Master Song

General discussion about Leonard Cohen's songs and albums
holydove
Posts: 1545
Joined: Sat Jul 25, 2009 5:38 pm
Location: Connecticut

Re: Master Song

Postby holydove » Thu Dec 31, 2009 2:25 am

John, I love your interpretation of Leonard wearing the iron cross to win Nico - that is so perfect!

Just want to add (& you may already know), I did some research and the iron cross has a very complicated and twisted history; I will try to communicate what little tidbits I can remember/understand, that may be of interest.
First, it was the Teutonic Order of Knights (medieval times) who first wore the iron cross as an emblem. They originated in Jerusalem (of all places), and then moved on in their crusades to various parts of Eastern Europe, including Germany. They were a German Roman Catholic order, and they were outlawed by Hitler in 1938, & reinstituted in 1945. The iron cross was also awarded for "bravery" in Prussia in 1813, in the 1870's, & in Germany in WWI. Hitler himself received this award in WWI, but did not talk about it because the commanding officer (whatever his title was) who recommended Hitler for this award was Jewish! When Hitler reinstituted this award in 1939, he changed the design by adding a Swastika in the center (it used to have oak leaves, to represent Germany's sacred tree).

So, as you can see, it is very difficult to surmise Leonard's meaning in the context of the song. A few possibilities that have crossed my mind: in the context of an award for bravery, maybe he is mocking his own pretense of bravery in the "the war between the man & the woman", upon which he has previously expounded, and the Nazi (or other military) connection is a twist which gives a bit of very dark humor. Or maybe, because of the swastika in the center, Leonard is implying an attempt to hypnotize the woman, as the swastika was allegedly used by Hitler to hynotpize the masses. Or maybe, in the context of the knights (who, after they discontinued their aggressive military crusades, became an allegedly charitable order whose motto was "help, defend, heal") - maybe this alludes to Leonard's interest in courtly love, where the man is, on some levels, subservient to the woman; or, given the motto, perhaps this is Leonard pleading for the woman to heal him (as in Light As A Breeze). Or maybe the iron cross is an analogy for Leonard's own complicated & twisted history with personal/romanitc relationships.

But really, I like your interpretation about Nico the best! That is really brilliant, thanks for the laugh!
Cate
Posts: 3461
Joined: Tue Nov 06, 2007 4:27 am

Re: Master Song

Postby Cate » Thu Dec 31, 2009 4:03 am

Holydove, I hope your move went well, I'm going to p.m. you about the article - I want to respond but I'm rambling a bit without saying a lot and don't want to clog up the thread.

The swastika is an interesting symbol you might want to look into the tantric use of it, as it fits with the present discussion. http://www.spaceandmotion.com/karma-sutra-positions.htm
John Etherington
Posts: 2551
Joined: Sat Sep 18, 2004 10:17 pm

Re: Master Song

Postby John Etherington » Sun Jan 03, 2010 4:09 am

Hi holydove,

This lady could tell us a few things, but she's not saying:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JgdZFnZ6M0k
holydove
Posts: 1545
Joined: Sat Jul 25, 2009 5:38 pm
Location: Connecticut

Re: Master Song

Postby holydove » Mon Jan 04, 2010 1:40 am

Ha, ha, very funny. . .John, thank you for that link - very interesting. Looks like she was a rather difficult woman -she won't say, she can't promise, she won't show him her naked body, etc., etc. - how uncooperative of her!

Hope this question is not out of line, but I wonder if Leonard would have been as interested in her, if he could have actually had her. Ira Nadel says in his biography that she once, (after sending him flying with a slap for touching her wrist), whispered to him that she couldn't handle anything that's not artificial. Obviously, I never knew her, but from what I've read, it seems that Leonard was just too intense for her, and I've always wondered what attracted him so fiercely to her (I guess one could wonder that about alot of people, but still. . . it would be interesting to know more about the Leonard/Nico phenomenon).
John Etherington
Posts: 2551
Joined: Sat Sep 18, 2004 10:17 pm

Re: Master Song

Postby John Etherington » Tue Jan 05, 2010 1:16 am

holydove wrote:I wonder if Leonard would have been as interested in her, if he could have actually had her
Of course not! Nico (to use Jungian terminology) was an anima figure for Leonard, that is - a personification of his inner feminine. As I understand it, when the anima is projected onto a woman, her role is to put the man in touch with this apect of himself, and inspire his artistic and creative abilities. I'm all too familiar with this type of woman, myself!
holydove
Posts: 1545
Joined: Sat Jul 25, 2009 5:38 pm
Location: Connecticut

Re: Master Song

Postby holydove » Tue Jan 05, 2010 9:47 pm

John Etherington wrote:
holydove wrote:I wonder if Leonard would have been as interested in her, if he could have actually had her
Of course not! Nico (to use Jungian terminology) was an anima figure for Leonard, that is - a personification of his inner feminine. As I understand it, when the anima is projected onto a woman, her role is to put the man in touch with this apect of himself, and inspire his artistic and creative abilities. I'm all too familiar with this type of woman, myself!
Wow, John, I think you really nailed it with the Nico/ anima reference - that really clarifies it, thank you for the insight! I always sensed a kind of underwater/other-worldly quality to that relationship, but never thought it through enough to see it in those terms. I guess the unattainability of the person who is in that kind of role, makes it easier to project all kinds of ideas & fantasies onto the person. I must confess, you had me digging out my old Jung books. . .

