MattAndJojang's Blog

God. Life. Spirituality.

Posts Tagged ‘Music

Leonard Cohen: A Final Interview

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A few days ago, Leonard Cohen, one of the finest poets and songwriters of our times, passed away at the age of 82. But just before he died, about a month ago, David Remnick of The New Yorker interviewed him.

I was shocked and saddened by the news of his death. I didn’t know that he was very sick, because he wanted to keep his illness private, until today when I listened to David Remnick’s interview.

At one point in the interview he said:

I’m ready to die. I just hope that it’s not uncomfortable.

Poignant though the interview was, it was always accompanied by Cohen’s self-deprecating humor.

Cohen always found comfort in his religion; he was a practicing Jew. Since he was a child, he always carried within himself a sense of God’s presence. And he felt that, every now and then, God spoke to him. At one point in the interview, Cohen said that God was still speaking to him. But he was no longer the harsh, judgmental and vindictive God of his youth.

Towards the end of his life he found a compassionate and merciful God.

Since the early 70s he also practiced Zen meditation. In the mid-90s he stayed in a Zen monastery. He only left the monastery 7 years ago when he found out that his manager defrauded him of his lifetime savings. Left with almost nothing for his retirement and his kids, he decided to work again. He published his first book of poems after 20 years. Then proceeded to tour, performing in sold-out concerts for the 4 next years.

At any rate, he suffered from debilitating pain due to his illness. Unable to take his pain killing medicines, his Zen practice came in handy. He was able to cope with his pain through meditation, enabling him to work on and finish his last album, You Want It Darker, which I consider his parting gift to each of us.

If you’re interested to listen to David Remnick’s interview please click this link:

Leonard Cohen: A Final Interview


Written by MattAndJojang

November 12, 2016 at 8:08 pm


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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 you?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah


Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and 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


Maybe there’s a God above
But all I ever learned from love
Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you
But it’s not a crime you’re here tonight
It’s not some pilgrim who’s seen the light
It’s a cold and it’s a lonely Hallelujah


But baby I’ve been here before
I know this room and I’ve walked this floor
You see, I used to live alone before I knew you
And I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
And love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a very lonely Hallelujah


There was a time you let me know
What’s really going on below
But now you never show it to me, do you?
And remember when I moved in you
The holy dove was moving too
And every single breath that we drew was Hallelujah


I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I learned 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

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

–Leonard Cohen

Note: Leonard Cohen’s classic song Hallelujah, since it was released in 1984, has become one of the greatest songs of all-time. Various singers, like Bob Dylan, Bon Jovi, Bono, Willie Nelson and Celine Dion, have their own versions of the song. To date, there are already more than 300 versions of the song. This is what Bob Dylan has to say about the song:

it’s a beautifully constructed melody that steps up, evolves, and slips back, all in quick time. But this song has a connective chorus, which when it comes in has a power all of its own. The ‘secret chord’ and the point-blank I-know-you-better-than-you-know-yourself aspect of the song has plenty of resonance for me.

Written by MattAndJojang

October 25, 2016 at 10:50 am

My Nephew Vinnie and David Benoit

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My 12-year-old nephew, Vinnie (on the drums), jamming with jazz legend David Benoit…


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July 20, 2015 at 10:19 am

One Dark Night

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One Dark Night is John Michael Talbot’s translation of St. John of the Cross’s poem Dark Night of the Soul, which he set into music. Together with the Spiritual Canticle, both poems are considered masterpieces of Spanish poetry.

In fact, St. John of the Cross is considered as Spain’s greatest poet.

Ironically, he didn’t set out to be a poet. He was first of all a saint and a mystic. He wrote his poems as an expression of his intense love God, as well as the basis of his spiritual teaching, which he later put into writing.

His poems, as well as his spiritual teachings are well known for its depth and beauty.

Throughout the centuries, his poems and spiritual writings has influenced authors, artists, theologians, philosophers, and spiritual seekers like T.S. Eliot, Thomas Merton, Jacques Maritain, and Salvador Dali. Pope John Paul II wrote his doctoral dissertation  on the mystical theology of St. John of the Cross.

Here’s John Michael Talbot’s translation, which also serve as the lyrics of the song One Dark Night:

One dark night
Fired with love’s urgent longings
Ah, the sheer grace
In the darkness
I went out unseen
My house being all now still

In the darkness
Secured by love’s secret ladder
Oh, the sheer grace
In the darkness
And in my concealment
My house being all now still

On that glad night
In the secret, for no one saw me
Nor did I see any other thing at all
With no other light to guide me
Than the light burning in my heart

And this light guided me
More surely than the light of the noon
To where he lay waiting for me
Waiting for me
Him I knew so well
In a place where no one else appeared

Oh guiding night
A light more lovely than the dawn
A night that has united
Ever now
The Lover now with his beloved
Transforming two now into one

Upon my flowering breast
There he lay sleeping
Which I kept for him alone
And I embraced him
And I caressed him
In a breeze blowing from the forest

And when this breeze blew in from the forest
Blowing back our hair
He wounded my soul
With his gentle hand
Suspending all my senses

I abandoned, forgetting myself
Laying my face on my Beloved
All things ceasing, I went out from myself
To leave cares
Forgotten with the lilies of the field


Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto, Op. 16

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My nephew, Marc, playing Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto, Op.16.

— Matt

Written by MattAndJojang

July 25, 2014 at 9:19 am

Here Comes The Sun

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Grateful that, after almost 2 weeks of cold, windy, and rainy weather – finally the sun is up!

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August 24, 2013 at 8:42 am

O Come, Emmanuel

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A beautiful rendition of the classic Christmas hymn “O Come, Emmanuel.”

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December 22, 2012 at 8:45 am

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Dave Brubeck: Death of a Jazz Giant

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Dave Brubeck, a giant of modern jazz, died Wednesday at the Norwalk Hospital, near his longtime home in Wilton, Conn.

Mr. Brubeck died of heart failure while on his way to a regular doctor’s appointment, according to Russell Gloyd, his longtime manager. Mr. Brubeck would have been 92 today.

Born in Concord and raised on a ranch in the Central Valley Mr. Brubeck became a San Francisco bandleader and pianist credited with one of the major innovations in popular music. Working with the San Francisco saxophonist Paul Desmond, Mr. Brubeck was the first pianist to break 4/4 time in jazz, by adding a fifth beat to the measure, according to jazz historian Ted Gioia.

“Take Five,” written by Desmond and released in 1959 on the album “Time Out” by the Dave Brubeck Quartet, popularized this 5/4 time signature and became a pop hit, a rarity for a jazz instrumental. In 1961, “Time Out” reached No. 2 among popular albums on the Billboard chart, and “Take Five” topped out at No. 5 on the adult contemporary chart. “That meter later showed up in everything from the theme to “Mission Impossible” to the Jethro Tull song “Living in the Past,” said Gioia. “Dave was an innovator who started out as a leading light of San Francisco jazz but soon brought his artistry to the whole world.”

Mr. Brubeck recorded more than 100 albums for large orchestras, choruses and even wrote two ballets, but his main forum was the Dave Brubeck Quartet, which formed in 1951 in San Francisco. Introduced at the Geary Cellar, underneath the Geary Theater, the Quartet was the house band for six years at the now defunct Blackhawk jazz club. During that time, modern jazz became dominant over the traditional, Dixieland sound.

“He was not totally accepted by the jazz community early on. People thought his piano playing didn’t swing,” said Dick Conte, pianist and Bay Area jazz disc jockey who interviewed Brubeck many times over the years. “Gradually he was able to win people over because he was of great substance. Over the years people gravitated toward him – even the ones who had put him down,”

On Nov. 8, 1954, while still playing the Blackhawk, Brubeck became the first contemporary jazz musician to make the cover of Time Magazine. In 1958, the Quartet embarked on a world tour sponsored by the State Department, bringing jazz to Poland, Turkey, India, East and West Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq.

