Sad, sorrowful, depressing, suicidal, or cathartic???

General discussion about Leonard Cohen's songs and albums
Lilifyre
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Sad, sorrowful, depressing, suicidal, or cathartic???

Postby Lilifyre » Wed Mar 17, 2010 1:40 am

I know in the past, critics have claimed that some of Leonard's songs are depressing or worse. Didn't one critic dub them "songs to commit suicide by" or some such? Admittedly, I have always sought out music that others would call sad. As a small child, I used to beg my mother to sing an old folk song about a dying child, "Put My Little Shoes Away". I adored that song. My mother would often tell how she had learned it from her own mother who would sing it with tears streaming down her cheeks. Certain of Leonard's songs do bring tears and profound feelings of sadness and grief, but I really don't find them depressing or inspiring of suicidal thoughts.

I recently caught part of a show on PBS (don't know the name of it as I was channel surfing and caught it in the middle). It was a documentary with Sting. He was talking about a Renaissance musician/song writer who was famous for playing the Lute. Sorry I didn't get the musician's name, but he lived in England sometime after the Reformation. Anyhow, Sting mentioned that the man's music had been known for its melancholy style. Sting went on to say that in spite of this, he didn't find the man's music as depressing at all. True, it touched all the emotions commonly thought of as "mournful" or "sad", but he (Sting) found himself rather joyful after singing/performing those songs. He used the term "cathartic" to describe how he felt when performing these songs. It occurred to me that Leonard's music has that same effect on me. I have shed buckets of tears listening to so many of Leonard's songs, but I never leave them feeling depressed. They feel cleansing to me.....cathartic. I've always been a very emotional person. Hey, I'm a triple water sign, astrologically....Scorpio sun sign, Cancer moon sign, and Pisces rising....so water, water, everywhere. I can bring on tears watching a TV commercial (the old Kodak commercial with the song "Where are you going, my little one?" used to have me flooding the place.)

I was just wondering how others felt about this quality of Leonard's work.

Lili
Lili
"Well, that's my story
I admit it's broken and it's bleak
But all the twisted pieces fit
A 1000 kisses deep."
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brightnow
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Re: Sad, sorrowful, depressing, suicidal, or cathartic???

Postby brightnow » Wed Mar 17, 2010 6:41 am

I think that those who classify Leonard's work as "depressing" are blind to a very important element in it: while it is true that Leonard's poems and songs do not smear cheerful colors over the pain and sorrow of this world, they are always incredibly beautiful. There is comfort, true, deep comfort in beauty. When we stand by a fresh grave we do not sing and dance to cheer up the mourners, we do not celebrate life in such close proximity to death -- It would be grotesque and futile. But we do lay flowers on the grave because there is comfort in beauty that can stand up to the deepest pain with dignity.

Leonard's work is honest. He writes truthfully about the human existence: You hurt and you suffer, there are small, insignificant islands of victory in a vast and cold ocean of heartbreak. But there is also boundless beauty to comfort you, and love. There is beauty in every line and to me that is more uplifting than a month-long marathon of sunny-side-up peppy tunes. Every time I listen to Leonard's songs they leave me hopeful and ready to face the world, the real world with all its pain. They remind me of the brief flashes of glory that sometimes light up the dark, and of the beauty that surrounds us.

There is nothing "depressing" about Leonard Cohen's work; any beauty worshiper would tell you that.
Columbia May 11, 2009; Boston May 29, 2009; Durham November 3, 2009; Las Vegas December 10 & 11, 2010; Austin November 1, 2012; Boston December 15, 2012; Brooklyn December 20, 2012
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sturgess66
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Re: Sad, sorrowful, depressing, suicidal, or cathartic???

Postby sturgess66 » Wed Mar 17, 2010 7:40 am

I don't find Leonard's work depressing either Lilyfre.

And I love, and agree, with brightnow's response. Nothing to add. :D



Hey Avi - aren't you in Ottawa?
GinaDCG
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Re: Sad, sorrowful, depressing, suicidal, or cathartic???

Postby GinaDCG » Wed Mar 17, 2010 4:08 pm

I call them the "sunny side up" people (no disrespect to devotees of runny fried eggs.) You know -- the people who only call sunny and 70 degrees a "nice" day? I postulate that they're the ones who call Cohen songs "depressing" or "suicidal."
There are people who see no beauty in fog and mist. People who reflexively hate "the cold."

Me? I love Weather! Cold, hot, mild, mist, rain, snow, sun, clouds, cloudless, blue, grey -- they're all the colors of Weather. The colors of Life. I can not articulate as well as Brightnow does, but I recognize that my appreciation for Leonard's songs which utilize all the colors of Life may stem from my same appreciation for all the dressings of Weather.

