Uncovered Nuts from 22nd October 2006

on Thursday, May 17, 2007

When I first began to post, I wondered if there was life out there cause I got no visitors or comments. However, I think some of these posts were worthy of a second look. So from time to time, I will re-post one of these old buried treasures. I hope you will receive them with the same joy a squirrel has when in spring, he uncovers a nut he had buried last autumn........

LGS's Cultural Tour 1 : Leonard Cohen's "Villanelle for Our Time"


Squirrels dance and make noises all the time. On those tissue-thin credentials, the Lone Grey Squirrel bases his right to give a tour of the cultural world and to throw in his views and comments. Critics nit-pick while squirrels nut-pick. Close enough.

Today, I am in a funk (funk n. a state of severe depression). I really cannot tell you if that I am in this funk because I have been listening to my new CD, "Dear Heather" by Leonard Cohen or that I was already in the funk which is why I went to buy a Leonard Cohen CD. Anyway, I have decided that a good funk and a Leonard Cohen CD were made for each other.

I generally enjoy Canadian artists. I find most of them refreshingly uncompromising about not selling out their art to commercialisation, at least that is the impression I get. I have enjoyed the "angry" young women like Alanis Morissette and Avril Lavine. I have actually seen the former in a street concert in Ottawa just before she became an international star. I have enjoyed the social crusaders like Bruce Cockburn as well as the fun-loving but strange bands like Crash Test Dummies and Barenaked Ladies (the latter, I was disappointed to learn is an all male group). There are many more and I will revisit them again.

For me though, two giants stand out because of their soul-baring lyrics. When you hear them, you feel as they have given you the most intimate of glimpses into their inner sanctum. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen.

Leonard Cohen was born and bred in Montreal. The singer, songwriter, poet and novelist is now in his seventies but has been one of the most influential song writers of the 20th century.

The lyrics of his songs are often emotionally as well as lyrically complex and seem to carry a message at several different levels. Many of the songs deal with the mysteries and complications of women and relationships. Some seem to be almost too painfully real and very potent in their ability to provoke an emotive response.


"Villanelle for Our Time" is a song that seems to appeal for all of us to search ourselves in the hopes that we begin to understand that people are more important than our differences whether they are petty or imagined to be big and is also more important than transient, personal gains. Truly a meassage for a fragmenting world, driven by unbridled capitalism. Enjoy the lyrics below, go out and get your own copy so that you can feel the impact of his complementarily, evocative music. Finally, join me in a long good funk.

"VILLANELLE FOR OUR TIME"
words by Frank Scott (1899-1985)
music by Leonard Cohen

From bitter searching of the heart,
Quickened with passion and with pain
We rise to play a greater part.

This is the faith from which we start:
Men shall know commonwealth again
From bitter searching of the heart.


We loved the easy and the smart,
But now, with keener hand and brain,
We rise to play a greater part.


The lesser loyalties depart,
And neither race nor creed remain
From bitter searching of the heart.


Not Steering by the venal chart
That tricked the mass for private gain,
We rise to play a greater part.


Reshaping narrow law and art
Whose symbols are the millions slain,
From bitter searching of the heart
We rise to play a greater part.

20 comments:

evalinn said...

LG Squirrel, u make me seriously considering going funk tonight too.

Melanie said...

i loves me some Leonard Cohen, yes i do. guess what will be playing in my shop today, now that i have the earworm?

and i know what you mean about old posts going into the abyss. i am considering re-posting a big post where i spent hours making soap and taking pictures of myself throughout the process. it was a huge effort and i was really proud of the results, but i had *zero* readers at the time. what a bummer!

Josie said...

LGS, you know, I love reading Leonard Cohen's poetry, but listening to him really does put me into a funk. Bizarre, hey? I'm so glad you didn't mention Celine Dion here. Listening to her puts me into a funk as well. I'm embarrassed that she's Canadian, to be honest.

I love Bruce Coburn. And also Avril Lavigne. She's the anti-Celine... :-)

Josie

Janice Thomson said...

I have to agree with your choices Lgs, and in particular, Leonard Cohen who is indeed a superb songwriter and poet. He doesn't skirt the edges but rather gets to the meat of things in his lyrics and poems.

leslie said...

A bit of nostalgia here: The night I met my future husband, he asked me, "Wanna come back to my place and listen to my Leonard Cohen records?"

After laughing at his "line" we did end up married and listening to his LC records LOTS! I'd never heard of him before, but soon found him to be one of the best Canadian poets in a long time!

We saw him in concert in Ottawa back in '87 or '88 and he was actually quite engaging with the audience, considering his melancholy nature.

Last year when his new book came out, I got it autographed and gave it to Daughter #2 for her birthday. She treasures it because of the connection to her late Daddy.

nancycle said...

I can hear that voice, that uniquely rich, complex and relaxed voice of Leonard Cohen while I read those lyrics.

Like you I enjoy Canadian artists. I'll take a moment to share our family's Alanis story: Alanis was invited on stage to sing backup for Omar's dad who was performing in Cornwall (this is obviously pre-pop Alanis) which provided her a first big stage appearance. She had been invited into the Ottawa music social scene and took a liking to Omar's dad as well as other member(s) of his band.

