31 October 1999 -- The November/December issue of The Other Side magazine, includes an extensive interview with Bruce Cockburn by Susan Adams Kauffman, entitled "Fire in an Open Hand".
Cockburn talks about a number of things, including his songs inspired by Ani DiFranco, and other writing this decade, his experience as a Christian, what he thinks of being termed "Canada's cultural conscience", and what he did with the CAN$10,000 he receved last November for the Governor General's Performing Arts Award.
Cockburn's comments on his use of light and dark imagery in his songs was very interesting. At one point Kauffman asks, "Your 1997 album, The Charity of Night, is threaded with references to night and darkness. They turn up in such lines as "the weight of approaching dawn," "sometimes the darkness is your friend," and, of course, the title cut. Rather than viewing night as dangerous, you seem to be suggesting that night can offer a sense of safety."
"We think of light as opposed to darkness," Cockburn responded, "and when we're thinking of spiritual things we're encouraged to think of light as where God is and dark as where the devil is. Over time I've come to feel that it isn't like that. God is the dark, exists in the dark, just as God is in the light.
"I find the night stunningly beautiful. The subtlety of the way things are lit at night has always struck me as attractive. I also appreciate the way darkness provides refuge--whether it's the refuge of concealment or the implication of rest and peace that goes with night."
"Darkness just is what it is--another place you can be, or another thing you can use, or another quality you can appreciate. Sometimes the road does lead through dark places, and it's inescapable. But then, sometimes the darkness is comforting and protective in those dark places. It need not be seen as a source of fear."
"If you look at what I wrote in the seventies, it's full of sunlight. "Sunwheel Dance," for example. There's sun imagery all over the place. Yet it was a period when I was searching but very unaware of my own inner workings. There was all this optimism, even though the songs themselves may have been going in different directions. But the imagery of light was there--a lot."
"Things got a little darker through the eighties. The focus shifted from nature and the spiritual to people and the spiritual. It was more outward directed. The light shifted; there was a lot less light. Stuff like "Berlin Tonight" comes to mind, where light's either not an issue or it's a darker kind of light, much more metallic. In a way, The Charity of Night was the culmination of that whole line of looking at things. The stuff on the new album has more light in it again--but cautiously [laughs]."
The complete text of the 3,600 word article is archived on The Other Side's website. The photograph used by The Other Side to illustrate the article was taken by Marie Westhaver, whose work also graces the front of the You Pay Your Money album (see right), and who maintains an excellent online photo archive of Bruce Cockburn's concert appearances here.