Something Positive - Something Negative

General discussion about Leonard Cohen's songs and albums
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remote1
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Re: Something Positive - Something Negative

Postby remote1 » Wed Mar 31, 2010 1:45 am

Well, I'm afraid I can't say I understood much of the previous exchange of ideas, but I shall not attempt to compete with the clever ones... :oops:

I think it is possible that Leonard Cohen likes to convey the idea that there is an unknown, an in-between, a whole world to explore outside dichotomous thinking. In a sense, he is at one with the post-structuralist view that cultures and minds which are constructed out of binary oppositions are limiting, and that there is a whole new dimension involved in destabilizing meaning through language. The idea is often referred to as "decentering", i.e. stepping back from our habitual ways of thinking, our old binary concepts, and operating a slight shift which will allow us to find interstices, and thus perceive or grasp the world differently. Deleuze and Guattari called these "lines of flight", i.e. slight cracks in the systems that govern our minds and social organisations, and which free us by allowing us to escape, to flee, the shackles of the empire of dichotomy. I often think of that in relation to Leonard's much celebrated lines: "There is a crack in everything / That's how the light gets in". Clearly, I am not suggesting for a second that Leonard's imagery is influenced by post-structuralist thinkers, but I think that he may have been inspired by similar motives, and that he may be regarded as a post-structuralist writer.

Thanks for the well-researched list of oppositions B4Real; I had not realised how many there were, and I find this is giving me yet more insights into Leonard Cohen's creative mind. :D
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B4real
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Re: Something Positive - Something Negative

Postby B4real » Wed Mar 31, 2010 2:45 pm

Hi everyone,

I just want to say that all this talk of hijacking the thread is really my fault. (your fault/my fault = nobody's fault) :) You see, the music section is not used to having a visual image included and I'm afraid I have somewhat overstimulated your imagination ;-)
But I am interested in all views no matter how abstract or diverse they may seem. The title of this thread is based on an art principle of positive and negative space within a picture and I have used it in this way to visually attract attention to the similar aspect I have found in Leonard's words. This picture has certainly caused a thousand words. Never fear, threads have been known to morph in and out of context and into other paths. The path I am now on is leading back to Leonard's words again. I have just come across a few more opposing verses:

The first one listed below is very similar to the one from "Dance me to the end of love" on page one, but it comes from Ballard of the Absent Mare -

where there's nothing above
and there's nothing below....

and there is no space, but there's left and right.
and there is no time, but there's day and night.....

and it's partner found, it's partner lost....

I felt so good I couldn't feel a thing.....

It did some good,
did some harm....

I see you lying down with me, I see you waking up....

moods of glory,
moods so foul....

No doubt there are some more if I really look :razz:


and remote1 - isn't its interesting how the more we look, the more we find?
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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Re: Something Positive - Something Negative

Postby kwills » Thu Apr 01, 2010 2:59 am

I swore to myself that the last time I would venture into an explanation,dissection of LC's works would be the last time, as I was well and truly demolished by Gina's detailed and intellectual explanation on another topic, which I thought was straightforward! Alas,being either very stupid or masochistic :? I still love to read these questions relating to LC's works and answering them in my head.
It's amazing how many interpretations one can make of his songs and how well some of us can articulate them.I know their meaning deep in my heart and what they mean personally to me,but somehow I cannot adequately convey what they mean to me to others.I so envy some of the members here their ability to communicate with so much clarity.
Anyway,B4real,I like your thread and I think that leonard is trying to say in some of his works,that there is an in between,in fact most of life is in between,between high,between low,between well, between ill, between good between evil.Where there is nothing above nothing below you are in between.Which is better? High or low? Where does emotion come into this? Is it better to feel high,elation,cloud nine? Feeling so low you can hardly put one foot in front of another or an, who cares, I can't be bothered or yeah whatever kind of attitude? Is it better to feel so much passion that it hurts? or is it better not to feel so much.
To every right there is a left and always an inbetween.

