switch from literature to music

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francis
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switch from literature to music

Post by francis » Wed May 02, 2012 10:23 am

Hi all,

I read somewhere (but I forgot where) that some lines of Cohen's (musical) work could be interpreted as an indirect 'regret' or even a 'confession of guilt' of the turn from writer/poet to musician. I know this statemen allows several interpretations but I was wondering if som of you know who said that and which lines/songs could be seen as an expression of this 'regret'?

Thanks!

Francis
seadove
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Re: switch from literature to music

Post by seadove » Thu May 03, 2012 10:10 am

I for one know for sure that I'm not regretting that switch from writer/poet to musician. :-)
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TipperaryAnn
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Re: switch from literature to music

Post by TipperaryAnn » Thu May 03, 2012 9:25 pm

francis wrote:
I read somewhere (but I forgot where) that some lines of Cohen's (musical) work could be interpreted as an indirect 'regret' or even a 'confession of guilt' of the turn from writer/poet to musician.
One that comes to mind is "I came so far for beauty" from "Recent Songs" in 1979 :

"I came so far for beauty
I left so much behind
My patience and my family
My masterpiece unsigned."

Certainly sounds like regret then. Wonder how he feels about it now!
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holydove
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Re: switch from literature to music

Post by holydove » Fri May 04, 2012 4:48 pm

Hi francis,

The one line that comes to mind for me, which could be interpreted that way, is (from That Don't Make It Junk):

"took my diamond to the pawn shop"

But it doesn't necessarily reference the switch from literature to music, per se; it could refer to the idea of receiving money for his gift, in whatever form his gift manifests. But obviously, the music has brought him more material compensation, so it could be interpreted as reference to the switch from literature to music. But, like seadove, I personally do not regret the switch, or the material rewards it has brought Leonard - I don't regret it at all - not one little bit!! May you live long and prosper - even more, Leonard Cohen!
francis
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Re: switch from literature to music

Post by francis » Sat May 05, 2012 12:20 am

Thanks for your ideas! It might be the line 'took my diamond to the pawnshop'... that I was looking for.
Besides: I don't know if he ever really "shifted" from literature to music. Cohen once compared his writership with the priesthood: once a priest, always a priest...

So long!
Francis
holydove
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Re: switch from literature to music

Post by holydove » Sat May 05, 2012 1:32 am

francis wrote:Thanks for your ideas! It might be the line 'took my diamond to the pawnshop'... that I was looking for.
Besides: I don't know if he ever really "shifted" from literature to music. Cohen once compared his writership with the priesthood: once a priest, always a priest...
Francis, I was thinking the same thing, as Leonard has continued to write books of poetry throughout his career, & as we know, his song lyrics are an endless fountain of beautiful profound poetry. . .so I don't believe there was ever any "switch" at all.
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joyezekiel
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Re: switch from literature to music

Post by joyezekiel » Sat May 05, 2012 6:31 am

holydove wrote:
francis wrote:Thanks for your ideas! It might be the line 'took my diamond to the pawnshop'... that I was looking for.
Besides: I don't know if he ever really "shifted" from literature to music. Cohen once compared his writership with the priesthood: once a priest, always a priest...
Francis, I was thinking the same thing, as Leonard has continued to write books of poetry throughout his career, & as we know, his song lyrics are an endless fountain of beautiful profound poetry. . .so I don't believe there was ever any "switch" at all.
I agree. I was listening to "Old Ideas" today as I was driving, and I was struck by the poetry and beauty of the lyrics over and over again. I always loved Leonard more for his words than his music, but I find now that I'm waiting just as enthusiastically for the musical element (those magical inputs from the saxophone, keyboard, guitar, etc.) Maybe it's because we've seen him again in concert, where the music is as important as the lyrics, or maybe as you say, Rachel, there never really was a "switch" at all. And anyway, why can't a poet be a musician?

Joy
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holydove
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Re: switch from literature to music

Post by holydove » Sat May 05, 2012 9:44 pm

joyezekiel wrote: And anyway, why can't a poet be a musician?

Joy
Joy, I think this is very true. In the culture of Ancient Greece, music & poetry were inextricably intertwined (poets always sang their poems with instrumental accompaniment), & I think this has always inherently been the case for Leonard. He has said that when he writes poetry, he always hears a guitar in the background; & he has also said that he has always sung (even before he did so in public), & that he has always loved music. Plus, Leonard's poetry has always been very musical (& poetry in general is often very musical), & there is alot of music (including Leonard's), which I find to be very poetic. I think a large part of Leonard's motive for combining his poetry with music, & using that form publicly, is that he felt he could reach more people that way. But I think that form also comes very naturally for him, & let's not forget his very beautiful & telling words, "I am this thing/ that needs to sing".
Last edited by holydove on Wed May 09, 2012 4:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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TipperaryAnn
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Re: switch from literature to music

Post by TipperaryAnn » Wed May 09, 2012 4:12 pm

holydove wrote:
In the culture of Ancient Greece, music & poetry were inextricably intertwined (poets always sang their poems with instrumental accompaniment)
This was so in the Gaelic tradition too. The Bard ( Irish pronunciation like Bawrd ) used to compose during the day in a darkened room, then in the evening would recite his composition in the presence of the Taoiseach ( = Leader ) and other chieftains to the accompaniment of the harp. Would suit Leonard admirably!

