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Lions Roar : May 2013
34 SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2013 I N HIS GREAT BOOK OF CHANGES and homemade 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 peace and love.” We have, of course, soul music, and who can resist the transports of the Reverend Al Green or Aretha Franklin? But we also have a more reserved and serene music that is of, for, and from the soul. As Cage notes a little earlier in his book, a musician once wanted to give up his art and become a full-time disciple of Swami Ramakrishna. “Remain a musician,” his teacher said. “Music is a means of rapid transportation.” The music of Leonard Cohen is not notably rapid. A friend recently told me that he mistakenly played a Billy Joel record too slow, at sixteen rpm, and the result sounded uncannily like Cohen. And Cohen’s music is not obviously trans- porting, in the way that U2 can be, with their building chords of imminence, or the otherworldly post-verbal soundscapes of the Icelandic band Sigur Ros. Leon- ard Cohen takes you in, not up. Some might even say his songs are not always music; my Japanese wife runs out of the room whenever I put on late Cohen Leonard Cohen burns, and we burn with him God is a fire,” said Nikos Kazantzakis. “He burns and we burn with Him.” Art, passion, and Zen are fires too— burning the self, leaving behind only ashes and essence. They burn in Leonard Cohen’s heart, says his admirer PICO I YER, and light up the darkness for us. “ With photos of Leonard Cohen at his home in Montreal by CHARLA JONES