“I accepted the poet’s invitation to enter into this world where fistfuls of ants were thrown at the sun and crystals obscured the pine trees and there were the arches of Elvira to pass through and…” Leonard Cohen On Discovering Federico Garcia Lorca At Age 15

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You know it was many years ago in the city of Montreal that I stumbled upon this volume. I opened it and I accepted the poet’s invitation to enter into this world where fistfuls of ants were thrown at the sun and crystals obscured the pine trees and there were the arches of Elvira to pass through and begin weeping and there were those thighs that slipped away like schools of silver minnows. That was the irresistible seductive invitation I could not resist. I slipped into that fist, I did, I lived among the ants and I learned their ways. I mastered the crystals. I healed many alcoholic gurus with my crystal powers. I passed through the arches of Elvira and I did, I began weeping. That’s nothing new. I saw those thighs glistening like hunting horns and I touched them, I did, I pulled my hand away and I slipped away like a school of silver minnows. I’ve never left that world. I stand here tonight and I invite you all to join me here. There’s lots of space, there’s no boundaries, there’s no politics, no language. All you have to do is celebrate the sunlight coming through the hair of your beloved. It’s a simple thing. And it’s my great honour and my great privilege and my tiny duty to render this homage to the great Spanish poet who invited me there, Federico Garcia Lorca. Take this waltz, take this waltz.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Introduction to “Take This Waltz” at the San Francisco concert (March 7, 1993). In an interview, Cohen mentions that the English translation he first read was done by two men, one of whom was Stephen Spender.” That book is “Poems By García Lorca,” translated by Stephen Spender and J. L. Gili (Oxford University Press, 1939)

Originally posted November 28, 2009 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“When I started the thing, I didn’t realize I had taken my first step on a walk to China.” Leonard Cohen On His Traumatic Translation Of Federico Garcia Lorca’s Poem For Take This Waltz

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‘Take This Waltz’ was written deep into the nervous breakdown. It took me 150 hours to do the translation of the poem [by Federico Garcia Lorca]. It was hard to adapt so you could sing it in 3/4. The official translation – well you couldn’t sing that. So I had to get permission from the [Lorca] estate to do my own translation. And I was sorry that they gave it to me because when I started the thing, I didn’t realize I had taken my first step on a walk to China. [Interviewer: You must read Spanish pretty well.] No, I don’t. I met a Costa Rican girl who helped me with it, and I had other translations that people had done, but they weren’t rhymed. His poem is rhymed. Then I went to Paris to record it, then I broke down and went to a monastery in New Mexico for two months. I thought, ‘I don’t have to do a record anymore, I’ll be a monk!’ It’s good to have these places to go. When I came out I started the record again.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From Leonard Cohen’s Nervous Breakthrough by Mark Rowland, Musician, July 1988

Cohencentric has published several posts about Leonard Cohen’s Take This Waltz being based on his translation of Pequeño Vals Vienès by Federico García Lorca:

Toward An Understanding Of Leonard Cohen’s Take This Waltz

takethiswaltz

Notes On And Recommended Analyses Of Take This Waltz

The Unrealized Potential of Cohen’s Take This Waltz in The Gin Game, a two-part discussion1 published earlier this year triggered interest among reader about the song itself. Now, in my personal edition of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the “need to analyze Take This Waltz” falls somewhere between the “need to distinguish between sierra gold and amber sunshine” and the “need to catch a bowling ball dropped from a five story building in ones teeth.” I can, nonetheless, offer some notes and direction toward an understanding of Leonard Cohen’s 1986 tribute to  Federico García Lorca.

Leonard Cohen On Lorca

Take This Waltz is an especially important song in the Leonard Cohen canon, in large part because the lyrics derive from Pequeño Vals Vienès  (“Little Viennese Waltz”), a poem written in Spanish by Federico Garcia Lorca (pictured on right).

Cohen has commented on his discovery of Lorca’s poem and its significance in numerous concerts and interviews. These quotations are representative.

