Bauhaus Ballet: A Dance of Geometry

During the past month, the Great Big Story has released a series of videos that revisit the design aesthetic of the Bauhaus movement. Their first video explored the radical buildings designed by Bauhaus architects. A second focused on the legacy of minimalist Bauhaus furniture. And now a third takes as its subject Oskar Schlemmer's 1922 “Triadic Ballet”--a ballet famous for putting geometry and structure into dance. The video above shows the "Bayerisches Junior Ballet München as they prepare to bring Bauhaus center stage again." You can watch a full recreation of the ballet and learn much more about Schlemmer's experimental production by reading this post from our archive.

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How Aleister Crowley, the Infamous Occultist, Led the First Attempt to Reach the Summit of K2 (1902)

It sounds like the plot of a Werner Herzog film: Aleister Crowley, heir to a brewing fortune and “flamboyant, bisexual drug fiend with a fascination for the occult,” meets “son of a well-known Jewish Socialist” Oscar Eckenstein, “a chemist turned railway engineer.” The two strike up a friendship over their mutual passion for mountaineering, and, in four years time, co-lead an expedition to reach the summit of K2, the second highest mountain in the world.

The descriptions of these characters come from Mick Conefrey’s The Ghosts of K2: The Race for the Summit of the World’s Most Deadly Mountain, a book detailing the many grueling attempts, many deaths, and few successes, in over a century of climbs to the mountain’s peak. Crowley and Eckenstein’s expedition, undertaken in 1902, was the first. Though unsuccessful, their effort remains a legendary feat of historical bravery, or hubris, or insanity—an ascent up the face of what climber George Bell called “a savage mountain that tries to kill you.”

In an interview with National Geographic, Conefrey sums up the doomed expedition:

 In those days, nobody had a clue about what it was going to be like. They thought they would go to the Himalayas and knock off K2 in a couple of days. But as the expedition proceeded, it started falling apart. Eckenstein, the leader, had a bad respiratory infection. Crowley had malaria and spent most of the time in his tent with a high fever. At one point he got so delirious, he started waving his revolver at other members of the team. 

There are many other Herzogian touches. In his book Fallen Giants, Maurice Isserman describes the team—also consisting of a novice Englishman, a Swiss doctor, and two experienced Austrian climbers—as “unreasonably burdened by three tons of luggage.” Some of that unnecessary burden came from a “several-volume library” Crowley “intended to haul onto the glacier.” The others “objected to the superfluous weight, but Crowley had read enough Joseph Conrad to know what happened to those who let go of their hold on civilization in the wild.” The library stayed, and a train of 200 porters hauled the team’s luggage to Baltoro Glacier. (See Crowley in a photo from the expedition above, presumably stricken with malaria.)

Prior to setting off for K2 Eckenstein and Crowley had climbed volcanoes in Mexico, then the latter had traveled to San Francisco, Hawaii, Japan, Sri Lanka, and India—along the way having affairs, learning meditation, and developing a “lifelong devotion to Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction." While it takes a certain rare personality to subject themselves to the rigors of scaling a mountain almost five miles high, Crowley—notorious for his “magick," sexual adventures, drug use, lewd poetry, and founding of a religious order—is arguably the most out-there personality in the history of a very extreme sport.

But mountaineering "is not a normal pursuit,” writes Scottish climber Robin Campbell, “and we should not be too surprised to find its adepts showing odd behavior in other spheres of life.” Like all devotees of strenuous, death-defying pursuits, Crowley “wanted extreme experiences,” says Conefrey, “where he pushed himself to the limit.” It just so happened that he wanted to push far beyond the natural and human worlds. After the failed K2 attempt, he would only make one more daring expedition with Eckenstein, in 1905, a climb up the Himalayan mountain of Kangchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world.

On the trip, Crowley, the leader, reportedly treated the local porters with brutal arrogance, and when three of them were killed along with one of the expedition members, he refused to help, writing to a Darjeeling newspaper, “a mountain ‘accident’ of this sort is one of the things for which I have no sympathy whatever.” He left the following day and gave up mountaineering, devoting the rest of his life to his occult interests and the exploits that earned him the tabloid reputation as “the wickedest man in the world.”

K2 was finally conquered by two Italian climbers in 1954, who reached the summit, frostbitten and half-mad, as Joanna Kavenna puts it in a review of Conefrey's spellbinding book, "in a moment of sublime anticlimax."

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

See the First Ever Video of Elvis Costello Performing, Summer 1974

The setting: London. In particular, Stepney, London E1. The year, a warm summer in 1974, July 21 to be exact. And a very early video camera, only able to shoot in black and white, records the events of the E1 Festival, a free day out for families, restless teens, and bell bottomed, long-haired youth enjoying the sun. There’s Indian musicians, face painting, carnival games, jazz bands, folk dancing, and a “Wellie Boot Chucking Competition”. You know, “the lot,” as the English would say. But then, around 40 minutes in, the videographer decides to shoot the pub rock band playing on the main stage.

If the bespectacled 19 year old looks and sounds a bit familiar, well luvvies, you’re not seeing things. This is the first filmed appearance of a young Elvis Costello, beclad in very fetching dungarees and fronting his first band Flip City. This was their third ever gig, according to the Elvis Costello fan site.

A full three years before Declan MacManus would change his name and burst upon the scene with My Aim Is True, here he is paying his dues.

Flip City was Costello’s second group, the first being a folk rock duo called Rusty that played John Prine, Jesse Winchester, and Van Morrison covers in between their own songs. After Costello split from Liverpool and left for London, he jumped on the pub rock bandwagon that was already formed around Nick Lowe, Dr. Feelgood, and Brinsley Schwarz, mixing up Americana and R’n’B covers with very British originals. They even recorded demos a few years after this gig, which were widely bootlegged until most of them appeared on bonus tracks on various CD reissues. (You can listen to them here.)

But back to 1974. We have no record of their full set, but the two songs on the video are from the Coasters’ “I’m a Hog for You” (the B-side of “Charlie Brown” but covered by Screaming Lord Sutch in 1963) and from the Isley Brothers, “This Old Heart of Mine,” a Motown staple. Despite Costello’s encyclopediac knowledge of music, he never again played these two songs live again.

It might be 20/20 hindsight, but one can already hear the talent and the confidence (or at least mock confidence) that would soon propel the young man into the charts. The rest, as they say, is much better than winning the wellie chucking contest.

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the artist interview-based FunkZone Podcast and is the producer of KCRW's Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at and/or watch his films here.

How David Lynch Got Creative Inspiration? By Drinking a Milkshake at Bob’s Big Boy, Every Single Day, for Seven Straight Years

"It is no secret that David Lynch, the writer-director-composer-painter, has an unusual relationship with Bob's Big Boy," begins a 1999 Los Angeles Times article on the auteur of films like Eraserhead and Blue Velvet. "For seven years in the 1980s he ate lunch there every day, ordering cup after cup of over-sweetened coffee and a single chocolate milkshake while scribbling notes on Bob's little square napkins." He took pains, notes reporter Amy Wallace, "to arrive at Bob's at precisely 2:30 p.m. each day. The reason: It increased the odds that he would encounter perfection."

"If you go earlier, at lunchtime, they're making a lot of chocolate milkshakes. The mixture has to cool in a machine, but if it doesn't sit in there long enough — when they're serving a lot of them — it's runny," Wallace quotes Lynch as saying. "At 2:30, the milkshake mixture hasn't been sitting there too long, but you've got a chance for it to be just great."

For his pains, he received "only three perfect milkshakes out of more than 2,500. But that wasn't the point. For Lynch, it was enough to know he had set the stage for excellence to occur," believing that "whether with milkshakes or movies," one "must make room for inspiration to strike — to lay the proper groundwork for greatness to take hold."

When the 1980s British television series The Incredibly Strange Film Show devoted an episode to Lynch, it naturally went to Los Angeles not just to interview him but to shoot some footage at Bob's, the sacred space itself. In the clip at the top of the post, you can see host Jonathan Ross, seated in one of the retro diner's booths and Lynchianly dressed in a white shirt buttoned all the way up, describe how, after an "all-American lunch," the director would embark on "marathon coffee-drinking sessions. Fueled by the caffeine and his excessive sugar intake, he'd then spend the afternoon writing down ideas for movies on the napkins helpfully provided by Bob."

In the interview that follows, Lynch himself confirms all this. "I was into Bob's halfway through Eraserhead," he says, establishing the chronology. "The end of Dune" — his traumatic, failed experience with big-budget studio production — "was pretty much the end of Bob's." Even Lynch's daughter Jennifer, for a time her father's Bob's-going companion, reminisces about "the drawing on napkins" and the "tons of coffee with lots of sugar." In this late-80s interview, Lynch describes himself as "heavily into sugar. I call it 'granulated happiness.' It's just a great help, a friend."

Lynch's reputation for drinking Bob's milkshakes long outlasted his actual habit. Charlie Rose makes a point of asking about it in the clip in the middle of the post, prompting Lynch to explain the reasoning behind his daily trips — both literally and metaphorically, since when Rose asks if all the sugar got him high, Lynch admits that "it is like a drug, I suppose, because it revs you up." Though by all accounts still a prodigious drinker of coffee and smoker of cigarettes, Lynch has grown more health-conscious in recent years, a shift that may well have begun when, for reasons of his own, he went behind his beloved Bob's and climbed into its dumpster. "I found one of these cartons that milkshakes came from," says Lynch in the more recent interview clip above. "Every ingredient ended in -zene or -ate. There was nothing natural anywhere near that carton."

Even though that discovery put an end to Lynch's 2:30 appearances, all his coffee-soaked, sugar-saturated afternoons spent at Bob's had already filled him with ideas. One day, for example, "I saw a man come in. He came to the counter, and that's all I remember of this man, but from seeing him came a feeling, and that's where Frank Booth came from." Blue Velvet's psychotic, gas-huffing, Dennis Hopper-portrayed villain aside, Lynch fans who make their own pilgrimage to Bob's Big Boy even today will understand how well its sensibility may have resonated with the filmmaker's obvious attraction to midcentury Americana. But as we've learned from his life as well as his work, it's best not to go around back.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

What English Would Sound Like If It Was Pronounced Phonetically

The English language presents itself to students and non-native speakers as an almost cruelly capricious entity, its irregularities of spelling and conjugation impossible to explain without an advanced degree. It wasn’t until graduate school that I came to understand how spellings like “rough” and “knight” survived several hundreds of years of linguistic change, and preserved vestiges of phonetic pronunciations that had long since disappeared in historic upheavals like the Great Vowel Shift and subsequent spelling wars.

The importation of huge numbers of loan words from other languages, and exportation of English to the world, has made it a polyglot tongue that contains a multitude of spellings and pronunciations, to the consternation of everyone. Unlike French, which has a centralized body that adjudicates language change, English grows and evolves wildly. Dictionaries and linguistics departments struggle to keep up.

One almost wants to apologize to non-native speakers for the following sentence: “Though I coughed roughly and hiccoughed throughout the lecture, I still thought I could plough through the rest of it.” As Aaron Alon, narrator of the video above, points out, the “incredible inconsistency” of words with “ough” in them “can make English incredibly hard to master.” What if a governing body of English language scholars, like the Académie française, came together to prescribe a phonetically consistent pronunciation?

For one thing, they would have to deal with the diversity of vowel sounds—like the “a” in “father,” “ape,” and “apple.” As the video proceeds, we hear these regularized in the narrator’s speech. Students of the language's history might immediately recognize something like the sound of Shakespeare's Early Modern English, which did have a more phonetically consistent pronunciation. Soon the sounds of Romance languages—French, Spanish, Italian, Romanian—and the accents speakers of those languages bring to English, start to emerge.

By the time Alon has regularized the vowel sounds, and launched into a recitation of Hamlet’s famous soliloquy, his pronunciation begins to sound like Chaucer’s Middle English, which you can hear pronounced above in a reading of The Canterbury Tales. If we hear the accent this way, the exercise shows that English once made far more phonetic sense (and had a more pleasing musical lilt) than it does today. Alternately, we may hear, as Jason Kottke does, an accent that “sounds a little like Werner Herzog doing an impression of someone from Wales doing an impression of an Italian who doesn’t speak English that well.” Which, he writes, “makes sense because that’s pretty much how the language came together in the first place!” More or less….

via Kottke

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

NASA Creates a Visualization That Sets Breathtaking Footage of the Moon to Claude Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” (Moonlight)

From NASA's Ernie Wright comes "Moonlight (Clair de Lune)," a visualization that takes beautiful images of the lunar terrain and sets them to Claude Debussy's 1905 composition, Clair de Lune (1905). Here's how Wright describes the project:

This visualization attempts to capture the mood of Claude Debussy's best-known composition, Clair de Lune (moonlight in French). The piece was published in 1905 as the third of four movements in the composer's Suite Bergamasque, and unlike the other parts of this work, Clair is quiet, contemplative, and slightly melancholy, evoking the feeling of a solitary walk through a moonlit garden. The visuals were composed like a nature documentary, with clean cuts and a mostly stationary virtual camera. The viewer follows the Sun throughout a lunar day, seeing sunrises and then sunsets over prominent features on the Moon. The sprawling ray system surrounding Copernicus crater, for example, is revealed beneath receding shadows at sunrise and later slips back into darkness as night encroaches. The visualization was created to accompany a performance of Clair de Lune by the National Symphony Orchestra Pops, led by conductor Emil de Cou, at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, on June 1 and 2, 2018, as part of a celebration of NASA's 60th anniversary. The visualization uses a digital 3D model of the Moon built from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter global elevation maps and image mosaics. The lighting is derived from actual Sun angles during lunar days in 2018.


via Aeon

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How Jean-Luc Godard Liberated Cinema: A Video Essay on How the Greatest Rule-Breaker in Film Made His Name

Few can think of the very concept of the auteur without thinking of Jean-Luc Godard. That goes for those of us exhilarated by his movies, those of us amused by them, those of us frustrated by them, and those of us who experience any combination of those emotions and more. Godard's early audiences, at the dawn of the French New Wave in the late 1950s and the decade or so thereafter, reacted in all those ways, and somehow time hasn't drained his work in that period of its power.

"How Jean-Luc Godard Liberated Cinema," the video essay from The Discarded Image above, shows us how a young filmmaker in mid-century France, working under severely limited environments and in a whole new postwar reality — cultural as well as economic — imbued them with that power. Starting with a bang, his 1959 feature debut Breathless, Godard took cinema, says Discarded Image creator Julian Palmer, and "tore through its foundations, reinventing the form and reinventing himself, picture by picture." This entailed "a haphazard ethos toward editing" as well as oscillation between "genre and the everyday, actors and non-professionals, black and white and color."

Godard "found the modern world, engulfed with commercialism, both appealing in its pop-art aesthetic, but also repellent," and his early films vividly express both halves of that worldview. All the while he "toys with the conventions of cinema," for example by severing the "umbilical cord" of the musical score, "making you aware of how you're being manipulated by his medium," and littering the frame with text, "often with abstract phrases, possibly just to provoke a reaction" — or, as some Godard enthusiasts might put it, definitely just to provoke a reaction.

The Godard films on which this video essay focuses — the formidable stretch from Breathless to 1967's Week-end, with pictures like Vivre sa vieContempt, and Alphaville in-between —  also draw deeply from cinema itself. "Movies surround these characters' lives, providing a contrast to their existence," says Palmer. "This fantasy can allow them to momentarily escape their reality." But as the 1960s became the 1970s, "like a film coming off its projector, Godard himself was coming off track. He was increasingly disgusted by consumer culture, which was only becoming more dominant."

Thereafter, as some critics see it, the delicate balance between Godard's politics and his aesthetics was overturned by the former, but his initial "manic period of fertile creation is still unmatched to this day, and Godard's influence is immeasurable." We should not only be thankful that Godard still makes films (his latest, The Image Book, won the very first "Special Palme d'Or" at this year's Cannes Film Festival), but also hope that the next generation of filmmakers continues to look to his example. Godard may have liberated cinema, but it always and everywhere threatens to put itself back in chains.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

The Rise and Fall of the Great Library of Alexandria: An Animated Introduction

The demise of the Library of Alexandria has for centuries been cast as one of history’s greatest tragedies, an incalculable and senseless loss of ancient knowledge in an act of war. “Once the largest library in the ancient world,” writes Brian Haughton at Ancient History Encyclopedia, “containing works by the greatest thinkers and writers of antiquity, including Homer, Plato, Socrates and many more, the Library of Alexandria, northern Egypt, is popularly believed to have been destroyed in a huge fire around 2000 years ago and its voluminous works lost.”

Ancient accounts, including those of Julius Caesar himself, that detail the multiple burnings of Alexandria seem to support this story. But in truth, the Library's disappearance has been a historical mystery, “perpetuated by the fact that no architectural remains or archaeological finds that can definitely be attributed to the ancient Library have ever been recovered.” The TED-Ed lesson above tells the story of the Library’s rise and fall, which is, as history tends to be, “much more complex.”

Built 2300 years ago by Alexander the Great’s successor, Ptolemy I, the Library was intended to rival any scholarly institution in Athens, and by all accounts, it did. Alexandria’s rulers attempted to collect a copy of every manuscript in the world. Any ship that docked in the city had to “turn over its books for copying.” Book hunters were sent all over the Mediterranean. The Library was in fact, notes Haughton, “two or more libraries,” one of them named the “Temple of the Muses,” or “the Musaeum,” (Greek, Mouseion), from which the modern word “museum” derives.

As a cultural center, it was unusually democratic. “Unlike the many private libraries that existed in the palaces of the wealthy in the ancient world,” writes Annalee Newitz at io9, “the library at Alexandria was open to anyone who could prove themselves a worthy scholar.” Among them were Callimachus of Cyrene, who created the first library catalog to help navigate the vast collection, and Eratosthenes, one of the Library’s directors, who calculated the Earth’s circumference and diameter (and knew that it was round) within only a few miles of their actual size.

The Library thrived for around 300 years before it went into a very long period of decline. Though Julius Caesar’s siege of Alexandria in 45 BCE has been blamed for its destruction, and may have decimated part of its collection, we know that it survived and that scholars continued to visit it for several hundred more years. Its last recorded director was scholar and mathematician Theon, father of famed female philosopher Hypatia, who was murdered by a Christian mob in 415 CE. As the city became ruled by a succession of empires—Greek, Roman, Christian, and Muslim—the Library seemed increasingly to pose a threat to its rulers.

The TED-Ed video implicates the ravages of time and the fear of knowledge as historical culprits in the Library’s demise. Newitz points to a much more mundane cause, budget cuts. She quotes library historian Heather Phillips’ explanation of its downfall as “gradual, often bureaucratic, and by comparison to our cultural imaginings, somewhat petty.” The causes of its fall included abolishing stipends and expelling foreign scholars. While we have imagined the Library burning down or torn to pieces by religious fanatics, the truth may be that it slowly fell victim to other ancient ills: institutionalized greed, short-sightedness, bigotry, and ignorance.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Did Lennon or McCartney Write the Beatles 1965 Song “In My Life”? A Math Professor, Using Statistics, Solves the Decades-Old Mystery

In 2009, guitarist Randy Bachman of the Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive had the rare opportunity to hear the individual tracks that make up that mythic opening chord in the Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night,” an enigma that has baffled musicians for decades. Bachman found that it’s actually made up of a combination of different chords played all at once by George, John, and Paul. The discovery made for a great story, and Bachman told it the following year on his CBC radio show. Unbeknownst to him, it seems, another Canadian Beatles lover, Dalhousie University math professor Jason Brown, claimed he had cracked the code the previous year, without setting foot in Abbey Road.

Instead, Brown used what is called a Fourier Analysis, based on work done in the 1820s by French scientist Joseph Fourier, which reduces sounds into their “constituent sine or cosine waves.” The problem with Bachman’s explanation, as Eliot Van Buskirk notes at Wired, is that the chord “contains a note that would be impossible for the Beatles’ two guitarists and bassist to play in one take.” Since there was no overdubbing involved, something else must have been happening. Through his mathematical analysis, Brown determined that something else to have been five notes played on the piano, apparently by George Martin, “who is known to have doubled on piano George Harrison’s solo on the track.”

After ten years of work, Brown has returned with the solution to another longtime Beatles mystery, this time with a little help from his colleagues, Harvard mathematicians Mark Glickman and Ryan Song. The problem: who wrote the melody for “In My Life,” Rubber Soul’s nostalgic ballad? The song is credited to the crack team of Lennon-McCartney, but while the two agreed that Lennon penned the lyrics, both separately claimed in interviews to have written the music. Brown and his collaborators used statistical methods to determine that it was, in fact, Lennon who wrote the whole song.

They present their research in a paper titled “Assessing Authorship of Beatles Songs from Musical Content: Bayesian Classification Modeling from Bags-Of-Words Representations.” In the NPR Weekend Edition interview above, you can hear Stanford mathematician Keith Devlin break down the terms of their project, including that odd phrase “bags-of-words representations,” which “actually goes back to the 1950s,” he says. “Bags-of-words”—like the word clouds we now see on websites—take text, “ignore the grammar” and word order and produce a collection of words. The method was used to generate the first spam filters. Rather than use words, however, the mathematicians decontextualized snippets of sound.

In an analysis of “about 70 songs from Lennon and McCartney... they found there were 149 very distinct transitions between notes and chords.” These are unique to one or the other songwriters. “When you do the math,” Devlin says, it turns out “the probability that McCartney wrote it was .o18—that’s essentially zero.” Why might Paul have misremembered this—even saying specifically in a 1984 Playboy interview that he recalled “going off for half an hour and sitting with a Mellotron… writing the tune”? Who knows. Mashable has reached out to McCartney’s publicist for comment. But in the final analysis, says Devlin, “I would go with mathematics” over faulty human memory.

via NPR

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

How Leonard Cohen Wrote a Love Song

So many songs take love as their topic, almost by default, that we hardly even think of the "love song" as a distinct type of musical work anymore. And when we do, we often do it out of a desire for alternatives: lyrics and compositions of a more complex, cerebral, and iconic nature, escapes from the simple paeans to infatuation, romance, and couplehood with which we can easily feel fed up. Few singer-songwriters in recent history would seem more capable of providing such escapes than Leonard Cohen, who never shied away from looking at life (and when the time came, death) straight on, refusing to shrink from its infinite emotional chiaroscuro.

But Leonard Cohen, too, wrote love songs now and again. In "How Leonard Cohen Writes a Love Song," the video essay from Polyphonic above, we learn just how he tackled that most common of all musical subjects without abandoning his inimitable sensibility. It first examines Cohen's song "Suzanne," which has its origins in a poem he wrote in 1966 and appeared on his debut album Songs of Leonard Cohen the following year. Unlike almost all love songs, "Suzanne" deals with a Platonic relationship, in this case the one between Cohen and a woman with whom he regularly drank tea and took walks around his native Montreal.

From "Suzanne" the analysis moves on to "Famous Blue Raincoat" from Cohen's 1971 album Songs of Love and Hate. The necessary balance between those forces implied in the album's title reflects Cohen's worldview, which in the 1970s led him into an involvement with Buddhism. But he'd also looked into Scientology, which explains the song's then-cryptic question "Did you ever go clear?" That counts as only one of the many cultural references with which Cohen layers "Famous Blue Raincoat," as he layered so much of his work; even a song ostensibly about love was also about much else in the world besides love.

After an unpromising initial release in 1984, "Hallelujah," would go on to become Cohen's signature song. (Malcolm Gladwell tells the story on his podcast Revisionist History). Despite the religious themes on its surface, "Hallelujah" has a deeper meaning, so the video reveals, as a love song, albeit a love song of a multivalent kind. Last comes "I'm Your Man," the title track from Cohen's uncharacteristically synthesizer-heavy 1988 album, and itself an uncharacteristically love song-like love song. But, in the words of Pitchfork's Dorian Lynksey, it takes its "sentimental clichés — I’m addicted to love, I’ll do anything for love — to brutal extremes." Though Cohen ultimately had to admit his inability to fully understand, much less tame, the forces of love, never did he give up trying to master it in song, approaching it in all the ways typical love songs teach us never to expect.

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Malcolm Gladwell on Why Genius Takes Time: A Look at the Making of Elvis Costello’s “Deportee” & Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”

Listen to Nick Cave’s Lecture on the Art of Writing Sublime Love Songs (1999)

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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    Open Culture editor Dan Colman scours the web for the best educational media. He finds the free courses and audio books you need, the language lessons & movies you want, and plenty of enlightenment in between.

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