Pico Iyer Journeys

Leonard Cohen

I'm Not Your Man

In his great book of changes and home-made koans, Silence, John Cage defines the purpose of music. “Music is edifying,” the devoted student of D.T. Suzuki wrote, “for from time to time it sets the soul in operation. The soul is the gatherer-together of the disparate elements (Meister Eckhart), and its work fills one with […]

No Disguises in the Dark

He bounds onto the stage, dressed to kill, and roars into a rendition of one of his classic songs as if he’s been storing up his energy for fifteen years to make it new. He’s bent before us, crouching, trying to squeeze out every ounce of blood, and he’s looking into the wings to summon […]

Thanks for the Dance

Through the long hot nights of summer and early autumn I have been listening to the ten newest songs from Leonard Cohen, almost unbearably sad in their themes and beautiful in their bareness, yet turned sultry and smoky and rich with a full-bodied looseness thanks to his collaborator in life and in art, Anjani. The […]

The Times, They Are A-Changing

A moment comes back to me, unbidden and far too often, that probably speaks for many such moments in many too many lives. A fifteen year-old classmate is lecturing a few of us, and a bewildered Classics teacher, in a little room in Berkshire, in 1972, on the timeless literary brilliance of Pink Floyd’s recent […]

The Mystery of Transparency

How to say goodbye to the world with peace ? How accept everything around us, including the fact that “us” itself is something of an illusion, and certainly about to be no longer ? How take leave of things with light ? Those questions have been circling around the later songs of Leonard Cohen, as […]

An Anti-Sermon on the Mount

Leonard Cohen’s songs, a friend said recently, offer “music to die by,” and as soon as I heard that, I realized one source of their Buddhist radiance. Death, loss, renunciation toll through every stanza of the benign hymns of passage on his latest record, Ten New Songs, and yet they’re accepted, even embraced, as warmly […]

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