I've done it again haven't I! :lol:
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B4real
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Re: Something Positive - Something Negative

Postby B4real » Thu Apr 01, 2010 12:31 pm

kwills wrote:I've done it again haven't I!
and, I may add, very succinctly and proficiently, thank you :)
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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Re: Something Positive - Something Negative

Postby hydriot » Thu Apr 01, 2010 2:42 pm

Personally, I have always been attracted to Douglas Adams's solution to the Schrodinger Cat conundrum, as described in Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. When the box is opened, the scientists discover no cat at all, dead or alive.

Dirk Gently reminisces how he was called in to investigate. He resolved the mystery by laying down a saucer of milk and opening the window.

The cat appeared. He had got bored with all these silly scientists, and had wandered off in search of food.
“If you do have love it's a kind of wound, and if you don't have it it's worse.” - Leonard, July 1988
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Re: Something Positive - Something Negative

Postby GinaDCG » Thu Apr 01, 2010 11:43 pm

hydriot wrote:Personally, I have always been attracted to Douglas Adams's solution to the Schrodinger Cat conundrum, as described in Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. When the box is opened, the scientists discover no cat at all, dead or alive.

Dirk Gently reminisces how he was called in to investigate. He resolved the mystery by laying down a saucer of milk and opening the window.

The cat appeared. He had got bored with all these silly scientists, and had wandered off in search of food.
I like Douglas Adams interpret. When confronted with A or B, and the very attempt to choose one or the other will collapse the wave function, we find the answer -- totally beyond the reach of the highly-educated professionals -- is totally outside even THIS counter-intuitive paradigm: C. Kind'a reminds me of the recent financial melt down. (There I go again with another topic detour. My eldest daughter says I have "butterfly brain" syndrome.)
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Re: Something Positive - Something Negative

Postby remote1 » Sat Apr 03, 2010 5:34 pm

B4real, I believe the link posted by rpan here (viewtopic.php?f=9&t=21054&start=45#p221740) can also go towards answering your original question (albeit in a way slightly closer to my own understanding than to that of the mathematicians on this board)... ;-)
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Re: Something Positive - Something Negative

Postby B4real » Sun Apr 04, 2010 6:05 am

Thank you remote1 for that link,

I was aware of it (I've had the video for about years now) and was nearly going to post it on your thread re: buddhism but rpan already did it. But what you have done is make me take a closer look at it from a different perspective and I thank you for that :D As a whole, I feel it is more related to your thread which I thoroughly enjoy but there are some parts of it especially as you say, about dissovling the distinctions which I am very interested in. I do tend to think somewhat along the same line as you do regards Leonard's words, and that train of thought does vary too as we all see things from our own perspective and that is a good thing.

But seeing as I am a visual person, I just couldn't help myself and here is a visual for the mathematicians :razz:
320px-Schrodingers_cat_svg.png
320px-Schrodingers_cat_svg.png (21.89 KiB) Viewed 3968 times
not that they need it, but isn't it more comprehensible as a visual :)
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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Re: Something Positive - Something Negative

Postby TineDoes » Mon Apr 05, 2010 12:20 am

kwills wrote:I think that leonard is trying to say in some of his works,that there is an in between,in fact most of life is in between,between high,between low,between well, between ill, between good between evil.
B4real, this is a nice thread. I cannot pretend to understand all the theoretical explanations that people are giving.
I looked up the Theory about the cat. Not knowing much about mathematics this is in short what I understand the theory to mean: (excuse the simplicity) That the cat is both dead and alive at the same time to the observer who cannot know the true state of the Cat.
But I am indoubt about the conclusion: GinaDCG: 'Cohen uses the surface self-contradictory phrases you referred to (and others) to point to a reality which lies between the 2 poles.'
Just because the conclusion is that the cat is both dead and alive for the observer, the cat in reality can hardly be halfway between life or death or half dead, It is either one or the other.
Neither does kwills explanation, that LC uses these self-contradictory phrases to illustrate “ that all life is in between” do muchfor me. LC lets me see that life is everything; that all poles exist at the same time.
For me also Cohen paints pictures with words. (Perhaps the use contradictions is like the use of color in painting: an instrument or technique?) I think each of the contradictory phrase has meaning only within it’s very own context or picture; there isn’t one explanation for all.
"There’s no forsaking what you love ...."