And I must add, (do I dare state the obvious?), doesn't our dear Leonard fill the role of animus for us (esp. the women here) exceedingly well?!!
User avatar
hydriot
Posts: 878
Joined: Sun May 21, 2006 3:07 am
Location: back in the UK

Re: Master Song

Postby hydriot » Tue Feb 23, 2010 2:54 am

I am very intrigued that nobody in this thread has the same interpretation I have had for years ... yet I thought it was obvious.

I have always believed that the master and the singer are the same person, Jeckyll and Hyde if you like, for how else can you explain "I suppose that he told you everything that I keep locked away in my head"?

One of the strange things about women is that while they want a loving and respectful relationship, at a more carnal level they also sometimes crave a passionately assertive beast who rips off their clothes etc..., a master. Thus, I have never known a woman who wanted to be raped (although I am told such strange creatures do exist), but equally I have never known a woman who, within the context of a loving relationship, did not want to sometimes be taken forcefully. Someone I was very fond of once told me that she really loved it when I was drunk, because I was more animal, which surprised me greatly. Women are complicated creatures, which is why I am so grateful to be merely a simple male.

I think the song is about a fundamentally gentle male who is surprised and somewhat shocked that the woman he loves is more attracted to the beast in him than the gentleman.

This interpretation is probably coloured by personal experience. A few years after I first heard the Master Song I had a girlfriend who begged me to hurt her while we were making love. I was young in those days and inhibited, and wasn't very good at doing that ... so I lost her. The experience left me perplexed.

Read the whole of the Master Song's lyrics again, and see if you don't agree with me. The 'travelling' is of course not literal but refers to taking her to experience new things. And "I taught him how you would long for me no matter what he said no matter what you'd do" suddenly makes sense -- she will want the dependable loving gentleman back eventually, the man who is the core of her life, but not quite yet...
“If you do have love it's a kind of wound, and if you don't have it it's worse.” - Leonard, July 1988
John Etherington
Posts: 2551
Joined: Sat Sep 18, 2004 10:17 pm

Re: Master Song

Postby John Etherington » Wed Feb 24, 2010 2:16 am

Hi Hydriot,

That's an interesting idea...I'd never thought of that concept in relation to Leonard's work, before. A long while back, a friend mentioned the alter-ego idea in relation to Dylan's "Dirge" from "Planet Waves" ("I hate myself for loving you and the weakness that it showed/You were just a painted face on a trip down suicide road"). I've just read the lyrics of "Master Song" through again, and in some places I can see where your idea might apply, and in other parts, I am less certain. Would you consider doing a line by line analysis. Taking this idea a step further, the same concept might be applied to "Famous Blue Raincoat". It would certainly explain lines such as "the night that you planned to go clear" and "your famous blue raincoat was torn at the shoulder".

All the best, John E
GinaDCG
Posts: 440
Joined: Wed Jul 29, 2009 2:26 am
Location: West Virginia, USA

Re: Master Song

Postby GinaDCG » Wed Feb 24, 2010 3:25 am

John Etherington wrote:Hi Gina,

Regarding worms and rocks, could Leonard possibly be talking about a certain part of the male anatomy?!

John E x
Minus 10 points on the Freudian references for me.
GinaDCG
Posts: 440
Joined: Wed Jul 29, 2009 2:26 am
Location: West Virginia, USA

Re: Master Song

Postby GinaDCG » Wed Feb 24, 2010 4:00 pm

Hydriot,

Yes, your idea definitely works! I hadn't considered this angle, and in typical Cohen lyric fashion, I do not think your suggestion rules out others -- but, particularly since this is the author who gave us "Beautiful Losers" I think that Cohen is definitely exploiting an ambiguity in # of definable, external chacters here as well. Thanks for the insight!
Cate
Posts: 3461
Joined: Tue Nov 06, 2007 4:27 am

Re: Master Song

Postby Cate » Wed Feb 24, 2010 4:22 pm

In b.L. I have often thought that F and the Narrator were the same person. The thought had occurred to me with this song as well but it didn't make as much sense to me.
I have always believed that the master and the singer are the same person, Jeckyll and Hyde if you like, for how else can you explain "I suppose that he told you everything that I keep locked away in my head"
...
I think the song is about a fundamentally gentle male who is surprised and somewhat shocked that the woman he loves is more attracted to the beast in him than the gentleman.
Now, that makes sense I hadn't seen it from that perspective before.
holydove
Posts: 1545
Joined: Sat Jul 25, 2009 5:38 pm
Location: Connecticut

