If It Be Your Will

October 11, 2010 § Leave a comment

Norwegian radio producer Kari Hesthamar interviewed Leonard Cohen in 2005. Their discussion is centered around Cohen’s affair with a woman named Marianne. She’s enshrined in a famous song he wrote for his debut album, Songs of Leonard Cohen. They met in Hydra and their relationship lasted through the 1960’s.

In focusing on this particular relationship, the interview is a window into Cohen’s ideas about memory. Many of his thoughts are shaped from his experiences with Zen Buddhism. But there’s also something tangential to Buddhism, something more inherent to Cohen, something I might misinterpret as ambivalence, that seeps from his answers. When asked what he remembers from his time with Marianne, he responds:

“You remember when your children were born, or you remember when maybe the first time you saw Hydra, or maybe the first time you went on the stage with your guitar. A few things like that, but I don’t remember the life that I was leading, before I met Marianne, or after really, it seems to be all the same.”

The interview is produced as an audio story. Hesthamar intersperses ambient noise from his apartment as well as short interactions Cohen has with various friends throughout the interview. The production commands a similar presence to cinéma vérité. In listening to the piece, there is a strong feeling of provocation towards Cohen. She is almost pushing him to tell a particular version of the past. But the interview methodology is balanced by Cohen’s thoughtful words and the rich sonic texture created with music and ambient noise. It’s an unusual radio piece. It does a beautiful job of creating a space that is uniquely Cohen’s. It’s easy to fall prey to his words even if you’re not quite sure about them.

You can read a transcript of the interview here.

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