Saturday, 19 November 2011

Objective Proficiency p 50. Leonard Cohen: Prince of Asturias Award. Extra Listening

delivered 21 October 2011

Leonard Cohen did not get a wink of sleep the night before because he was wondering what he might say to this (1)_________ assembly. After eating whatever he could grab from the mini-bar, he (2)___________ a few words. 
He intended to express another (3)__________________. 
Since he had mixed feelings about poetry awards, he had a feeling of (4)_______________ while packing
He compared himself to a (5)____________ accepting such an award.
In the (6)___________ of that (7)_________ of packing Leonard felt (8)____________ to look at his Conde guitar, which is very light, as if it was filled with (9)____________ 
He had the intention of thanking the (10)_________ and the soul of the Spaniards, whose country is much more than its (11)__________________.

When Leonard (12)_____________  a voice, he studied the English poets. However, he felt it had been Federico García Lorca that had given him a voice and had helped him to (13)____________ a self that struggled for its own existence. From him he learnt never to (14)_____________. Even the great inevitable defeat that awaits us all should be expressed within the (15)______________ of dignity and beauty.
In addition to a voice, he also needed an instrument, his song. When he was young he didn't excel at playing the guitar. He (16)___________ the chords. One day he bumped into a guitar player who played in such a way that (17)__________________ him. 
Leonard asked him if he could teach him. They communicated in (18)________________ French. They arranged to meet and (19)__________ the price.
In the first class the Spanish guitar player took Leonard's guitar, tuned it and played a sequence of chords with a (20)____________ . He then helped Leonard putting his fingers on the (21)_________. 
The first day was a (22)___________, but by the third day he knew the chords well.
The fourth day, he didn’t show up. He (23)____________ his own life. Leonard was (24)______________, of course.
Leonard went on to (25)______________  something he had never revealed.
He humbly added that he had simply been allowed to (26)______________ his signature to the bottom of the page.

1. august
impressive, making you feel respect. E.g. an august group of statesmen. He had dared to challenge the views of an august body of imperial historians.

2. scribbled
scribble: /ˈskrɪbl/ to write something quickly and carelessly, especially because you do not have much time. E.g. scribble something He scribbled a note to his sister before leaving. There was a scribbled message on the back of the ticket. scribble something down She scribbled down her phone number and pushed it into his hand. scribble (away) Throughout the interview the journalists scribbled away furiously.

3. dimension of gratitude

4. unease /ʌnˈiːz/ (also uneasiness /ʌnˈiːzinəs/) the feeling of being worried or unhappy about something. Anxiety. E.g. a deep feeling/sense of unease. There was a growing unease about their involvement in the war. He was unable to hide his unease at the way the situation was developing.

5. charlatan /ˈʃɑːlətən/ a person who claims to have knowledge or skills that they do not really have. E.g. He knows nothing about medicine—he’s a complete charlatan. 

6. midst

in the midst of something/of doing something
while something is happening or being done; while you are doing something. E.g. a country in the midst of a recession. She discovered it in the midst of sorting out her father's things. She alone remained calm in the midst of all the confusion.  

7. ordeal
/ɔːˈdiːl/ ordeal (of something/of doing something) a difficult or unpleasant experience. E:g. They are to be spared the ordeal of giving evidence in court. The hostages spoke openly about the terrible ordeal they had been through. The interview was less of an ordeal than she'd expected.  

8. compelled
compel: /kəmˈpel/
to force somebody to do something; to make something necessary. E.g. compel somebody to do something. The law can compel fathers to make regular payments for their children. I feel compelled to write and tell you how much I enjoyed your book. The court has powers to compel witnesses to attend. compel something Last year ill health compelled his retirement.   

9. helium /ˈhiːliəm/ a chemical element. Helium is a very light gas that does not burn, often used to fill balloons and to freeze food. 

10. soil 

11. credit rating: a judgement made by a bank, etc. about how likely somebody is to pay back money that they borrow, and how safe it is to lend money to them

12. hungered for
hunger after/for Have a strong desire or craving for.
‘he hungered for a sense of self-worth’
13. locate
locate somebody/something to find the exact position of somebody/something. E.g. The mechanic located the fault immediately. Rescue planes are trying to locate the missing sailors. 
14. lament casually
lament: /ləˈment/ to feel or express great sadness or disappointment about somebody/something. E.g.  In the poem he laments the destruction of the countryside. She sat alone weeping, lamenting her fate.  
casually: without much care or thought. E.g. Many people casually dismiss these claims. She glanced casually out of the window. 
15. strict confines 
confines [plural]/ˈkɒnfaɪnz/ limits or borders. E.g. It is beyond the confines of human knowledge. the confines of family life.

16. banged
bang to hit something in a way that makes a loud noise. E.g. bang on something She banged on the door angrily. bang something (with something) The baby was banging the table with his spoon.

17. captured  

18. broken
[only before noun] (of a language that is not your own) spoken slowly and with a lot of mistakes; not fluent. E.g. to speak in broken English   

19. settled

20. tremolo /ˈtremələʊ/ (pl. tremolos) a special effect in singing or playing a musical instrument made by repeating the same note or two notes very quickly.

21. frets
one of the bars on the long thin part of a guitar, etc. Frets show you where to press the strings with your fingers to produce particular sounds. E.g. a rock guitar with a 24 fret neck.  

22. mess

23. 'd taken

take your (own) life
to kill yourself 

24. deeply saddened 

25. disclose: reveal

26. affix /əˈfɪks/
affix something (to something) (formal) to stick or attach something to something else. E.g. The label should be firmly affixed to the package.   


Your Majesty, Your Royal Highnesses, Excellencies, Members of the Jury, Distinguished Laureates, Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is a great honor to stand here before you tonight. Perhaps, like the great maestro, Riccardo Muti, I am not used to standing in front of an audience without an orchestra behind me, but I will do my best as a solo artist tonight.
I stayed up all night last night wondering what I might say to this august assembly. And after I had eaten all the chocolate bars and peanuts in the mini-bar, I scribbled a few words. I don’t think I have to refer to them. Obviously, I am deeply touched to be recognized by the Foundation. But I've come here tonight to express another dimension of gratitude. I think I can do it in three or four minutes -- and I will try.
When I was packing in Los Angeles to come here, I had a sense of unease because I’ve always felt some ambiguity about an award for poetry. Poetry comes from a place that no one commands and no one conquers. So I feel somewhat like a charlatan to accept an award for an activity which I do not command. In other words, if I knew where the good songs came from I'd go there more often.
I was compelled in the midst of that ordeal of packing to go and open my guitar. I have a Conde guitar, which was made in Spain in the great workshop at Number 7 Gravina Street; a beautiful instrument that I acquired over 40 years ago. I took it out of the case and I lifted it. It seemed to be filled with helium -- it was so light. And I brought it to my face. I put my face close to the beautifully designed rosette, and I inhaled the fragrance of the living wood. You know that wood never dies.
I inhaled the fragrance of cedar as fresh as the first day that I acquired the guitar. And a voice seemed to say to me, "You are an old man and you have not said thank you; you have not brought your gratitude back to the soil from which this fragrance arose." And so I come here tonight to thank the soil and the soul of this people that has given me so much -- because I know just as an identity card is not a man, a credit rating is not a country.
Now, you know of my deep association and confraternity with the poet Federico Garcia Lorca. I could say that when I was a young man, an adolescent, and I hungered for a voice, I studied the English poets and I knew their work well, and I copied their styles, but I could not find a voice. It was only when -- when I read, even in translation, the works of Lorca that I understood that there was a voice. It is not that I copied his voice; I would not dare. But he gave me permission to find a voice, to locate a voice; that is, to locate a self, a self that that is not fixed, a self that struggles for its own existence.
And as I grew older I understood that instructions came with this voice. What were these instructions? The instructions were never to lament casually. And if one is to express the great inevitable defeat that awaits us all, it must be done within the strict confines of dignity and beauty.
And so I had a voice, but I did not have an instrument. I did not have a song.
And now I’m going to tell you very briefly a story of how I got my song.
Because -- I was an indifferent guitar player. I banged the chords. I only knew a few of them. I sat around with my college friends, drinking and singing the folk songs, or the popular songs of the day, but I never in a thousand years thought of myself as a musician or as a singer.
One day in the early '60s, I was visiting my mother’s house in Montreal. The house is beside a park and in the park there's a tennis court where many people come to watch the beautiful young tennis players enjoy their sport. I wandered back to this park which I’d known since my childhood, and there was a young man playing a guitar. He was playing a flamenco guitar, and he was surrounded by two or three girls and boys who were listening to him. I loved the way he played. There was something about the way he played that -- that captured me.
It was the way I wanted to play -- and knew that I would never be able to play.
And I sat there with the other listeners for a few moments and when there was a -- a silence, an appropriate silence, I asked him if he would give me guitar lessons. He was a young man from Spain, and we could only communicate in my broken French and his broken French. He didn’t speak English. And he agreed to give me guitar lessons. I pointed to my mother’s house which you could see from the tennis court, and we made an appointment; we settled the price.
And he came to my mother’s house the next day and he said, “Let me hear you play something.” I tried to play something. He said, “You don’t know how to play, do you?" I -- I said, “No, I really don’t know how to play.” He said, "First of all, let me tune your guitar. It’s -- It's all out of tune.” So he took the guitar, and -- and he tuned it. He said, "It’s not a bad guitar." It -- It wasn’t the Conde, but it wasn’t a bad guitar. So he handed it back to me. He said, “Now play.”
[I] couldn’t play any better.
He said "Let me show you some chords." And he took the guitar and he produced a sound from that guitar that I'd never heard. And he -- he played a sequence of chords with a tremolo, and he said, "Now you do it." I said, "It’s out of the question. I can’t possibly do it." He said, "Let me put your fingers on the frets." And he -- he put my fingers on the frets. And he said, "Now, now play." It -- It was a mess. He said, "I’ll come back tomorrow."
He came back tomorrow. He put my hands on the guitar. He -- He placed it on my lap in the way that was appropriate, and I began again with those six chords -- six chord progression that many, many flamenco songs are based on.
I was a little better that day.
The third day -- improved, somewhat improved. But I knew the chords now. And I knew that although I couldn’t coordinate my fingers with my thumb to produce the correct tremolo pattern, I knew the chords -- I knew them very, very well by this point.
The next day, he didn’t come. He didn’t come. I had the number of his -- of his boarding house in Montreal. I phoned to find out why he had missed the appointment, and they told me that he'd taken his life -- that he committed suicide. I knew nothing about the man. I -- I did not know what part of Spain he came from. I did not know why he came to Montreal. I did not know why he stayed there. I did not know why he he appeared there in that tennis court. I did not know why he took his life. I -- I was deeply saddened, of course.
But now I disclose something that I’ve never spoken in public. It was those six chords -- it was that guitar pattern that has been the basis of all my songs and all my music.
So now you will begin to understand the dimensions of the gratitude I have for this country.
Everything that you have found favorable in my work comes from this place.
Everything, everything that you have found favorable in my songs and my poetry are inspired by this soil.
So I thank you so much for the warm hospitality that you have shown my work because it is really yours, and you have allowed me to affix my signature to the bottom of the page.
Thank you so much, ladies and gentlemen.

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