And better still the word Bard came to mean not only a poet but also "a sage, a man of vision" ! :)
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holydove
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Re: switch from literature to music

Post by holydove » Wed May 09, 2012 10:47 pm

TipperaryAnn wrote:
This was so in the Gaelic tradition too. The Bard ( Irish pronunciation like Bawrd ) used to compose during the day in a darkened room, then in the evening would recite his composition in the presence of the Taoiseach ( = Leader ) and other chieftains to the accompaniment of the harp. Would suit Leonard admirably!
TipperaryAnn, that is really fascinating - thank you for sharing the information! I suppose the French Troubadour of medieval times, & the chansonniere of Quebec, are similar traditions, in their marrying of poetry & music. I'll bet there have been similar traditions in other cultures too - that would be an interesting research project. . .
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TipperaryAnn
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Re: switch from literature to music

Post by TipperaryAnn » Thu May 10, 2012 4:20 pm

holydove wrote:
I suppose the French Troubadour of medieval times, & the chansonniere of Quebec, are similar traditions, in their marrying of poetry & music. I'll bet there have been similar traditions in other cultures too - that would be an interesting research project. . .
I'm sure you're right, holydove, and no doubt someone somewhere has already written a thesis about this!

I love both poetry and music, but I don't think anyone else has so successfully "married" the two of them.
That lovely word Troubadour really suits him!
Forget your perfect offering -
There is a crack in everything...
holydove
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Re: switch from literature to music

Post by holydove » Thu May 10, 2012 4:41 pm

TipperaryAnn wrote:
I'm sure you're right, holydove, and no doubt someone somewhere has already written a thesis about this!

I love both poetry and music, but I don't think anyone else has so successfully "married" the two of them.
That lovely word Troubadour really suits him!
When I have the time, I will try to find that thesis & get back to you on that. . .

And yes, Leonard Cohen is absolutely the Quintessential - past, present & future - Troubadour!
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LisaLCFan
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Re: switch from literature to music

Post by LisaLCFan » Thu May 10, 2012 11:27 pm

Going back to the original question in this post, both Last Year's Man and Dress Rehearsal Rag have lines in them that could be interpreted as a bit of a lament for the poet Leonard was known as prior to becoming the famous singer. Mind you, I do agree with what everyone else has said, that for Leonard himself, there was never a clear separation (if any) between music and poetry. But, perhaps in the perceptions of others, he crossed that line, and he seems to have referred to that from time to time in his songs. For instance, consider these lines from Dress Rehearsal Rag (which was written around the time Leonard was making the apparent transition from literature to music):

I said to myself, "Where are you golden boy,
where is your famous golden touch?"
[...]
I thought you were the crown prince
of all the wheels in Ivory Town.


This could be interpreted as a reference to Leonard having been the "golden boy" of Canadian poetry (which he was), the "crown prince" of the poets in academia (aka the "Ivory Tower," athough LC has used "Ivory Town"), and thus it may fit with the aforementioned idea of Leonard having somehow abandoned (or been seen to have abandoned) literature for music (even though he never actually did).
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B4real
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Re: switch from literature to music

Post by B4real » Thu May 10, 2012 11:59 pm

holydove wrote:And yes, Leonard Cohen is absolutely the Quintessential - past, present & future - Troubadour!
Sorry to digress Lisa, but I am reminded of Leonard's own words at a live concert some years ago when someone asked him to sing Leaving Greensleeves.
He replied with, "I haven't sung that song since I was a troubadour in the south of France!"
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Re: switch from literature to music

Post by holydove » Fri May 11, 2012 5:49 pm

B4real wrote: I am reminded of Leonard's own words at a live concert some years ago when someone asked him to sing Leaving Greensleeves.
He replied with, "I haven't sung that song since I was a troubadour in the south of France!"
Bev, that is such a wonderful quote, thank you for reminding me of it!! (I don't remember which concert that was, do you?)

So I guess we can add (to Francis' "once a priest. . .): Once a Troubadour, always a Troubadour! It's good to know that Leonard remembers his past lives; I wonder how many of us were there with him, in the south of France. . .(you can't hear my tone, so I will say that I am half-joking; of course, that means I'm half -not -joking too!)
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