The interpretation of lyrics was a common discussion - especially in our home with lyrics being written pretty much nightly (we had a 24 track recording studio in the sound proof room in the basement).

That said, I would be interested to know your interpretation of the song and when you write: "...seem to carry a message at several different levels.." are you able to elabourate on this?

Thanks to the savy squirrel for digging up this treasure!

patterns of ink said...

Wow! I'm glad you resurrected this overlooked post. It is a shame not to when you think about it. Great stuff. I like this Cohen poem, and I was unfamiliar with him until reading here tonight.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

evalinn,
I'm so sorry about putting you in a funk. Unless you are like me cause I enjoy a funk every now and then.

melanie,
I am visualising Leonard Cohen playing in a Tenessee soap shop.....full of ladies......yes, that would work very well. I would love to see your old post on soap making. I did chemistry so I know the crude facts of soap making but I would love to learn the finer points of the art from an expert like yourself.

Josie,
His words are melancholic but when you add his voice, its overpoweringly melancholic. Celine used to be a rocker and she was very good but she has been Disney-ised and sanitised. The poor girl, she has been neutralised. Canadians don't necessarily know who they are but they know they are different and they know they are not American. Celine is a lost Canadian.

janice,
I am really a novice when it comes to poetry as you know, but his words knock my socks off. I actually came across his poems a few times before I knew who he was and each time I just felt that it was mind-blowing. Only later did I realise those poems/songs were all by this one talented man.

leslie,
What a wonderful story. Hope you will post on it one day with all the details. That was a very lame line that your future husband tried out on you. You must have already been love-struck to fall for it and agree to listen to records of someone you did not even know. Again, thanks for sharing.

nancycle,
Oh dear, oh dear. My words are being scrutinised by a lyric expert!!! Never mind. I shall take up your challenge. Watch for the next post. Hey, I can now say that my blogging pal's son's dad used to have Alanis as a backup singer....... my, Alanis and I are practically friends!!!!

tom,
He is a Canadian National Treasure, no less! This particular poem was actually by Frank Scott who was a senior government servant. Cohen set it to music.

evalinn said...

LGSquirrel - again we agree! :-) A good funk every now and then keeps u healthy (and more fun the rest of the time).

DrHGuy said...

Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell not only shared a profession and a Canadian heritage but also, for a while, shared a romantic relationship that I thought was interesting enough to warrant a post: Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell: Just One Of Those Things. And, it turns out, they both wrote versions of what appear to be parallel songs, both named "Winter Lady," with telling differences; a comparison of those was the subject of Dueling Winter Ladies

etain_lavena said...

your stuff is always so intelligently lovely.....ag hello to me....your a lovely intelligent squirrel..hihi...
Have a good weekend:)

Gina said...

I was just going to put this quote at the top of my blog...funny that I would read about Leonard Cohen here today!!

"Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.”

nancycle said...

I'll be anxiously awaiting your post!

Yes, you can claim the Kevin Baconesqueness of the Alanis situation!

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

evalinn
absolutely! a little funk now and then......and then we can get FUNKY! Isn't English a strange language.

drhguy,
Thanks for your comments. I followed your links and learnt a whole lot of facts, i especially enjoyed your take on the dueling Winter Ladies. I am clearly in the presence on someone with superior knowledge of Leonard Cohen. This makes me nervous about my promise to nancycle to do some lyric dissection. Ooooo. Stress! I feel another funk coming!!!

etain,
Always good to hear from you. Have a great weekend yourself! Oh, and thanks for the kind words.

gina,
What a great quote. You have to have lived, loved, hoped and lost before you can right deep soulful poetry. I think its true.

nancycle,
I am getting performance anxiety. Did you see drhguy's comment? Anything I say is going to look so kindergarten-ish. Ooooo. Stress. How about I buy you a beer and promise never to talk about Leonard Cohen again?!?

Dr.John said...

I don't have any Canadian music to listen to so I can't really comment. Though the lyrics you provide do seem interesting.

patterns of ink said...

Oops! Got the lyricist mixed up with the writer of the score.
At the risk of sounding like a "Yankee Doodle Dandy," Is he related to George M. Cohen?

squirrel said...

I never heard of this Cohen fellow. I think I need to go to the music store he sounds interesting!

meggie said...

Two of my all time favourites. Leonard Cohen & Joni Mitchell.
Lovely post LGS!
Glad you revisited!

JR's Thumbprints said...

I too am a Leonard Cohen fan. Also, I like the political lyrics of Bruce Cockburn. When my wife and I first started dating I put a Cockburn tape in the player. I had to press stop and ask her what she was singing. Somewhat embarassed, she admitted the following: "If I had a broken lawnchair ..." Nevertheless, I corrected her.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Dr. John,
The music is good but for a great song, the lyrics has to be top notch too, in my opinion.

Tom,
I don't think so but at a risk of being an ignoramus, who's George M Cohen?

squirrel,
You won't regret it. Women just seem to love him and men try to figure out why!

meggie,
Amazing. And all the way down in Australia, you've followed these two Canadians from near the artic circle. Thanks for your comment.

JR,
Great story. I love that Bruce Cockburn song you mentioned. What was your wife's reaction when she learnt that it was not a "broken lawnchair" but a "rocket launcher"? Haha. :)

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