I was fifteen when I began to read Federico Garcia Lorca. His poems perhaps have had the greatest influence on my texts. He summoned up a world where I felt at home. His images were sensual and mysterious: “throw a fist full of ants to the sun.” I wanted to be able to write something like that as well. A few years ago I wrote a musical adaptation of Lorca’s “Little Viennese Waltz .” Then I noticed what a complex writer he was: it took me more than a hundred hours just to translate the poem. Lorca is one of those rare poets with whom you can stay in love for life.2

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  1. See Part 1: The Basics Of The Play & Its Add-on Dance Scene and Part 2:The Tragedy Of Love Touched But Not Grasped []
  2. From ‘Gesprek met Leonard Cohen, de boeteprediker van de popmuziek; Het Oude Testament is mijn handboek’ [Talk with Leonard Cohen, the philosopher of pop music; the Old Testament is my guide] by Pieter Steinz, NRC: December 4, 1992. translated by Anja Deelen []

The Original 1986 “Take This Waltz” By Leonard Cohen In 7 Media Formats

Take-this-Waltz0001-9

Media Formats: 1986 “Take This Waltz” By Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen’s “Take This Waltz,” with lyrics based on “Pequeno Vals Vienés” (Little Viennese Waltz) by Federico Garcia Lorca, was released as a track on the “I’m Your Man” album (February 1988). A different version of “Take This Waltz,” however, was released in 1986. This rendition was recorded by Cohen in Paris, at Studios Montmartre in September 1986 as part of  to a tribute album, “Poetas En Nueva York,” which celebrated the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Spanish poet.  For more information and the video of the 1986 version of “Take This Waltz,” see Video: The Original 1986 “Take This Waltz” By Leonard Cohen.

The audio recording of the 1986 “Take This Waltz” exists in at least seven different media formats.

  1. 45 rpm vinyl CBS 1986 (ref 7 650 210) Spain
  2. 45 rpm vinyl CBS 1986 (ref 650 210 7) Holland
  3. 45 rpm vinyl CBS 1986 (ref ARL 1007) Spain
  4. 33 rpm vinyl CBS 1986 (ref 4503071) Spain
  5. Maxi 45 rpm vinyl 12″ 1986: Promotion only – Israel
  6. 45 rpm vinyl CBS 1986 (ref 650210 7) Promotion only – Portugal1
  7. 33 rpm vinyl CBS 1986 (reference 450286 1) Holland

1. 45 rpm vinyl CBS – 1986 – ref 7 650 210 (Spain)

Take-this-Waltz0001-9

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  1. From Peter Torbijn of the Netherlands []

Video: The Original 1986 “Take This Waltz” By Leonard Cohen

waltzscThere’s a concert hall in Vienna
Where your mouth had a thousand reviews
There’s a bar where the boys have stopped talking
They’ve been sentenced to death by the blues
Ah, but who is it climbs to your picture
With a garland of freshly cut tears?

Leonard Cohen’s 1st “Take This Waltz” Recording

Leonard Cohen’s “Take This Waltz,” with lyrics based on “Pequeno Vals Vienés” (Little Viennese Waltz) by Federico Garcia Lorca, was released as a track on the “I’m Your Man” album (February 1988).

A different version of “Take This Waltz,” however, was released in 1986. This rendition was recorded by Cohen in Paris, at Studios Montmartre in September 1986 as part of a tribute album, “Poetas En Nueva York,” which celebrated the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Spanish poet.

The 1988 version of “Take this Waltz” is a remix of the 1986 version with the addition of Jennifer Warnes1 on vocals and the violin of Raffi Hakopian.2

Leonard Cohen went to the native soil of Lorca in the province of Granada in Spain to shoot the official video of the original (1986)  version “Take This Waltz” which follows:

Leonard Cohen – Take This Waltz
Official Video
From

 

Note: Originally posted Dec 3, 2012 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric. : Dominique BOILE contributed the information on which this post is based..

Update:  Also see The Original 1986 “Take This Waltz” By Leonard Cohen In 7 Media Formats

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  1. Warnes sang backup on the 1972 and 1979 Leonard Cohen Tours and performed on Live Songs (1973), Recent Songs (1979), Various Positions (1985), I’m Your Man (1988), The Future (1992), Field Commander Cohen: Tour of 1979 (2001), and Old Ideas (2012) []
  2. Hakopian played on the Recent Songs and I’m Your Man albums as well as touring with Leonard Cohen in 1979 and 1980 []