Robert Kory spoke at the Max and Iris Stern International Symposium, which was part of the Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal (MAC) Leonard Cohen exhibition, about his task navigating the legalities of protecting intellectual property, and also making “esthetic” judgments about the use of Leonard Cohen’s work. The following excerpt addresses the titular issue, “Why was Assassin’s Creed given rights to a Leonard Cohen song and not the Montreal Symphony Orchestra?” but the entire article is a worthwhile read.
Kory said he approved the use of You Want it Darker in the next instalment of the Assassin’s Creed franchise, despite the action video game and film series’ violence, because it will bring Cohen’s music to a new audience. This is the song on which the Congregation Shaar Hashomayim choir and Cantor Gideon Zelermyer sing backup vocals, lending an authentic sound to its Jewish liturgical inspiration. Kory, who was Cohen’s manager from 2008 and sole trustee since 2016, explained that the producers of Assassin’s Creed, the French company Ubisoft, kept the song as it was. The game’s storyline of a battle against evil reflects Cohen’s general worldview and Kory believes he would appreciate this “honest representation of his work.”
He expects that the video featuring the song, which is part of the game, will get “tens of millions of viewers, young men aged 18 to 25, (even) in Bulgaria, who will say, ‘this is a cool dude, a badass guy,’ ” and maybe listen to another song on the album.
Ubisoft also was very “gracious, meeting the highest possible standards” and consulting with the trust “every step of the way,” he said. Kory rejected a request from the MSO to perform the song at a concert in celebration of Montreal’s 375th anniversary last year because it wanted to do it in “a lighter arrangement.” Kory also did not like the MSO’s non-collaborative approach. “In contrast (to Ubisoft), the MSO just wanted to ‘do it our way, because we are the MSO,’ ” he said.
Why was Assassin’s Creed given rights to a Leonard Cohen song and not the Montreal Symphony Orchestra? by Janice Arnold (Canadian Jewish News: April 10, 2018). Photo by Dominique BOILE.