (I think) where he shows early on his talent for both entertaining an audience and masterfully reciting poetry. One also gets a sense of the wonderful humor that Leonard possesses.

There is a wonderful scene from a CBC program with Layton and Cohen being grilled by a moderator who challenges Leonard rises above.

There is even a scene where Earl Birney and some other Canadian poets are riding in a car with Leonard. The black and white shots, the 50's style (the young collegians remind me of my brother and sister during that era) and the chance to see what Leonard has developed from these roots make it very worthwhile.

It has helped me approach Dear Heather with what I believe to be important background information.

Keep posting your insights-they are very enjoyable to read and think about. Leonard obviously put much thought and effort into this work, we do it a disservice if we treat it only as ear candy.

Joe
"Say a prayer for the cowboy..."
User avatar
lindyasimus
Posts: 40
Joined: Thu Nov 18, 2010 2:29 am
Location: Australia
Contact:

Re: To A Teacher

Postby lindyasimus » Sat Nov 15, 2014 10:48 am

I love this.

I quite like the whole album. It took a while though.

Singing, schminging.

Return to “Live in London, Dear Heather, The Essential Leonard Cohen, Ten New Songs”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests