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Saturday, 6 February 2016

Hallelujah: The Holy or the Broken & The Secret Chord

The Holy or the Broken

The Holy or the BrokenLeonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of "Hallelujah"
by Alan Light is 'a fascinating account of the making, remaking, and unlikely popularizing of one of the most played and recorded rock songs in history—Leonard Cohen’s beautiful and heartrending “Hallelujah.”'

'Today, “Hallelujah” is one of the most-performed rock songs in history. It has become a staple of movies and television shows as diverse as Shrek and The West Wing, of tribute videos and telethons. It has been covered by hundreds of artists, including Bob Dylan, U2, Justin Timberlake, and k.d. lang, and it is played every year at countless events—both sacred and secular—around the world.

Yet when music legend Leonard Cohen first wrote and recorded “Hallelujah,” it was for an album rejected by his longtime record label. Ten years later, charismatic newcomer Jeff Buckley reimagined the song for his much-anticipated debut album, Grace. Three years after that, Buckley would be dead, his album largely unknown, and “Hallelujah” still unreleased as a single. After two such commercially disappointing outings, [Alan Light asks,] how did one obscure song become an international anthem for human triumph and tragedy, a song each successive generation seems to feel they have discovered and claimed as uniquely their own?'

Light quotes Cohen as saying, 'This world is full of conflicts and full of things that cannot be reconciled, but there are moments when we can transcend the dualistic system and reconcile and embrace the whole mess, and that's what I mean by "Hallelujah".'

This quote essentially sums up the content of The Secret Chord, the book written by Peter Banks and I. The Secret Chord seeks to explore a number of the dilemmas which musicians and other artists face, not so much in order to map out one route through or around these dilemmas but in an attempt to get the creative juices flowing. Our experience of creativity is of disparate and often contradictory ideas being crushed, swirled, fermented, shaken and stirred in our minds in order that the fine wine of creativity results. Our hope is that The Secret Chord, by exploring artistic dilemmas from a range of different perspectives, will mature in reader’s minds just like fine wine or a precious pearl.

The Secret Chord is an impassioned study of the role of music in cultural life, written through the prism of Christian belief. Covering a range of musical styles and influences, from gospel music to X Factor, The Secret Chord conveys enthusiasm for music and its transformative powers. In the book we ask, is there really a 'Secret Chord' that would both please the LORD and nearly everybody else as described in Leonard Cohen's popular song 'Hallelujah'? And are there some people who just don't get music, as in the next line in Cohen's lyric?

While a significant number of books have been published exploring the relationships between music, art, popular culture and theology - many of which we have enjoyed and from which we have benefited - such books tend either to academic analysis or semi biography about artistes whose output the writers' enjoy. By contrast, The Secret Chord is an accessible exploration of artistic dilemmas from a range of different perspectives which seeks to draw the reader into a place of appreciation for what makes a moment in a 'performance' timeless and special.


John Cale - Hallelujah.

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