“Eisenhower wanted to take the best of America and do a peripheral tour of the Soviet Union,” said Gloyd. Brubeck’s plan was to take jazz out of the smoky clubs and “make jazz accessible to the general market, for people who just loved music.” “By then Brubeck transcended jazz,” Gloyd said. There is no way Dave could have been as popular as he was, in just the jazz market.”

David Warren Brubeck was born Dec. 6, 1920. His dad, Pete, was a cowboy and rancher who ended up running a 45,000 acre spread in Ione in California’s Centra Valley, where Mr. Brubeck grew up the youngest of three brothers. His mother, Elizabeth Ivey, was a classically-trained pianist who had studied in London.

“When Dave was four or five he would position himself under the piano while she was playing Chopin,” Gloyd said. Because of poor eyesight, Mr. Brubeck had trouble reading (music) and “his mother gave up on trying to teach him.”

Mr. Brubeck learned by listening and by the time he was a teenager he was playing with adults in a local dance band. He’d come home, change into his working clothes and go out with his dad to run cattle. He never learned to read sheet music.

In 1938, Mr. Brubeck entered College of the Pacific to study veterinary medicine at the insistence of his father. At the end of the first year he was banished to the music conservatory where he managed to sneak through three years without letting on that he could not read sheet music.

His graduation hinged on a handshake agreement. “There were two conditions,” Gloyd said. “One, he promised to never teach music, and two he promised never to return to College of the Pacific.”

“He’s been back a couple of times, Once was to pick up his honorary doctorate. The other was when the university established the Brubeck Institute.”

While at Pacific Mr. Brubeck met Iola Whitlock, and they married soon after his graduation, Mr. Brubeck had already enlisted in the Army and been sent to Europe as an infantry soldier. Brubeck was one day from being sent to the front when a Red Cross troupe came through camp and asked if anyone played piano.

“Dave was sitting on his helmet and raised his hand,” said Gloyd. “They decided to give him a try and the base commander heard him play and that was the end of him going to the front.” Brubeck was reassigned to form a band, which he did, calling it the Wolfpack Band. Allowed to recruit his own sidemen, Brubeck formed a band of 18 pieces, black and white musicians playing together.

“That is how Dave Brubeck integrated the United States Army, because he brought in black players.”

At the end of the war the Wolfpack disbanded and Brubeck came home to pursue his master’s degree in music at Mills College, under the G.I. Bill. He didn’t last, but was there long enough to come under the influence of composer and faculty member Darius Milhaud.

“Mihlaud encouraged Brubeck to go on the path that he had started, which was to express the musical language of jazz,” said David Bernstein, professor of music at Mills. It was in Milhaud’s composition class that Brubeck met the musicians who would later form the Dave Brubeck Octet, his first band. Two of the players were recruited from San Francisco State, Paul Desmond on sax and Cal Tjader on drums.

Unable to support that many members, the Octet downsized to a trio, minus Desmond, who had gone to New York. There had been bad blood between them and when he returned he came to the Brubeck home in San Francisco, hat in hand.

As Brubeck later told it: “I was out in the back, hanging up diapers on a clothesline and I turned around and there was Paul Desmond. My first inclination was to throttle him, and then the good things about Paul came back and he said how much he wanted to be with the Quartet and he’d babysit, he’d wash the car, he’d run errands, he’d do anything I asked him to do if he could only be in the group.”

Brubeck relented and it was their chemistry that made the quartet.

“It was the immediacy and the improvisational quality of it, and the counterpoint between Brubeck and Paul Desmond that was so interesting,” said Conte, who first saw the Quartet during a college tour in 1955, when it played the University of Connecticut, where Conte was a freshman.

Eventually there would be five Brubeck sons and one daughter for Desmond to babysit, with the oldest named Darius after his father’s mentor. Brubeck built a big home in the Oakland Hills, where they lived until decamping for Connecticut in the 1960s.

Throughout his touring career, Brubeck worked with black musicians, as he’d done in the Army.

“He fought for civil rights,” said the historian Gioia, author of “West Coast Jazz.” “At the peak of his fame he had an integrated band. If concert promoters pushed back on it he threatened to cancel the concert.”

