Category Archives: Educational

How a poem becomes a song. Lessons from the master.

The collaboration between Leonard Cohen – possibly the greatest poet of the generation and Sharon Robinson  began 35 years ago. Cohen was looking for a backing singer and Robinson was seeking a life as a songwriter, but happy to audition.

Robinson shares the mechanics of collaborating with Cohen, how a poem becomes a song. There’s a pattern. “I go to his house, we sit in the kitchen and chat, and have something to drink or eat.” Work begins with a verse or two that Cohen presents her with, on paper. Robinson reads it, they talk about melodic possibilities. Rarely, if ever, do they talk about the meaning of the words. “We both feel that the song should be self-explanatory,” Robinson says. A single song can take a year or more to emerge. Robinson takes a poem home and studies it. “I try not to ask Leonard, ‘What does this mean? What’s this about?’ We don’t really go there.” Does she try to work out meanings for him, or for her? “Probably both, and hopefully those are the same, or somewhat the same.” It’s the multitude of meanings, we agree, that gives the songs their broad resonance.

Sharon firmly resists over-intellectualisation. Too much of that and you lose the connection to “emotion and soulfulness”. “When you start with a poem, you have to figure out how to turn it into a song.” Sometimes it’s there, sometimes it has to be reworked. If she can’t find it on her own, she’ll call Cohen and ask what he sees as the chorus. In some cases, the answer is relatively clear. For “Alexandra Leaving” the last line is repeated, at the end of every third verse, so the poem was “already beautifully structured for a melody”. Invited to elaborate, she says it’s hard to explain: “there are numerous ways to skin a cat when it comes to writing a song”. Yet the structure is closely related to the number of syllables in a line, which in turn dictates the set-up of the melody. In this sense, she works backwards, from a culminating idea towards the front of the song.

She offers ideas for the melody, maybe more than one. Then she records one. “At the time, Leonard had a little boom box in his kitchen, we’d listen to it there, on a cassette.” As he listens, she can tell straight away his reaction. “He’ll just listen quietly. I can tell if he likes it, but there’ll be issues, and changes. Other times he’ll start dancing around, or something like that. There are a range of reactions. In the end, I just wait, for 10 minutes.”

“She knows how to write the music that makes Leonard look bigger.” It is no wonder that In October 2001, when Cohen released Ten New Songs, his first album for several years, Robinson had a co-writing credit on every track.

Check out a phenomenal rendition of “Alexandra Leaving” from Cohen’s 2012 tour.

This blog is a distillation of an article by Philippe Sands.  I hope this post helps some of the poets on Tallenge, and others, visibility into the collaboration process. In my next blog, I hope to go further along this creative continuum.

Do share this blog with those who you feel will enjoy reading it, or will find it useful. Thanks!

-Sasha

 

 

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3 incredible podcasts shaping startup thinking, one episode at a time!

As any entrepreneur knows, the days between taking the first step of your startup journey to having your idea become a reality, swing between exhilaration and paranoia.

In the year that I have spent building Tallenge, the one thing that has educated, inspired and helped me stay on course has been the 45 minutes I spend every morning on the treadmill – listening to podcasts. And 3 of them deserve special mention:

  • Andrew Warner of Mixergy – A brilliant and inspiring podcast where successful entrepreneurs come in and share their experiences. Andrew has the uncanny ability to ask the exact questions that you are thinking of asking the guest. I must’ve listened to most of the interviews that Andrew puts out and I often step off the treadmill to jot a helpful nugget.
  • David Siteman Garland’s Rise To The Top – A badass podcast, especially for entrepreneurs in the media/Internet space. The guests are always fantastic and open up with David’s style of interviewing. I have many favorite episodes that stay on my phone even after I have heard them once.
  • Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders  Podcast – From the Stanford Technology Ventures Program puts out these brilliant podcasts for the world to learn from and get inspired. Speakers like Phil Libin (Evernote), Brad Feld (Foundry), Jack Dorsey (Twitter and Square), Mark Pincus (Zynga), Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn) and many rockstar entrepreneurs and founders share their thoughts, answer questions and interact with students. This is the show that put out an interview with Zuckerberg in 2005, when it was still ‘The Facebook’! This academic-sounding podcast is truly inspiring and I look forward to every new episode that Tina Seelig puts out.

I hope these talented and dedicated people know how much they are impacting the thinking and work of entrepreneurs across the world. Through this blog post I am sending out a big thank you to them!

If you haven’t, you must listen to some of these incredible podcasts. If you have, send them a shout-out of appreciation.

Do you have any favorite entrepreneurial podcast? Feel free to share them in the comments below.

-PG
Tallenger-In-Chief 

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