Re: Master Song

Postby holydove » Wed Feb 24, 2010 6:36 pm

Hydriot,
I think both ways of interpreting these lyrics are valid, but the interpretation of 3 actual people still rings truer for me. The line you mention: "I suppose that he told you everything that I keep locked away in my head", is a very good back-up for your interpretation; but I feel it can also mean a couple of other things: (let's call one man "master", & the other one "prisoner"): one possibility is that, since it is clear that the 2 men know each other well (even intimately - "I loved your master perfectly, I taught him all that he knew"), the master has perhaps revealed the "prisoner's" secrets to this woman with whom both men have an intimate relationship; or it could mean that the master is better able to express, or let manifest, certain inclinations that both men have, but that the "prisoner" keeps hidden in the chambers of his mind.

And then: "And now do you come back to bring your prisoner wine & bread?" You could say that, in your interpretation, he sees himself as prisoner because that part of him self is now imprisoned because the woman only desires his "rougher" self & won't allow the gentler self to manifest. But you could also take it to mean that he is a "prisoner" because, while the master clearly has alot of power over the woman, the woman has a similar kind of power over the man we are referring to as "prisoner". This kind of thing is known to happen alot where there is a dynamic of 3 people - rather than any 2 of them exchanging mutual feelings, 1 feels towards 2, what 2 feels toward 3, & maybe what 3 then feels toward 1, etc. etc. - the energy seems to go in a circle, rather than back & forth.

And "I've lain by this window long enough to get used to an empty room": again, it could mean that the more gentle part of himself is lonely or feels abandoned, but to me it feels truer to interpret as an actual person who has been abandoned.

also: "let's say you came back some time too soon": it could mean she is asking for the gentle side to be manifest before he is ready to manifest it; but, Leonard's voice sounds rather bitter to me, in several places in this song, but particularly here, & it feels to me like he is just really put off by what she has been doing with this other man, she has crossed some kind of line that he cannot accept, and therefore he cannot take her back at this point, or maybe ever again. But if he was the same person, why would he be that bitter/unaccepting about it? It would have been himself doing the things that he is bitter about, & he wouldn't have actually lost her (except to another part of himself!) And I do hear a sense of loss/sadness, along with the bitterness, in this song. (Although, I guess he could be bitter/sad about her rejecting his more gentle side, but. . . )

There is more, but I am now late for my piano lesson; and I do find your angle interesting, & obviously worth considering, but I just wanted to give some back-up for the other angle at this point. . .
User avatar
cmurphy
Posts: 3
Joined: Tue Sep 08, 2009 8:01 pm
Location: Houston, Texas

Re: Master Song

Postby cmurphy » Wed Feb 24, 2010 7:17 pm

I agree that "worm" and "rock" are genital comparisons.

"And now I hear your master sing, you kneel for him to come/ His body is a golden string that your body is hanging from.../' seems to me to be a clear description of fellatio.

I very much enjoyed reading Kinky Cohen: Part 1 [NSFW] BDSM, Erotic Humiliation, and Role-Play in the Works of Leonard Cohen. Thanks for the link.
Cathy
long time Beautiful Loser
our steps will aways rhyme
GinaDCG
Posts: 440
Joined: Wed Jul 29, 2009 2:26 am
Location: West Virginia, USA

Re: Master Song

Postby GinaDCG » Wed Feb 24, 2010 7:51 pm

Shades of the movie "Fight Club." Next time I watch it I'll have to keep "Master Song" in mind to see how well one informs the other (or will it be the other way round?)

By the time I got to the end of Beautiful Losers I was unsure if the book had 3 protagonists, 2, or only 1.

A friend asked if she would enjoy the book. Could I describe it? "Well, I'm not sure I answered. It's either about a man describing the history of his love triangle, or a crazy man describing his schizo relationship with a girl, or a crazy man describing his uber-schizo relationship with an imaginary girl and an imaginary friend."

"So, you don't even know how many characters are in the book?" she concluded.

"That's right. Don't try it unless you enjoy ambiguity." :lol: :lol:
User avatar
remote1
Posts: 2503
Joined: Wed Jul 22, 2009 3:59 pm
Location: between the snowman and the rain

Re: Master Song

Postby remote1 » Thu Feb 25, 2010 1:47 am

Don't know if this helps but on the live 1968 BBC recording (http://listen.grooveshark.com/#/s/The+M ... ong/1DB36b), Leonard introduces the Master Song thus: "It's about three people."
"We are so lightly here"

Return to “Leonard Cohen's music”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 5 guests