In 1973, Mr. Brubeck came home from Connecticut to play a farewell concert at the Berkeley Community Theater. But it wasn’t his farewell. He played concerts for another 40 years. His last performance was in Montreal last July. His closing number was “Take Five.” “He was a class act in every sense of the word,” said Gioia. “He had a marriage that lasted 70 years. I don’t any celebrity has had a marriage that lasted 70 years.”

Survivors include wife Iola, and sons Darius, Chris, Dan, Matthew, and Michael, and a daughter Catherine Yaghsizian. Services are pending.

~ Sam Whiting

Written by MattAndJojang

December 6, 2012 at 12:39 pm

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Rosanne Cash, Time Traveller

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Rosanne Cash (Photo:

Rosanne Cash surprised me right from the start, by calling her father Johnny Cash “a mystic,” and revealing herself as one too. As much as any person I’ve interviewed, she leaned in close. She was ready to meet me on the adventure a real conversation can be — one full of revelation and beauty.

Language and music, in that order, were the early mediums of her spiritual sensibility. She describes herself growing up as something of a geek. She remains perpetually and intellectually restless. It took her awhile to find her own voice, indeed to imagine that a life of making and performing music could be desirable. She’d grown up experiencing the performer’s life — incarnate in her famous, beloved father — as hard on those one loves. As she found her own voice, she found her own delight in joining her energy to an audience. In that exchange, she also discovered all the elements of religion that she desired: truth, beauty, mystery, creativity, and a sense of the divine.

We’ve put the word “time travel” in the title of the show we’ve created from my magical hour with Rosanne Cash. It’s a phrase that comes up again and again — especially when we talk about the music that emerged from her grief a few years ago when she lost her father, her mother, and her stepmother June Carter Cash within a span of 18 months. From this period, the Black Cadillac album emerged with gorgeous songs and poetry about love before life and beyond life. Past, present, and future are often linked in the songs she writes, though they often begin, as she describes it, with a single phrase or image.

There are echoes of Einstein here. Our ordinary sense of past, present, and future as distinct compartments moving forward like an arrow, he said, is a “stubbornly persistent illusion.” As it turns out, Rosanne Cash has long been aware of these echoes too, signing up for physics classes when her children were young, constantly in conversation with scientists now. She talks about songs in some of the same ways scientists talk about mathematics — as discoveries, waiting to be caught, as much as inventions. For Rosanne Cash, songs are embedded in the fabric of the universe; this image alone is a gift from my time with her.

I am left with a sense of a woman who has seen a lot of life and turned that into wisdom. She is raising five children, lost her voice for several years, and underwent brain surgery four years ago. She continues to work with these raw materials of experience and wrest purpose and joy from them.

Several people have told us that watching the video of this conversation moved them to tears. One emotional moment for her — better experienced on the video than by audio alone — comes when she tells me about performing at Folsom Prison in March of last year. There, her father created one of his most famous performances and an iconic album. While touring the prison, Rosanne Cash met a prisoner who served at San Quentin Prison when her father also played there in 1969, and was now spending the rest of his life in Folsom. Her eyes fill with tears as she describes her dialogue with these men about freedom, outer and inner, and the confusing human struggle to gain the latter, whatever our lives have brought.

There were clearly other stories here to be mined. But Rosanne Cash’s openness, and her music, unlock stories of our own. We end our conversation with music, with her song titled “The World Unseen.” It somewhat magically brings together the elements of Rosanne Cash’s life and all of our lives — of poetry and mystery, of loss and love, of time travel. Here are the song’s opening verses:

I’m the sparrow on the roof
I’m the list of everyone I have to lose
I’m the rainbow in the dirt
I am who I was and how much I can hurt

So I will look for you 
In stories of the kings— 
Westward leading, still proceeding 
To the world unseen

~ Krista Tippett

Click Here To Listen To The Interview

Written by MattAndJojang

November 4, 2012 at 7:57 pm

Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony on a Spanish Plaza

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This unexpected, public performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony on a plaza in Spain is an absolute visual and aural feast.

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September 9, 2012 at 9:07 am