Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Dance Me to the End of Love

Don't you love how this is an old picture come to life?  And "raise me like an olive branch, be my homeward dove" --  isn't that the best kind of love, the safety after storm, the cradling ark, the promise of peace despite destruction.  One of the things that fascinates me and delights me is how Leonard Cohen, still living, writes songs that can become anyone else's song. His own revisions seem to allow this:  

Here's an early video version that is more weird Maya Deren experimental film dreamscape, bizarre and jokey, sung I think a whole octave higher than where he will settle a decade or two later . . .


. . . or better by far, this gorgeous, heartbreaking and for me, definitive video version:  

I can't tell you how much I love these old couples.
Dancing before the icons of their own wedding photographs, keeping faith.
Their careful and aching embraces in contrast with the easy spins and dips of the newlyweds.

It captures some of the beauty in loss, some of the persistent rapture despite terror of his original inspiration.  Cohen says he wrote this song after hearing about the quartets of prison camp inmates made to play while their companions were marched into the crematorium.  This is the creative transformation that turns horrors into a stubborn claiming of beauty and comfort within pain even to the last terrifying moment.  This video, in contrast to his earlier one, is more tragic but more full of hope, so that "raise the tent of shelter now though every thread is torn" becomes the wedding canopy and the sky of ragged clouds overhead, both still valiantly carrying on over long love and unavoidable grief. And everything returns to the place of making and unmaking, "through the curtains our kisses have outworn" where weary souls rest amid "the children asking to be born."

It reminds me that song, dance, poetry, and drama all had their birth together.  We have divided them up again, only to keep trying to put them back together again.  Which maybe is what creation is all about -- light from darkness and then light shining in darkness, light encompassing, fulfilling, comprehending darkness though the darkness comprehendeth it not.

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