Judith Fitzgerald's critique of "The Master Song"

General discussion about Leonard Cohen's songs and albums
Tchocolatl
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Postby Tchocolatl » Wed Apr 02, 2003 10:10 pm

When you are famous and sensitive it could be painfull to think that maybe you are loved only for the image and not for yourself, or that your image is more attractive than "you" are.
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"He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love."

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lightning
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Postby lightning » Wed Apr 02, 2003 10:14 pm

David, We could speculate endlessly about why these three people "on spiritual trips" as they used to say, failed to love each other . Your analysis makes good sense if you see the woman as the powerful rather than powerless one. "You're right from your side and I'm right from mine," as Dylan said in "One too Many Mornings". For me acting more like apes than angels kind of explains it (as well as the current war, the unequal distribution of wealth etc, etc. ). It strikes me as tragic that what nature has "programmed" into us to improve the stock of our species , i.e. the will to fight each other so the fittest survive, may ultimately result in our extinction.
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Trips...

Postby David » Wed Apr 02, 2003 10:33 pm

I agree, Lightning -- in no way do I claim "the" iterpretation, nor do I intend this exchange to be an argument, or to be "right" (or even to have a "side"!). I enjoy thinking & talking about different possible interpretations of literature, songs, etc.

In the case of Leonard, he certainly seems --throughout the course of his writing-- to envision the woman as the one with the power (or, maybe, to envision the abstraction of "beauty" or "love" or "desire" as having the power, since he continues to insist that people [or at least men] are "slaves" to these things). Is this disingenuous on his part? I think that today many would suggest that it is. Whether most would have made that suggestion back in the mid- or late-60s, I'm not entirely sure.

Tchocolatl, I think you're right, and I think that that particular theme has been around a looooong time. To quote bluesman Rice Miller (singing lyrics that many believe were written by Robert Johnosn in the '30s or earlier):

"Stop breakin' down,
Baby, stop breakin' down
I know you don't love me
You just love the way my music sounds..."

:)

p.s. Lightning -- speaking of apes and angels: what's your take on that "ape with angel glands" who seems to be directing the rubber-band chorus? I confess that that one has always bamboozled me.
"Nothing is said that is not sung."
Tchocolatl
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Postby Tchocolatl » Wed Apr 02, 2003 11:42 pm

David, I wanted to stress that I think The Master is Leonard Cohen the artist, and the alter ego is Leonard Cohen the "ordinary" man who loves a woman who get dizzy with his fame and was not always in touch with real feelings.

Maybe it is just my imagination, but from this point of view, anyway, the song is interesting, it is a story with chapters, poignant and deep. True love is not so easy when you do not want to fool yourself. What do you think about it (I mean how I see the song)?
Last edited by Tchocolatl on Thu Apr 03, 2003 3:20 am, edited 1 time in total.
***
"He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love."

Leonard Cohen
Beautiful Losers
David
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The artist

Postby David » Thu Apr 03, 2003 12:34 am

Very provocative interpretation, that -- it would never have occurred to me. 'T'would fit in with my reading of the aeroplane tricks etc. as facile "performances" that enrapture but do not permanently keep the woman's fancy.

I suppose, given this interpretation, the protagonist (the "real" Leonard) might be unable to truly consummate the relationship at least partly because he feels inferior next to this protege/alter ego he's created, who has taken on a life of his own. He's prisoner of both his own sense of inadequacy and the lady's [superficial yet intense] bedazzlement at the [false] glory of his "celebrity" doppleganger.

D
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Partisan
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Postby Partisan » Thu Apr 03, 2003 12:49 am

I continue to find it odd that you all keep managing to discuss this and not mention all the drug imagery in it. My personal feeling is that that is the key to unlock the song. If you want examples look for the other thread on this under the same section. I posted it in more detail there.

p.
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Druuugs....

