“You learn to stop bravely at the surface. If you hear something that really resonates, you just fold your hands in gratitude and try to incorporate it into the song.” Leonard Cohen On Songwriting

When you’re writing a song, are you aware that you’re tapping into something that you may not have a conscious handle on?

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Well, I think that sometimes when you’re in ninth gear or when you’re really skiing down the slope – you’re right on top of the snow, you don’t want to go any deeper. As someone said, you learn to stop bravely at the surface. If you hear something that really resonates, you just fold your hands in gratitude and try to incorporate it into the song. Sometimes those obscurities are just bullshit and they have to be excised; they have to be ruthlessly removed even if they sound good. Because they produce a disconnect in the song that every listener feels unconsciously. If you feel somebody’s trying to put you on, you really feel it.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Leonard Cohen on Longevity, Money, Poetry and Sandwiches By Gavin Edwards (Rolling Stone: Sept 19, 2014).

“I find that my work, on a personal level, for me, is prophetic… So I read my own work as personal prophecy. Like my dreams. I think all my dreams have come through.” Leonard Cohen

Can you yourself learn from what you write, I mean, teach yourself?

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I find that my work, on a personal level, for me, is prophetic. So that I read it with a very special kind of interest after I’ve written it. After I’ve finished a book I sometimes read it and realise that what I’ve written has not yet come about, the sensibility is about to unfold. For instance when I wrote Beautiful Losers I thought I was completely broken, and on the edge of redemption. I thought I just can’t feel any worse. But the actual fact was, the state of mind laid out in Beautiful Losers, actually came to pass. A year or two later I felt myself in exactly that kind of situation. So I read my own work as personal prophecy. Like my dreams. I think all my dreams have come through. I had a very curious and beautiful dream a month and half ago. It followed one of those times that I was talking about when I had an experience of total freedom. I was sitting at a cafe near The Bitter End in New York. I was sitting with some singers and some people in the music field and suddenly I became, although the feeling had grown by imperceptible degrees, suddenly I became aware that I felt magnificent, triumphant, free, open, warm, affectionate to everyone and everyone around me. Nothing changed, but I could see clearly what everyone was doing without any sort of judgement and loving what everyone was doing. And I almost hugged myself with pleasure, just of breathing and being with friends. And one of the really important things is that I saw what everybody was doing, you know, I saw them; I didn’t think of it as their game, I just saw each person’s style as a revelation of themselves. And I loved it. I loved what I saw. And I excused myself and I walked back to the place where I was staying. I walked back through the Village and it just seemed so beautiful. You know, I could see the Village as just a village on the surface of the earth and the kids walking there and the fruit sellers and the little stores. It all seemed so harmonious, like pieces of a clock and very perfect, it seemed that the world was perfect. And then I went back to a girl’s apartment, and then it was really beautiful, she was a beautiful girl. Probably to make love, but it was like playing games. The vision slowly melted into a dream. I was walking through a village with a group of young children, probably Jewish refugees. There was a row of houses, each one seemed to represent some alternative in my life. But each place turned us down, they didn’t want to take the children. The very last house was a Swedish Red Cross Mission, where there were three beautiful women, and I fell in love with them. To me they represented Woman. And I asked, would they take the children? but they wouldn’t. Even though they refused I wasn’t upset. We left and walked down to the beach which was really bright, beautiful with the huge blue sky and miles of sand. I was standing with the children, and then Stuka bombers appeared on the horizon. And I said to the children: kneel, we are going to say a prayer. And the bombs started to fall, but no one cared.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

An Interview with Leonard Cohen by Michael Harris. Duel: Winter 1969.

“I won’t say anything about my relation to the stage and the audience. I never talk publicly about my intimate relationships.” Elegant Photos & Words From 2012 Paris Leonard Cohen Old Ideas Press Conference

Leonard Cohen Presents

The perpetually dapper and debonair Leonard Cohen was in his element at the Jan 16, 2012 Old Ideas press conference held at the elite, elegant Hôtel de Crillon in Paris.

Cohen’s responses to the queries at the press conference were, as one would expect, predominantly based on his classical forms.

