Monday, February 16, 2009

Leonard Cohen

If I can't get tickets for his concert, then I can at least see his artwork. 

If one is gifted by one of the muses, does it mean that one is blessed by the proximity of the others.  Would Terpsichore and Erato, my votes as Lenny's benefactors, have side benefits as for his work as an illustrator.

Does prowess in one endeavor mean anything in an adjoining field?  Maybe for a few true renaissance men and women, but for most of us, it is the same hard work we applied to the our first splash in the art or the sciences that lets us make similar waves in a new ocean.

At least that's my hopeful plan for my writing career.

By the way, I spent weeks at the same Zen Monastery where LC spent years.  It was life changing for me.

See below:

When Leonard Cohen famously turned his back on the music industry in 1994, he retreated to a Zen monastery more than 6,000 feet above sea level on Mt. Baldy, in the San Gabriel Mountains near Claremont McKenna College. The musician took the name Jikan — meaning “the Silent One” — and devoted himself to an ascetic lifestyle and to the study of Rinzai Zen philosophy.

His five years in seclusion left a gaping lacuna in the musician’s eclectic career. Few people know why Cohen, born to a Jewish family in Montreal, ensconced himself in the monastery’s regimen of meditation and reflection. But “Drawing From the Heart,” a new exhibition of Cohen’s art at Claremont McKenna, throws light on that chapter of his life.

With more than 50 prints of Cohen’s paintings and drawings, the show is a broad survey of his work during the last 40 years. Recurring motifs include the female nude and self-portraits of the artist’s wizened face. But there are also cryptic, slyly comic references to his time on Mt. Baldy.

In one work, “Dear Roshi,” Cohen depicts a nude goddess ...

Cohen's 'The Little Bird'... alongside a brief letter to his elderly monastery instructor. In the letter, Cohen calls himself “a useless monk” and asks Roshi’s forgiveness for meeting (and presumably falling in love with) a woman.

“Leonard has a wry sense of humor. There’s a clarity and tremendous cutting humor in his work, even amidst the brokenness,” said Bob Faggen, the organizer of the show and a friend of Cohen.

Concurrent with the exhibition is the Southern California premiere of Philip Glass’ song cycle “Book of Longing,” based on Cohen’s 2006 volume of poetry. Glass will perform on keyboard with eight musicians and four singers. (The Feb. 25 through March 1 concerts are at the Garrison Theater, a few blocks from the art show at the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum.)

Glass said the idea for the song cycle originated in a long conversation he had at Cohen’s L.A. home. The project was put on hold when Cohen entered the monastery but was revived after the publication of his book. “People don’t read poetry books chronologically, and I wanted to replicate that experience, as if the listener was subjected to random shuffling,” said Glass. The song cycle takes 22 poems and arranges them into thematic chapters dealing with love, Dharma, ballads and Cohen’s biography.

Like his visual art, Cohen’s poems make direct references to his reclusive Zen period. In the song “I Came Down From the Mountain,” he writes about his exodus from the monastery and his moment of self-realization: “I finally understood / I had no gift / for Spiritual Matters.”

Cohen, 74, was recently in Australia on a world tour and didn’t respond to requests for an interview. Apparently, Jikan the Silent One lives on.





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2 Comments:

Blogger CLL SPOUSE said...

Not to discount genius and divine gifting, but most prowess comes from hard work and does not stand separate from it. Genius gives someone a leg up, but those willing to do the hard work of a thing can often make up for what's lacking, at least to a degree, and often meet with some respectable success.

What's that old saw about success being 5% inspiration and 95% perspiration? :-)

Write on!

February 18, 2009 at 7:34 AM  
Blogger Lezlei Ann Young said...

Dr. Koffman...today I was thinking of you and wondering how you were. So I "googled" you and was pleased to find that you have a blog! Your blog has your personality all over it! I always knew you were more than just my doctor. I enjoyed hearing of your many "adventures". You are a busy guy...don't know how you fit it all in!

I knew of your battle before I moved here to Dallas and have thought of you and prayed often. I love that you are totally engaged and that you are not letting this illness happen TO you.

I have a new primary care physician here in Dallas. He is probably a very good physician and very kind, but he knows NO jokes and he doesn't know me...it's quite different.

Tidbit: the word that came up for the word verification was "shadi"...in Arabic, "one with the beautiful voice". I found out here that you are a writer...totally cool!

All the Best!

Lezlei

February 18, 2009 at 12:37 PM  

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