Master Song

General discussion about Leonard Cohen's songs and albums
Cate
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Re: Master Song

Postby Cate » Mon Dec 28, 2009 5:26 pm

I was thinking love letters.
John Etherington
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Re: Master Song

Postby John Etherington » Mon Dec 28, 2009 6:53 pm

You may well be right, Cate...I hadn't thought of that more romantic alternative!
Steven
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Re: Master Song

Postby Steven » Mon Dec 28, 2009 7:20 pm

Hi LisaLCFan,

You weren't misunderstood. You know what, though, even if an authors explain meanings, readers and
authors, may still not really or fully know. Creative output comes from areas that can be
outside of awareness and its representations and origins can be at least somewhat ambiguous or
misattributed. The thrust of what you said, I took to be that poetry is more to be taken on an
experiential/subjective level than on a cerebral/intellectual one. Pretty much the same thing. :)
Last edited by Steven on Mon Dec 28, 2009 7:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Steven
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Re: Master Song

Postby Steven » Mon Dec 28, 2009 7:27 pm

Hi Gina DCG,

Maybe worm = bait and rock = bludgeon, with worm being seduction and rock being duress or coercion.
holydove
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Re: Master Song

Postby holydove » Tue Dec 29, 2009 6:45 pm

Like John E, I also took the "worm" and "rock" to possibly refer to a certain part of the male anatomy.

And like Cate, I took "who had you through the mails" to refer to letters (as in correspondence) of a romantic/sexual nature being exchanged between partners separated by distance (kind of like "phone sex", but in the form of letters). I have wondered why it's plural, though (mails instead of mail); I wondered if maybe that is how it's said in Canada?
holydove
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Re: Master Song

Postby holydove » Tue Dec 29, 2009 7:49 pm

There is an article that I found very fascinating, about references in LC's lyrics to "unusual" types of sexual activity (BDSM, etc.). Master Song, along with other songs, are mentioned. The author is Drew Cordes. For those who may be interested, here is the link:

www.tinymixtapes.com/Kinky-Cohen-Part-1-NSFW

From there, you can also get to Part 2.

(Sorry, but for some reason the link is not lighting up, so I guess you will have to either copy & paste, or type it into your Internet Explorer box, or whatever you use. . .)
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remote1
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Re: Master Song

Postby remote1 » Tue Dec 29, 2009 8:57 pm

In the context that you describe, I believe that "mails'" can also refer to interlinked metal rings. And there is the obvious aural pun on "males".
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Mollydog
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Re: Master Song

Postby Mollydog » Tue Dec 29, 2009 9:01 pm

holydove wrote:I have wondered why it's plural, though (mails instead of mail); I wondered if maybe that is how it's said in Canada?
No, it's used in the singular in Canada.
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Cate
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Re: Master Song

Postby Cate » Tue Dec 29, 2009 10:49 pm

remote1 wrote:In the context that you describe, I believe that "mails'" can also refer to interlinked metal rings. And there is the obvious aural pun on "males".
well he needs the s on it to rhyme properly - but yes I bet there was an intended wordplay there with those metal ring thingys - good thinking.

holydove wrote:There is an article that I found very fascinating, about references in LC's lyrics to "unusual" types of sexual activity (BDSM, etc.). Master Song, along with other songs, are mentioned. The author is Drew Cordes. For those who may be interested, here is the link:

http://www.tinymixtapes.com/Kinky-Cohen-Part-1-NSFW

From there, you can also get to Part 2.

(Sorry, but for some reason the link is not lighting up, so I guess you will have to either copy & paste, or type it into your Internet Explorer box, or whatever you use. . .)
I’m thinking this guy hasn’t read Beautiful Losers yet <grin>

It was an interesting article although I don’t think these aspects are particularly hidden in Cohen’s work and the author seems to have left out the spiritual (for lack of a better word) aspects. He's also made a few stretches with some of the interpretations but he did it well.

Really aren’t most relationships based on sub-dom roles that sometimes switch (wordplay intentional :D ) – wife/husband, husband/wife, boss/employee, student/teacher, nurse/patient… lover/loved? Sensual games like this are just another facet for exploring relationships and our roles within them. Kneeling in submission, is kneeling in submission –whether to a person, an idea, a god, or an act; it’s about letting go of the you that needs to direct things, and just being in the moment - be it pleasure or pain. Surrendering or complete submission can be a very spiritual whether sensual or religious based (Leonard of course is wonderful at combining both).

Throughout his poems and songs Leonard often explores the union of the male and the female (I don’t mean that literally). Of course control, domination, submission and notion of the master and the servant all are very tied together.

This poem’s from the Spice-box of the earth, which was published in 1961 – so a very young Leonard wrote this.
Alone the master and the slave embrace.
I will not tell the banker or the doctor.
See, they watch the sun descend
behind the unowned mountain.
They know nothing of convenant or phoenix.
Tonight a sun descends
Beautifully behind a mountain,
and my two men
will dream this scene many times
between the times
they punish one another.
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LisaLCFan
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Re: Master Song

Postby LisaLCFan » Wed Dec 30, 2009 1:13 am

Regarding "through the mails," I have elsewhere heard Leonard use that term when referring to correspondence by mail, but why he pluralizes it is anybody's guess. As for where I have heard this, there's an article that was recently posted on the forum of an interview he did around 1973, when he was talking about the woman whose illustrations he used on Live Songs, and who committed suicide, and he said they talked "through the mails". I think it may also appear in one or both of his novels, but I'm not certain about that, and I recall hearing him use it in an interview or concert clip, but I don't remember which one.
John Etherington
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Re: Master Song

Postby John Etherington » Wed Dec 30, 2009 1:32 am

Simple..."mails" rhymes with "fails"!
Lilifyre
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Re: Master Song

Postby Lilifyre » Wed Dec 30, 2009 1:35 am

The concepts of BDSM mentioned by other here are indeed present in all relationships, sexual and otherwise. There is also the concept of "topping from the bottom" which is a good way to explain a somewhat passive/agressiveness that is often found in many relationships. I think Leonard expresses all these concepts so beautifully, not only in the "Master Song" but in nearly every song and/or poem. That is his magic....he sees the various posturings and plays of people in relationships in general.