Postby David » Thu Apr 03, 2003 1:02 am

I'm not convinced that the lines that Partisan cited in the other discussion are "drug" imagery per se, but they could certainly be read as implying a kind of erotic/romantic infatuation that is as all-consuming and debilitating as an addiction. From what we know of Leonard, that particular experience has not been exactly foreign to him.
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lightning
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Postby lightning » Thu Apr 03, 2003 2:07 am

I always heard "erased the final wisps of pain with the music of rubber bands" as the heroin ritual of tying off . I recall that if anything was in code around 1967 it was either about drugs or sex. I find it hard to accept the alter-ego theory but it's been advanced for Famous Blue Raincoat too, because he said he had one ( a Burberry) yet he addressed his musical letter to "my brother, my killer." Could it be so cold and lonely in his secret life he writes songs and letters to himself? Invents dramas where he plays opposing parts? How weird!
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Dualisms

Postby David » Thu Apr 03, 2003 2:19 am

Actually the similarities between "Blue Raincoat" and "Master Song" are pretty fascinating. Almost the same plot line, except that the antagonist in "Blue Raincoat" seems obviously to have been a spiritual teacher to both the singer and the woman. (Like most of us, I've always assumed some kind of Scientology connection, given the "go clear" business).

Leonard has, in fact, been known to address himself in internal dialogues, as in the following:

Welcome home
resume your kingdom
the girls have forgotten you
Marianne will remain
a beautiful and mysterious name
whenever you see it written down
Come in now
All the curious landscapes
which you surrendered
are still your own
You could not trade them
for priesthood or gold or revolution
Walk down eighth avenue with me
As anyone for a cigarette

When I first read that, I had to do a double-take on that "Walk down eighth avenue WITH ME" -- such a strange image in a poem that seems obviously, even indisputably, to be addressing the poet himself.

It's also interesting how ofte this "doppleganger" theory arises -- e.g., the various theories on whether or not two or more of the main characters in BEAUTIFUL LOSERS are alter-egos for the poet... to say nothing of the personna he assumes as a judge of his own work in many of the "answers" to his poems & vignettes in the book DEATH OF A LADY'S MAN.

But then again , this is the man who wrote:

"...I was thinking of you
and I made a pass at myself" --

So it seems apparent that his relationship with himself is --shall we say-- more than passingly familiar!?

;)

D
"Nothing is said that is not sung."
Tchocolatl
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Postby Tchocolatl » Thu Apr 03, 2003 4:33 am

Obviously the imagery is about sex, drogs (and rock'n roll) and it is full of references to S&M experiences as well. But.. ey!! We are talking about the lines of a poet, is this to be taken at first level? Some relationship can be so difficult and bizarre emotionally speaking that one can use some S&M jargon to talk about it, not knowing anymore who is inflincting more pain to the other.

After all, maybe it is really two different men and just another trinity like in Famous Blue Raincoat and Beautiful Losers. I never saw any alter ego there, but it crossed my mind that Leonard Cohen could have been this thin gypsy thief reading the letter addressed to him and signed by "his- brother-his-killer", L. Cohen.

More likely, he simply projected some parts of himself on the other man in the trinity.

Famous Blue Raincoat would be a "successful experience", and Master Song a... painful one?

Yes, it seems that everything is possible, at least when it comes to the ideas we have about the song!!
***
"He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love."

Leonard Cohen
Beautiful Losers
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lightning
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Postby lightning » Thu Apr 03, 2003 7:01 am

The psychs talk about "split personality" and "multiple personality disorder" and Hesse and mind expanding drugs showed us we were many . Cohen wrote " You thought it would never happen to all the people that you became." (Love Calls you by its Name.) They say everyone in a your dreams in you. So maybe everyone in his songs and poems is him too. At least part mental creations and part objective observations of the world outside.
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lizzytysh
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Postby lizzytysh » Thu Apr 03, 2003 6:44 pm

I really like the idea of the blend that you suggest here, Lightning. I can see how it could be justified with various songs and excerpts, as well.....as you folks here are already doing.
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Postby George.Wright » Thu Apr 03, 2003 6:50 pm

Leonard at one yet divided with the universe..mmm..........sounds like Samuel Taylor Coldridge
Intresting.....................in kubla khan did the master live
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margaret
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Postby margaret » Thu Apr 03, 2003 11:12 pm

I also feel that Leonards writing continually explores different versions of himself. Usually contrasting a weak, imperfect man with perhaps a version of who he would like to be - stronger, wiser, better.

Margaret
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The Lennie and Lennie Show?

Postby David » Sat Apr 05, 2003 11:28 pm

"...I was divided into three parts. One part was given to a wife, one part was given to money, one part was given to the daisies... I broke under the sentnece of loneliness and the wound of my beautiful twin..."

(from LC: The Final Revision Of My Life In Art, c. early - mid-70s)
"Nothing is said that is not sung."

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