Saturday, February 21, 2009

"And that is the longing/And this is the book"

Just came back from UT's Performing Arts Center, where I saw
The Book of Longing -- Philip Glass's song rendering of 22 poems by Leonard Cohen. To boot, Glass himself was playing keyboards, together with some eight or ten other musicians and lyric singers.

I must confess I expected a little bit more. Or less: Glass put the poems to very energetic, epic music, not unlike film scores (If you know Cohen's musical output, you know "epic" is hardly the word to describe him; "intimist" and "stripped" are more like it.). It was intriguing, but didn't quite work -- lyrics like "see what you have done to me/as if you give a shit" kind of lose their power when sung by a soprano over cellos and violins. I suppose there is some value in the irony, but that in itself is not enough to engage your interest for one hour and forty minutes.

Cohen's poetry, however, is always worth the ticket. Here is my favorite poem from the performance:

This morning I woke up again

This morning I woke up again
I thank my Lord for that
The world is such a pigpen
That I have to wear a hat

I love the Lord I praise the Lord
I do the Lord forgive
I hope I won't be sorry
For allowing Him to live

I know you like to get me drunk
And laugh at what I say
I'm very happy that you do
I'm thirsty every day

I'm angry with the angel
Who pinched me on the thigh
And made me fall in love
With every woman passing by

I know they are your sisters
Your daughters mothers wives
If I have left a woman out
Then I apologize

It's fun to run to heaven
When you're off the beaten track
The Lord is such a monkey when
You've got Him on your back

The Lord is such a monkey
He's such a woman too
Such a place of nothing
Such a face of you

May E crash into your temple
And look out thru' your eyes
And make you fall in love
With everybody you despise

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