Illuminating Sounds #4: Leonard Cohen, Kazuo Ohno & García Lorca

Listen to our fourth playlist of 2019 for our production of Flowers for Kazuo Ohno (and Leonard Cohen), which features an eclectic mix of songs from Cohen, Philip Glass, Nina Simone and Spanish singer Ana Belén, among others.

May 3, 2019 | BY: Jorge Ayala-Isaza

Leonard Cohen is one of Canada's most prolific singer-songwriters. He has been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. A seven-time JUNO Award winner, and a recipient of the Order of Canada, Cohen also received the Prince of Asturias Award, Spain's most important literary prize. During his acceptance speech at the awards ceremony, Cohen acknowledged the role that Federico García Lorca, one of Spain's most celebrated writers, played in his own work.

Luminato 2019 and Compañía del Cuerpo de Indias, Colombia's most avant-garde dance troupe, will present Flowers for Kazuo Ohno (and Leonard Cohen), a tribute to Japanese dance legend Kazuo Ohno. A champion of Butoh dance, a style that includes movements that are both playful and grotesque, erotic and comic, and  display primal emotions rather than being aesthetically beautiful. Butoh dancers traditionally perform with their bodies covered in white makeup. Ohno credits Antonia Mercé, one of Spain's most celebrated dancers of the 20th century, as a seminal inspiration to become a dancer while a student at gymnastics college in Tokyo. Mercé collaborated with some of the main figures of the avant-garde of her time such as composer Manuel de Falla and poet García Lorca.

The soundtrack to Flowers presents a fusion of music penned by Leonard Cohen and performed by a wide range of artists, including Cohen himself. Some of the lyrics are inspired by Lorca poems, such as Pequeño Vals Vienés (Little Viennese Waltz), interpreted by Spanish singer Ana Belén. This poem was part of the Poeta in Nueva York (Poet in New York) poem collection, which reflects Garcia Lorca's experiences during his visit to Columbia University between 1929 - 1930, and his subsequent 3 month stay in Cuba. The book was published in 1940, four years after Lorca's death. In 1986, Cohen released the album Poet in New York, which was a tribute to Garcia Lorca, and included the song Take This Waltz, which is a loose translation of Pequeño Vals Vienés.

Suzanne, recorded by Nina Simone for her album To Love Somebody (1969), was inspired by Leonard Cohen's platonic relationship with Suzanne Verdal, and was published in his 1966 poetry book Parasites of Heaven under the title "Suzanne Takes You Down".

Puppet Time by Philip Glass is part of Book of Longing, a song cycle co-commissioned by Luminato. Book of Longing is based on the poetry and artwork of Leonard Cohen and is performed by an ensemble of singers and musicians, drawn from indie rock, classical and new music circles. 

Un Canadien Errant ("A Wandering Canadian"), interpreted by La Famille Brassard, is a song written in 1842 by Antoine Gérin-Lajoie, a few years after the Lower Canada Rebellion of 1837–38. Some of the rebels were condemned to death, others forced into exile. The song expresses the feeling of longing and alienation of exiles:

"Once a Canadian lad,
Exiled from hearth and home,
Wandered, alone and sad,
Through alien lands unknown.
Down by a rushing stream,
Thoughtful and sad one day
He watched the water pass
And to it he did say..."

"If you should reach my land,
My most unhappy land,
Please speak to all my friends
So they will understand.
Tell them how much I wish
That I could be once more
In my beloved land
That I will see no more."

Listen to Illuminating Sounds #4, and immerse yourself in the poetry of García Lorca, Leonard Cohen and Kazo Ohno. Luminato 2019 presents Flowers for Kazuo Ohno (and Leonard Cohen) on June 19 - 22, 2019 at the Bluma Appel Theatre in Toronto, Canada.


Recent Posts