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Re: Something Positive - Something Negative

Postby B4real » Fri Apr 09, 2010 2:46 pm

TineDoes wrote:For me also Cohen paints pictures with words. (Perhaps the use contradictions is like the use of color in painting: an instrument or technique?) I think each of the contradictory phrase has meaning only within it’s very own context or picture; there isn’t one explanation for all.
This absolutely has struck a chord - or should I say a complementary contrast colour note - with me and it has nothing to do with analogous (harmonious) colours. A general description of complement means either of two things needed to complete each other. By the same token, complementary colours are those which oppose each other on the colour wheel and are shown as opposites eg red/green, blue/orange, yellow/violet. They are also opposites psychologically and are colours of extreme contrast. When used together they create brilliant, vibrating, or even clashing effects.

After looking at a brightly illuminated object, doubtless you have observed an after image in an opposite colour, upon closing your eyes or looking suddenly at a white wall. This visual phenomenon is an interesting proof of the complementary principle. Try this experiment. Put a red apple on a black cloth in bright light. Stare at it for a minute or two, and then turn to a blank sheet of white paper, where a green after image should appear. All colours tested this way will produce its opposite colour. This is a theory called successive simultaneous contrast.

I haven’t really meant to give you all an art theory lesson, but I feel it does show that art (including poetry) and science are more closely related than you may realise. As you all know, I (and others) see Leonard’s words as images. Through everyone’s contributions I have been able to see his contrasting words also as complementary (opposing) colours and that concept has certainly helped me understand what he was striving for with his words. As Tine says, each picture (or verse) tells its own story.

As Leonard says “it's really based on the harmonics of that language, rather than the words themselves”. In other words, it isn’t the “words” per sae but how they “colour” the overall meaning of the work. “It's not an event and it's not a message, it's another kind of colour. I am interested in my internal landscape and just paint pictures of them.”

The final word must also come from Leonard himself:
"I understand that my work is confusing enough to be construed as many things, I feel the same way about it myself”.
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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Re: Something Positive - Something Negative

Postby humbled » Thu Apr 15, 2010 7:05 am

4b:
Are you acquainted with the neurological condition know as Synesthesia? It can occur naturally in a very few and can be induced in some people via hallucinogenics. If you are not I think you would find it fascinating. If you are not familiar with Daniel Tammet (formerly world record holder for memorizing the value of pi); you might also find that interesting. Besides the ability to visualize numbers he was able to memorize pi because his synesthesia gave him the ability to build a topography of pi in his head so -- to recite it he simply walked through the country of pi in his brain, if you will.


With your visual interests you probably know all about this but in the off chance you don’t I thought I would bring it up.
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Re: Something Positive - Something Negative

Postby B4real » Thu Apr 15, 2010 2:24 pm

Thank you humbled,

I do know a bit about synesthesia it literally means "joined perception." I am not familiar with Daniel Tammet - he sounds very interesting. The bit I do know about is the most common form - coloured letters and numbers which occur when someone always sees a certain colour in response to a certain letter of the alphabet or number and also might see the number "7" as purple or the word "train" as aqua green. It can be seen differently in people with the same condition eg: if one person thinks that the letter "k" is coloured blue, another might see "k" as orange. You can be introduced to someone and see the colour pink and remember their name as that colour association.

Interesting that more women than men have it and lefthanders are more likely to have it than righthanders (that accounts for me) ;-) . Many artists are also "cross wired"too.