And yes -- I have noticed (and try not to think less of them for it) but my hiking friends who only like to hike only on 70 degree dry days are the same ones who prefer we listen to someone other then Cohen when we are driving to the trailhead.

--venturing off topic (as I tend to do) and perhaps with little relevance to other Cohen fans (who may themselves hate drab weather) but this is my visceral reaction to your query.
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brightnow
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Re: Sad, sorrowful, depressing, suicidal, or cathartic???

Postby brightnow » Wed Mar 17, 2010 8:17 pm

sturgess66 wrote:Hey Avi - aren't you in Ottawa?
Yes Linda, I am, for the rest of the week. Too bad I couldn't get this business trip to coincide with the Webb sisters' concert here...
Columbia May 11, 2009; Boston May 29, 2009; Durham November 3, 2009; Las Vegas December 10 & 11, 2010; Austin November 1, 2012; Boston December 15, 2012; Brooklyn December 20, 2012
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sturgess66
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Re: Sad, sorrowful, depressing, suicidal, or cathartic???

Postby sturgess66 » Wed Mar 17, 2010 8:35 pm

brightnow wrote:
sturgess66 wrote:Hey Avi - aren't you in Ottawa?
Yes Linda, I am, for the rest of the week. Too bad I couldn't get this business trip to coincide with the Webb sisters' concert here...
*Sigh* http://ottawastart.com/story/10752.php

And you're probably a bit too early for the tulip festival as well?

Ah well - but you do have that great Canadian air! :D
Lilifyre
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Re: Sad, sorrowful, depressing, suicidal, or cathartic???

Postby Lilifyre » Sat Mar 20, 2010 8:51 am

Found myself channel surfing tonight looking for something other than reruns and/or (un)reality shows on TV. I landed on Turner Classic Movies part way thru "Good Bye Mr. Chips". It's been years since I watched it but it still effected me the same as it always does. I thought to share it on this thread for a couple of reasons.

First, it's one of those sad/sweet stories that leave in with tears flowing down my cheeks, just like much of Leonard's music. It felt quite cleansing. They truly don't make movies like that any more!

Second reason for sharing it here has to do with a part of the movie I had totally forgotten about. There's the part where the shy, reclusive Mr. Chipping, very proper English school master at the turn of the 20th century, goes off on holiday with one of his fellow teachers to Austria. He meets and falls in love with a beautiful woman. One scene has them in a palace in Vienna, where she convinces him to dance with her. The scene is a turn of the century Viennese ballroom, women in lovely ball gowns of the period, men in white tie and tails. The lavishly decorated ballroom is lit by huge brass chandeliers (using candles, not light bulbs...early 1900s, no electric lighting then). Couples are gliding around the floor to the tune of a Viennese waltz and suddenly, I'm hearing:

There's a concert hall in Vienna
Where your mouth had a thousand reviews...

In a dream of Hungarian lanterns
In the mist of some sweet afternoon...

And I'll dance with you in Vienna
I'll be wearing a river's disguise
The hyacinth wild on my shoulder,
My mouth on the dew of your thighs
And I'll bury my soul in a scrapbook,
With the photographs there, and the moss
And I'll yield to the flood of your beauty
My cheap violin and my cross
And you'll carry me down on your dancing
To the pools that you lift on your wrist
Oh my love, Oh my love
Take this waltz, take this waltz
It's yours now. It's all that there is...

It fit the scene so perfectly! There was such of feeling of innocence, beauty, lust but with a certain naivete', sweetness, joy and sadness (both Chips and Kathy, the woman, believe this is the last time they will see each other). It's almost as if Leonard had this scene in mind when he translated/interpreted Garcia Lorca's poetry.

Lili
Lili
"Well, that's my story
I admit it's broken and it's bleak
But all the twisted pieces fit
A 1000 kisses deep."
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Re: Sad, sorrowful, depressing, suicidal, or cathartic???

Postby KjeXXXer » Sat Mar 20, 2010 9:40 pm

I listen to a lot of 'harrowing,' 'unsettling,' 'brutal' and 'depressing' music, some of it called the music of the devil, a lot of melancholic and minor-laden music, and I tell you, I find it all very uplifting.
Now you've got the gist of what my lettuce meant.
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B4real
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Re: Sad, sorrowful, depressing, suicidal, or cathartic???

Postby B4real » Sun Mar 21, 2010 12:17 am

My answer to your question is a definite NO to all of the above.

You see, I rediscovered Leonard just before I was diaognosed with a life threatening condition and his poetry and songs gave me strength and distracted me from my own problems. My dad had also recently died unexpectedly as well. All I can say is that I find in his words a healing quality beyond anything else I have experienced. I think it is because he has found a way to deal with his own problems by writing them down that made me realise I can cope with anything as well.
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LEONKA
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Re: Sad, sorrowful, depressing, suicidal, or cathartic???

Postby LEONKA » Sun Mar 21, 2010 11:06 pm

I can not agree that Leonard songs to be sad, depressed and suicidal.
On the contrary, his songs are the key to finding the meaning of life, love, understanding how to deal with problems, and show the way to God through prayer. The song is based on the pure truth-sincerity-simplicity, love and worldliness.

-man, who is in the mental state of mind it may seem so. Therefore, Leonard are love songs for their simplicity and calm the inner soul-harmony, man.
Lilifyre
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Re: Sad, sorrowful, depressing, suicidal, or cathartic???

Postby Lilifyre » Thu Apr 01, 2010 1:43 pm

When I checked my mail this morning, I found a link to this song by Leonard.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JlD2Ya6uGcc

I've only listened to this song a few times, but I suppose it wasn't the right time until this morning. It fits my thoughts about this thread perfectly. In typical Leonard fashion, this one has so many layers and such depth that it's much like walking a labyrinth. I say a labyrinth, not a maze. There is a big difference between the two. A maze has many ways in and many ways out and many dead ends. A labyrinth has one way in and one way out. Between the in and the out is a path of deep discovery. Each twist and turn brings truths to the surface. It brings tears and laughter, pain and pleasure, despair and hope......and more.

Comments, thoughts, observations, etc welcome.

Lili
Lili
"Well, that's my story
I admit it's broken and it's bleak
But all the twisted pieces fit
A 1000 kisses deep."
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B4real
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Re: Sad, sorrowful, depressing, suicidal, or cathartic???

Postby B4real » Thu Apr 01, 2010 3:48 pm

Hi Lilifyre,

I just watched the video and how different is the feeling you get from just listening to the audio. I feel as you do when I watch it - but I'll go even further and say it directly relates to your life. Don't ask me how I know, I just do.

This song also has some verse which I am interested in my thread "Something Positive/Something Negative":

Death is old, but it’s always new…

moods of glory,
moods so foul....

Talk about peeling the layers away like an onion (without the smell but still with some tears) the depth of this song is difficult to infiltrate.
It doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to B4real ~ me
Attitude is a self-fulfilling prophecy ~ me ...... The magic of art is the truth of its lies ~ me ...... Only left-handers are in their right mind!
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phillip
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Re: Sad, sorrowful, depressing, suicidal, or cathartic???

Postby phillip » Mon Apr 05, 2010 4:52 pm

I Find all Leonards songs quite the opposite, relaxing, funny, Educational, and just pure brilliant I love the man:) hope you are reading this Leonard you are great and in my eyes bigger than Elvis:)
I have been a Leonard Cohen fan for 28 years feel free to email me if you wish to keep in touch!
Lilifyre
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Re: Sad, sorrowful, depressing, suicidal, or cathartic???

Postby Lilifyre » Mon Apr 05, 2010 11:08 pm

Philip, couldn't agree more about Leonard being bigger than Elvis. In my book there is no comparison!

I love Leonard's music, and along with it his sense of humor and his wisdom shine thru like a beacon in the night. When I speak of some of his songs as sad or sorrowful, tho, that's not a criticism. They touch a part of my soul that is very healing. That's why I included the word "cathartic" to describe them. I often find Leonard's songs have the same effect as a thunderstorm after a long hot, dry spell. When the spirit is parched and you feel that you've reached your limit emotionally, like a storm in the desert, your sorrow builds until it can no longer be contained. It's then when one of Leonard's songs comes along and breaks that heat wave. Tears begin to flow and fall on the parched earth of your very psyche. You are washed clean and the sun can come out again to shine on those places that once ached for refreshment. Joy returns and the sorrow, sadness, and pain is gone. You feel nourished and refreshed.

Then you can put on something like "Fingerprints" and laugh, laugh, laugh!!!!!

Lili
Lili
"Well, that's my story
I admit it's broken and it's bleak
But all the twisted pieces fit
A 1000 kisses deep."
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phillip
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Re: Sad, sorrowful, depressing, suicidal, or cathartic???

Postby phillip » Mon Apr 05, 2010 11:57 pm

yes fingerprints is funny
I have been a Leonard Cohen fan for 28 years feel free to email me if you wish to keep in touch!

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