He opened, for example, with a reflex genuflection to the country of the venue (for the record, Leonard Cohen has also presented his credentials for a special relationship with Canada, Ireland,  Spain, and several other countries.). Asked if he had a special relationship with France, Cohen responded

I always believed that the tradition in which I speak, the song was particularly well understood here in France.1

Similarly, he again attributed the remission of his many years of depression to the notion that with old age, one loses a certain kind of brain cells responsible for causing anxiety,  he once more  explained the difference between clinical depression and ordinary disappointment, and revealed, for the 30th time, his passion for flamenco.

Dominique Issermann

There was, however, a bit of new material.

The album is called Old Ideas. These are just eternal themes that I have always been treated and that affect us all. Ordinary, everyday questions, nothing more.2

Probably the most significant new expression from the press conference has to do with the inclusion of blues songs on the album:

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  1. Nouvel album de Leonard Cohen: un très bon cru by Olivier Nuc. Le Figaro. Jan 17, 2012 []
  2. Les bonnes vieilles idées de Leonard Cohen by Hugo Cassavetti (Telerama: Jan 16, 2012) via Google Translate. []

“I was interested in writing a kind of poetry that has the same lyric limpidness as some of the Scottish Border ballads or Irish songs, and later some of the Spanish Civil War songs.” Leonard Cohen

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I was interested in writing a kind of poetry that has the same lyric limpidness as some of the Scottish Border ballads or Irish songs, and later some of the Spanish Civil War songs. The kind of verse I was writing was like

My lady can sleep
Upon a handkerchief
Or if it be Fall
Upon a fallen leaf.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Sincerely, L. Cohen by Brian Cullman (Details for Men, January, 1993)

DrHGuy Note: Those lines of poetry are from My Lady Can Sleep, published in The Spice-Box of Earth by Leonard Cohen.

My lady can sleep
Upon a handkerchief
Or if it be Fall
Upon a fallen leaf.
I have seen the hunters
kneel before her hem
Even in her sleep
She turns away from them.
The only gift they offer
Is their abiding grief
I pull out my pockets
For a handkerchief or leaf.

Originally posted Oct 24, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“The effect of a sad song is not to depress but to bring you closer to the emotion and make you feel better, although it’s not uplifting in the sense [of] keep a stiff upper lip… When I listen to a so-called sad song, it has a healing quality.” Leonard Cohen

Some people have described you as a messenger of despair, with some of the songs they’ve seen you write. Do you think that’s right, are your songs rather despairing?

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I don’t know if that’s… I know I’ve certainly been accused of that, people have accused me of being the all-time bummer of the generation, but, I don’t know, perhaps it’s just I’ve been experiencing a different tradition in music where the lament is understood. If you take emotions that we all experience, and you articulate them and give them a form, it changes the emotion, that’s what a lament is for. A lament is not designed to make anybody feel worse. It’s designed to bring people closer to their emotions and evidently make them more together. I think that is an effect of some of my songs. Some fail – some are just bad, and bring you down because they’re not accomplished in terms of the art or the delivery, but some songs that are called sad, they are sad, but I think the effect of a sad song is not to depress but to bring you closer to the emotion and make you feel better, although it’s not uplifting in the sense that it’s like keep a stiff upper lip or anything like that but it does have, for me when I listen to a so-called sad song, it has a healing quality. I’d prefer if my songs had a healing quality. Some of them are depressing, but they’re not depressing because of the song, it’s depressing because of the absence of the song or the lack of craft.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From 1974 Radio Luxembourg (RTL 208) interview with Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen Invokes Feelings For Marianne After They Separated As Evidence That “Love Never Dies”

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People change and their bodies change and their hair grows gray and falls out and their bodies decay and die… but there is something that doesn’t change about love and about the feelings we have for people. Marianne, the woman of So Long, Marianne, when I hear her voice on the telephone, I know something is completely intact even though our lives have separated and we’ve gone our very different paths. I feel that love never dies, and that when there is an emotion strong enough to gather a song around it, that there is something about that emotion that is indestructible…quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Leonard Cohen quotation is from his 1992 Interview with Serge Simonart. Originally posted Mar 9, 2011 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric