Sunday, January 19, 2014

Hallelujah Revisited

I came to some conclusions about the meaning of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah 7 years ago when I first saw his video [under] but recently I re-watched [after 43 years] Ryan's Daughter [1970] and it became fairly obvious to me that Cohen had used that epic movie as a "template" for his song.

To clarify, my viewing of the video was the first time I had actually heard the song, so my appreciation had not been tortured by Jeff Buckley murdering the song shortly before killing himself or K D Lang giving birth on stage to a Hallelujah "with no attempts to shovel the glimpse into the ditch of what each one means" - Dylan, Gates of Eden.

As Ryan's Daughter in fact fortified my earlier conclusions I have set-out anew in this blog how I see the song should be interpreted.  Here is the video.
Let's see the first verse:

"I've heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don't really care for music, do ya?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah"

There is little mystery that the THEME of the song is as old as Adam and Eve - in fact it IS about Eve Syndrome, that "secret chord" in the female of the species that activates inexplicable acts according to "metronome marks on the biological time clock", enhanced of course by such sensory exciters as Big Fly Wheels in the case of Rosie.

Add to that from bloke's side "there is no fool like an old fool" and we are right in the picture as Cohen walks out in front of a bare Marble Arch to explain what is his "HOLY" Hallelujah.

The "Fourth, the Fifth" and next line scream out Beethoven and can be very simply explained as:

It goes [after the Third] like this [via]
The Fourth, the Fifth [to the Ninth with]
The minor fall [of the Third, and], the major lift

[of the Ninth].

The minor fall is of course the fall-out Beethoven had with Napoleon over "Naming Rights" for the Third [Eroica, but not for Napoleon], which Beethoven brushed off as "minor", and the major lift was of course the ecstasy Beethoven claimed once his "Ode to Joy" came together, combining the words from Schiller.

So we have established continuity of story from the Third to the Ninth and that is further confirmed by:

The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Which is a very easy clue, as above, to the battle Beethoven had composing his Ode to Joy [which Cohen is claiming as his (Holy) Hallelujah, and who could disagree?].

So back to the secret chord and we have 2 clues already that this is about the Third but, even without those, if one was to ask what is the most FAMOUS chord in music, the answer would surely be the opening chord [played twice] in the Third, and repeated 3 times in the first movement, as 6 chords each.

Here is a very good article that explains these "hammer blows" or "forks in the road" - timothy judd

As for "secret", I don't propose to spend time here investigating this right now as I don't think it is vital to the task at hand, but I will leave you with two thoughts.

1.  David Lean certainly "had the vibes" in Ryan's Daughter as he dramatically starts his beach scene of the virtual discovery by Charles of his wife's SECRET affair with one of these "forks in the road", and it continues once back home in the "flower pressing" scene.  It certainly was his fork in the road.

2.  Beethoven's SECRET Heiligenstadt Testament was written AND acted upon at this time with the Third being his OWN fork in the road on his long lonely SILENT journey to his ultimate goal the Ode to Joy.

Finally, the line:

But you don't really care for music, do ya?

does not really need much explanation except by comparison to the deja vu line from Charles in Ryan's Daughter:

You don't really care for my flowers, do you?

The HUGE change in the world by 1984 when Cohen wrote Hallelujah is that the 1970 small f feminist revolution of The Female Eunuch [initially called "Wimmins Liberation"] WAS firmly in control and remains so to this day.  So the flower comment in 1916 was without malice as Rosie's affair was also without malice, but by 1984 we had the full scale gender WAR as Cohen continues to stress as the song progresses [and the REASON for the Marble Arch].

By the way, check the similarity between the style of hat Charles [played by Robert Mitchum] wears and that adopted by Cohen about this time.

And THAT also provides a useful interpretation of line 2 if one imagines Cohen [or David in Biblical parlance] doing as Charles does when Rosie comes to his home to snare him, ie he puts on his Beethoven Fifth record and proudly announces "that's Beethoven", surrounded by his many busts of Beethoven on his mantlepiece.  Rosie nods approvingly but once she has snared Charles her interest is seen to wane for "fleshier pleasures".

So if you go back and listen again above but assume "the Lord" is Cohen admitting his own defeat and that his own Rosie has taken over [as we see in Verse 2] and IS Lord [or "she who must be obeyed"], then that fits beautifully with the "you/ya" in the next line.  It also softens the blow of a sudden "you" being introduced in line 3, if "you" is already known from line 2.

Listen again but this time assume "Lord" is Cohen's "Significant Other" [who for convenience and by convention we will call Cupcake, or MS. Cupcake].  Listen to the way he pronounces "pleased".  OK, we are off to Verse #2.

"Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah"

This is simply a CSI [or I think it is now just CI] about "no fool like an old fool" [boo hoo, woe is me] and the resultant position of our Hallelujah toting hero [who also goes by a generic name of "bloke"].

By 1984 the well known term for the position of bloke was SNAG, ie Sensitive New Age Guy, and by 1999 in American Beauty simply "in a coma", having voluntarily lost his balls and with his "dick in a mason jar under the sink".  As alluded to, Cohen continues to use the Biblical facsimile of David for bloke [and Bathsheba as Cupcake] giving weight to "Lord" also being Cupcake as set out above.  Rosie is off the radar now as this small f feminist Domestic Violence did not exist in civilized 1916 Ireland.

But I need to explain the last line, ie "and from your lips she drew the Hallelujah"

On the rare days SNAGs might get day leave to play a little sport, a bloke might say to another bloke "this is better than sex".  Of course it is a red rag to a bull from Cupcake's side of the fence.  Her whole Action Plan is to get bloke to say "this [sex] is better than Beethoven" then having broken his throne, his dick goes in the mason jar and she grabs her flag and heads for the Marble Arch [Facebook these days, and save the Tube fare].

But it gets worse folks with Verse #3

"You say I took the name in vain
I don't even know the name
But if I did, well, really, what's it to you?
There's a blaze of light in every word
It doesn't matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah"

Cupcake has returned from her Marble Arch celebration and now just wants to turn the knife - "so where is your precious Beethoven now, all I had to do was flash my tits and you threw him overboard faster than John Howard chucking kiddies".

Bloke has totally lost it by now, tries to take the Fifth [Amendment that is, not Symphony] but takes the First instead and makes a botch of his little speech, and heads out to the pub to drown his sorrows - "marry in haste, repent at leisure" - and so it goes to Verse #4

"I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah"

This simply says that safe from Cupcake, and with other similarly inflicted blokes, he pours out his heart to an understanding audience, ending with his "Bloke Testament" to Beethoven [the Lord of Song] re-affirming his faith in the Hallelujah.

And I leave it to you dear folks as to which Hallelujah he meant.

But finally an explanation of the Marble Arch verse.  It seems Cohen was limited to 4 verses in this performance so he has very cleverly included the verse below visually.

"Baby I have been here before
I know this room, I've walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew you.
I've seen your flag on the marble arch
Love is not a victory march
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah"

Wiki explains about the Marble Arch [in London UK]:

"The arch was designed by John Nash in 1828 based on the triumphal arch of Constantine in Rome. Some sculptures intended for the arch ended up on the façade of the National Gallery due to Nash's financial problems. In particular are those high up on the east façade, opposite the Edith Cavell memorial (Britannia) and above the old main entrance under the portico. These last two were originally intended to represent the campaigns of the Duke of Wellington, these sculptures include reclining personfications of Europe and Asia/India, with a blank roundel in between. Had the arch been completed as planned, the Duke of Wellington's face would have been depicted in the roundel"

So Cohen is drawing attention to the exigencies of 19th Century Political Correctness where the glorious military efforts of Wellington in defeating Napoleon [notice the cross reference to Beethoven's "minor fall", ie the Third Symphony] have been totally forgotten and his sculpture replaced by our very own Cupcake facsimile, reclining barebreasted and triumphant on a horse, fresh from "bathing on the roof".

So first 3 lines are simply the old 1955 song "got along without you before I knew you ...", then as stated above he simply says it may well be that "all's fair in Love and War" but it is just plain sick to make Love INTO a War, complete with trophies and celebrations.

But the real artistry is in Cohen's design and population of his "Marble Arch" which depicts the small f feminist concept of a Chook Perch with such feminists totally dominating the top perch and a few stupid looking blokes [Femi-men] allowed on the bottom perch [in the chook poo].

I won't even think about commenting on the PC charged distinction [chook shelf wise] between white and black women, but please observe what Cohen does there.

And once they start their "wall of sound" hallelujahs we see they are in fact pairs of ugly feminist pedantry sexless virgins taking great glee in admonishing our bloke for his deeds against "the poor defenseless Cupcake who was simply exercising her female rights to bathe naked on a public roof".  And we see that as they quack out their "I am woman hear me roar" flag-waving Hallelujahs, Cohen has them waddling like a row of ducks.  Nice one Lionel.

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