Called in for another cohenoscopy

Ronald de Wolf asks:

how does Leonard Cohen (the Montreal-born singer-songwriter, a.k.a. my latest hero) fit in “the Cohen balance of the universe”?

I’d heard of him, but I knew nothing about him until Ronald’s question prompted several hours of websurfing. (Thanks a million, Ronald!) As a result of this diligent research — as well as almost three full minutes of listening to mp3’s — I can now offer the world the following

COHEN SCORECARD

Starting credit: 1 point.

Seems like a nice guy: +3 points.

Singing voice several notches below me with a sore throat: -2 points.

Songs that I can’t imagine listening to for pleasure: -1 point.

Then again, I don’t listen to music: 1 point back.

In his seventies, continues to attract babes like flypaper: +4 points.

Is nevertheless profoundly melancholic: -4 points.

Verdict: Inconclusive.

29 Responses to “Called in for another cohenoscopy”

  1. Jud Says:

    Until you have watched the movie “McCabe and Mrs. Miller,” and heard Cohen’s song “Hallelujah” as performed by Jeff Buckley (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0000029DD/103-9181440-8789410?v=glance&n=5174), you might consider yourself not fully qualified to form an opinion on matters L Cohenesque.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    You’ve never heard of Leonard Cohen? -1 point. You don’t like his music?? -2 points…. You don’t listen to music at all?!? -100 points.

  3. Who Says:

    poetry is still around
    rhymed metrical (rhythmic) verse is a type of poetry that is still around

    the lyrics of Leonard Cohen songs qualify as verse

    Dylan Thomas wrote some rhymed verse too—I’d rate them roughly equal. I’d guess in a hundred years, in an anthology of verse poets, Cohen might get about as much space as Dylan Thomas.

    You dont have to listen to his recordings of his songs to guess his future reputation—just read aloud to yourself—what kind of singing he does and whether people like it or not doesnt matter in the long run.

    He may not be among the top 5 verse poets of the 20th, but he is one of the good minor ones. Won’t be forgotten any time soon, I guess.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    Jeff Buckley’s cover of “Hallelujah” is abso-fucking-lutely amazing.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Little known fact: Cohen was a poet of certain renown before he ever recorded his first album.

    More specifically he published three poem books before he ever recorded his first album.

  6. nic Says:

    Arrrr!!!! Jeff Buckley’s cover of Hallelujah is ***AWFUL***, its full of over-produced poor attempts at emotion. Check out Kathryn Williams’ version for the real deal.

    Cohen sounds like conan as in ‘conan the barbarian’. +5 comedy points.

  7. Bram Cohen Says:

    There are too many Cohens.

  8. David Says:

    Some of his first songs (including his first hit, “Suzanne”) were published poems before being put to music.

    As for songs to “listen to for pleasure”, check out the tribute albums I’m Your Fan, Tower of Song and Famous Blue Raincoat. Fantastic!

  9. Anonymous Says:

    Ah, “Famous Blue Raincoat”. Write an open letter to your brother thanking him for having an affair with your wife because it has made her a bit less sad and you too will get girls into your seventies. See also: Adam Cohen, Leonard’s more attractive but less poetic singer/songwriter son.

    ~brie

  10. Scott Says:

    You’ve never heard of Leonard Cohen? -1 point. You don’t like his music?? -2 points…. You don’t listen to music at all?!? -100 points.

    I’ve been emotionally affected by everything from Beethoven to Beatles to jazz to bad Top 40 music. It’s just that I rarely find myself listening of my own accord except out of intellectual curiosity. More often, I’ll just google the lyrics and try to understand what’s being asserted.

    (Note that parody songs, like those of Tom Lehrer, Weird Al Yankovic, or The Simpsons, I put in a different category entirely.)

    It’s funny — the entire rest of my family is extremely musical, but somehow I didn’t inherit the gene, or maybe only got a recessive.

    (“But everyone who’s good at math is good at music!” goes the time-honored retort. I guess I suck at math then.)

    Should I fake a passion I don’t feel, in order to appear more cultured?

  11. Scott Says:

    Write an open letter to your brother thanking him for having an affair with your wife because it has made her a bit less sad and you too will get girls into your seventies.

    Hi, Brie! Your comment brings up one of the central differences between math and music: with music, you can never tell if the guy actually believes in his work or if he’s just faking it for the babes. With math, the question doesn’t arise.