I've recently seen this interplay in "Sisters of Mercy" when a friend identified with the song on several levels in dealing with family members. I personally have experienced a similar thing with the "Song of Isaac", "Joan of Arc", "In my Secret Life", and the recitation of "1000 Kisses Deep" to name a few. This ability to blend sexuality, with non-sexual relationships is only part of what makes Leonard "THE Master".

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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remote1
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Re: Master Song

Postby remote1 » Wed Dec 30, 2009 1:39 am

Indeed, if you google "through the mails", you can see that it is widely used in the plural to refer to post. Just had a quick glance through the initial entries, and most of them are pre-1960, but here is a quotation dated 2004: "When it was learned that someone was sending anthrax through the mails, people began to search through trash and mailrooms for discarded letters previously thought to be hoaxes." So, well remembered LisaLCfan! :D
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remote1
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Re: Master Song

Postby remote1 » Wed Dec 30, 2009 1:58 am

Can't resist this, sorry! :razz:

M E S S A G E

FROM THE

PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES,

TRANSMITTING

A COMMUNICATION FROM THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL RELATIVE TO THE TRANSMISSION THROUGH THE MAILS OF CERTAIN ANARCHISTIC PUBLICATIONS.

April 9, 1908.—Read; referred to the Committee on the Judiciary and ordered
to be printed.

To the Senate and House of Representatives:

I herewith submit a letter from the Department of Justice which explains itself. Under this opinion I hold that existing statutes give the President the power to prohibit the Postmaster-General from being used as an instrument in the commission of crime; that is, to prohibit the use of the mails for the advocacy of murder, arson, and treason; and I shall act upon such construction. Unquestionably, however, there should be further legislation by Congress in this matter. When compared with the suppression of anarchy, every other question sinks into insignificance. The anarchist is the enemy of humanity, the enemy of all mankind; and his is a deeper degree of criminality than any other. No immigrant is allowed to come to our shores if he is an anarchist; and no paper published here or abroad should be permitted circulation in this country if it propagates anarchistic opinions.

THEODORE ROOSEVELT.

THE WHITE HOUSE, April 9,1908.
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John Etherington
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Re: Master Song

Postby John Etherington » Wed Dec 30, 2009 3:10 am

Hi holydove,

Thank you so much for the link to the article above. This is an excellent and illuminating piece of writing, and I congratulate Drew Cordes on tackling head-on these played-down fetish themes in Leonard's work. Those of us who read Leonard's poetry and novels early on, will no doubt have been at-least partially aware of these themes in his writing. Those who have not read the books will certainly find this article to be a real eye-opener! I suspect that much of what Cordes says in the article is true, and most especially regarding "The Master Song". Suddenly, all of the debated imagery in the song fits into place. It crossed my mind the other day, when I was writing my piece above that there was a link between this and the theme of "Paper Thin Hotel". I also made a mental link between "ape with angel glands" and "approach her you ape with your tail on" in "Don't Go Home With Your Hard-On".

That said, I think that Cordes has exaggerated his case when talking about a few of the songs. "Chelsea Hotel" is not about humiliation, because to the best of my knowledge both Leonard and Janis on some level though of themselves as ugly (at least in relation to some of their "more beautiful "contemporaries). Also, I find it hard to believe that "Memories" is about little more than Leonard trying to pull a girl at the school dance. Anyone who's read "Favourite Game" may liken this to Leonard's/Breavman's behaviour at summer camp in the novel. To extend the fetish themes to "If It Be Your Will" seems absurd, as we know that this song emerged in the same time-frame as "The Book of Mercy".

Strangely, though, Cordes has missed a few golden opportunities in exploring Leonard's lyrics from the position that he is taking. Poet/writer Jeremy Reed in "Angels, Divas and Blacklisted Heroes" mentions how someone as obviously heterosexual as Leonard allows himself a homosexual fantasy to slip-in when he says "You were Marlon Brando/I was Steve McQueen/You Were KY Jelly/ I Was Vaseline". Then there are the themes of orgies and cross-dressing! I'm disappointed that Cordes didn't tackle "Death of a Ladies Man", even though he has certainly encouraged me to look at it again from a less-reserved perspective. The lines that I am thinking of in particular are the following:

"He offered her an orgy in a many mirrored room
He promised her protection for the issue of her womb
She moved her body hard against a sharpened metal spoon
She stopped the bloody rituals of passage to the moon "

"She took his tavern parliament, his cap, his cocky dance
She mocked his female fashions and his working class moustache

The last time that I saw him he was trying hard to get
a woman's education but he's not a woman yet ".

Never mind worms and rocks, it seems that the "Master Song" discussion has opened a whole can of worms!

All good things, John E
Last edited by John Etherington on Wed Dec 30, 2009 12:40 pm, edited 8 times in total.

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