From The Desk Of Elizabeth And The Catapult: Leonard Cohen’s “Book Of Longing”

Keepsake (Compass), Elizabeth Ziman’s fourth record, began when her landlord was considering jacking up the rent and she had to move across the street into a tiny apartment, far away from her recording gear and the baby grand piano on which she loved to write. Or it began when she started keeping a dream journal, writing down snippets of visions in the middle of the night, or first thing in the morning on awakening. Or it began when she started leafing through old journals and diaries, little half-finished snatches of lyrics and couplets and freewriting, and tried to see if she could shape them through to some kind of completion. Well, who’s to say where anything begins or ends? But for Ziman, who records as Elizabeth And The Catapult, Keepsake was definitely a milestone record—the end of one thing, and the beginning of something else. Ziman will be guest editing all week. Read our new feature on her.

Ziman: Five years ago I was commissioned by NPR to write a song cycle to be performed at Lincoln Center. The songs could be based on anything or anyone I wanted, but they all had to share a similar theme. I’m a crazy-huge Leonard Cohen fan, and at the time I was reading a book he had written in a Buddhist monastery in Northern California called Book Of Longing. The poetry and illustrations deal mostly with Cohen’s identity as a New Yorker, a poet and a Jew, and how those labels juxtapose with his Buddhist aspirations. As a New York Jew myself, I have a lifelong aspiration to detach from my neurosis, so I could relate. This humorous, profound collection gave me ample fodder for my song cycle, which I eventually flushed out into an entire album.