  12. Jud Says:

    “[W]ith music, you can never tell if the guy actually believes in his work or if he’s just faking it for the babes. With math, the question doesn’t arise.”

    Your girlfriend will be thrilled to know you’re just faking all this complexity stuff for her.

  13. Scott Says:

    Your girlfriend will be thrilled to know you’re just faking all this complexity stuff for her.

    Err, that’s not quite what I meant when I said the question didn’t arise. :) But I will admit that I’ve been extraordinarily lucky to meet someone who digs quantum lower bounds.

  14. Johan Richter Says:

    Amazing, I have finally found someone who appears to think of music in the same way as I do.

    Most people think I am some kind of freak when I tell them that I never listen to music on my own.

  15. Scott Says:

    Johan: Awesome — let’s start a club! “Not Of Our Own Accord: The iPodless Freaks of the World.”

    What should our theme song be — 4’33” by John Cage?

  16. L Says:

    I don’t listen to music on my own, either…except for Leonard Cohen.

  17. Anonymous Says:

    When I open my eyes I must sigh, for what I see is contrary to my religion, and I must despise the world which does not know that music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy.
    — Ludwig van Beethoven

  18. secret milkshake Says:

    I can totally picture the first date: The boy, the girl, the lake, sunset. Venus above horizon.

    Girl: “Are you thinking – what I am thinking?”
    Boy (shyly): “Most likely, I think, yes.”
    Girl: “So, can you clarify what’s your take on the lower bounds?”

  19. Cheshire Cat Says:

    I don’t listen to music, I cannot understand it.

    Scott and Johan, what you say is music to my ears…

  20. Anonymous Says:

    I think comment number 2 summed it up pretty good. Not caring enough for music to listen to it on your own accord is, while not in any way a moral defect, certainly pretty sad.

    More often, I’ll just google the lyrics and try to understand what’s being asserted.

    “What’s being asserted“? I dearly hope this is a joke.

    Should I fake a passion I don’t feel, in order to appear more cultured?

    No, but there’s no contradiction between having some less than impressive quality and it being wrong not to admit to it.

    PS. Anyone who thinks Cohen’s low pitched voice is detracts from the value of his music might not, shall we say, be the best person to comment on it.

  21. Anonymous Says:

    Scott, this may sound vain of me, but before you give up on music entirely, listen to “Music Has the Right to Children” by Boards of Canada.

    I like listening to music with interesting structure. You might think of it as being akin to a convoluted reduction. I think I like this music because my brain resonates with the structure in some way. Maybe you will like the structure of this music.

  22. Scott Says:

    No, but there’s no contradiction between having some less than impressive quality and it being wrong not to admit to it.

    Don’t you mean, there’s no contradiction between having some less than impressive quality and it not being wrong not to admit to it? :)

    (Note: I’d written some more before, but it should really be a separate blog entry.)

  23. Scott Says:

    Anonymous 1:07: Thanks for the rec!

  24. Patrick Says:

    If Scott prefers to read the lyrics to search for meaning, who’s to stop him? Not everyone was made to sit still listening for music for hours on end. The mercurial Glenn Gould put it well:

    l’m not one of those piano freaks you know. Of course, l know there are people who would gladly sit in the most uncomfortable chair with other people in uncomfortable chairs and listen to hours and hours of the stuff, but it’s nothing l would ever subject myself to. l just don’t like the sound of piano music that much.

  25. Anonymous Says:

    If Scott prefers to read the lyrics to search for meaning, who’s to stop him?

    Of course nobody’s going to “stop him”. Who said anything of the sort? That’s an argument (loosely speaking) that could be applied to just about anything. In a post that was recently linked by someone here, Scott called a journalist a doofus just because he didn’t care for algebra. What’s the difference, really?

    Scott’s appreciation of music entails reading the lyrics to see what’s being “asserted”. If that’s what floats his boat, fine. But I find it quite sad, and I don’t see why I can’t say that.

    As for invoking Glenn Gould, give me a break. Gould spent at least eight hours every day playing the piano. Are you seriously quoting him as an authority on the opinion that a life without an active interest in music is just fine?

  26. patrick Says:

    So prickly! Dear Anonymous, I intended my comment to be no more and no less serious than the crack of Gould’s it contained.

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