Yes, you are right, it is fascinating and now that you have reminded me I'm going to have to read up about it and about Daniel Tammet :D

as an after thought, I wonder if Leonard see colours when he writes his lines, he says " I am interested in my internal landscape and just paint pictures of them" or if he only sees images. Maybe not, after all he is a man and he is righthanded ;-)
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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Re: Something Positive - Something Negative

Postby TineDoes » Tue Apr 20, 2010 7:34 pm

B4real wrote:he says " I am interested in my internal landscape and just paint pictures of them"
B4real, Just wondering? Would you imagine those internal landscapes to be more like impressionist paintings (Monet or Seurat) where contrasting colors are used in order to get the vivid effect you spoke of earlier, or, would they be more like Dali's surrealistic paintings with the double images, much like your first picture?
"There’s no forsaking what you love ...."

Rotterdam 2008; Antwerpen, Dublin 2009; Gent 2x, Lille , Las Vegas 2x 2010, Gent, Amsterdam, Dublin 2x 2012, Antwerp, Berlin, Rotterdam 2013
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Re: Something Positive - Something Negative

Postby B4real » Wed Apr 21, 2010 5:12 am

TineDoes,

Your guess would be as good as mine; who’s to know what he actually saw as he was writing his lines. All I have to go on is the resulting style of his artwork and as you know what you see and start out with is not always what you finish with when you attempt a painting. I almost always have a plan when I start but inevitably the work finds a life of its own and I just go with the flow and follow along the path in the direction it leads me.

Anyhow, from what I can ascertain of Leonard’s art is that over all it appears to be of a style with combinations between the surrealist Jean Cocteau and post-impressionists Henri Matisse and Gauguin (his line work). He does like Matisse and has a book out called “Dance Me To The End Of Love” with that song visualised to the paintings of Henri Matisse.

See here:

viewtopic.php?f=3&t=7382&p=72426&hilit=Henri+Matisse


In my opinion, his work isn’t impressionistic like Monet or Seurat (who did mainly pointillism) and not as surreal as Dali with his metamorphism etc. I don’t think he saw those images as graphically opposed as my first picture, but who can say, he alone has the answer.

You know Leonard has never fancied himself as a visual artist, Adam his son said, “yet somehow, his work has an inimitable power, something with which artists, historically, have struggled: it resembles him,” he said. “That’s the thing we should all aspire to: that our work resemble us, bear a resemblance to our aesthetic traits and be a truthful representation of our ideal of beauty and our capacity.” That is the essence; his style is his alone and it has evolved as self-taught over more than forty years. See what he so humbly says about his art and his songs. It echoes his own fundamental nature.

IF THERE WERE NO PAINTINGS
If there were no paintings in the world,
Mine would be very important.
Same with my songs.
Since this is not the case, let us make haste to get in line,
Well towards the back.
Sometimes I would see a woman in a magazine
Humiliated in the technicolour glare.
I would try to establish her
In happier circumstances.
Sometimes a man.
Sometimes living persons sat for me.
May I say to them again:
Thank you for coming to my room.
I also loved the objects on the table
Such as candlesticks and bowls.
From a mirror on my desk
In the very early morning
I copied down
Hundreds of self-portraits.
The Curator has called this exhibition
Leonard Cohen Artworks

I call my work
Acceptable Decorations.
- Leonard Cohen

Below are some of his exhibition drawings – see what you think:

http://artv.ca/decouvrez/les-rendez-vou ... ts-visuels
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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Re: Something Positive - Something Negative

Postby B4real » Wed Apr 21, 2010 3:32 pm

I thought I would include a couple of comparison sketches here (mainly because my computer starts jumping all over the place when I have a long post).

This one is by Jean Cocteau -
jcocteau2.jpg
jcocteau2.jpg (19.48 KiB) Viewed 3848 times
and this is by Henri Matisse -
henri-matisse-artwork-large-76198.jpg
now here is one of Leonard's -
LCohen.jpg
LCohen.jpg (22.83 KiB) Viewed 3848 times
Interesting comparison isn't it?
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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