Friday, September 25, 2009

Celebrating Glenn Gould

Today would be the birthday of a musician who's nearly up there, for me, with john lennon and john coltrane. like them, he was a force of nature, complicated personally, and a man who left so much music behind i've listen to him every week -- sometimes every day -- for years.

part of what first interested me about pianist glenn gould (1932-82) is that he was a classical musician who rockers, literati, bohos and generalist intellectuals seemed to like: there are depths to him, for sure, but you did not have to understand the harmonic theory behind "the well-tempered clavier" to respond to its velocity and intellectual force.

i've also found, especially in my younger days, gould's treatment of bach to be the best hangover medicine i know.

HERE is my piece, "the cult of gould," from the LATimes. my goal was to round up people who loved gould from outside the classical world, so i found filmmaker john waters, the actress who played Flo on "Alice," and jazz musicians brad mehldau and jason moran. critic time page served as a kind of guide to the piece. (somehow i executed this piece without including a single canadian, which seems wrong.)

moran provided my favorite detail in the story: he went to see "thirty two short films about glenn gould," with a young woman he fancied. when she decided gould was too weird for her, he could never look at her the same way. it was all over between then.


Alex MacDonald said...

Enjoyed your piece. The reference to fictional treatments caught my eye. Gould loved tripping into Northern Ontario on the sly, by rail perhaps, ever interested in 'the idea of north' and there appears to be a cameo appearance by a Gould-like figure in Alexander Binning's novel, The Devil's Chair: A Novel of Lake Superior. While Gould was famous for his reclusive side, his sense of humour was legendary and the treatment here suggests a more social Gould than normal, although still the loner.

Milton said...

I still consider "The Well-Tempered Clavier" the best hangover cure, but my taste for Gould, as a pianist, has faded. I admire him as a thinker and as an important figure, in many ways, but I find his approach to Bach far too brutal. I look forward to the new film.

Scott Timberg said...

I hear Milton on this: I continue to love Gould as a maverick figure, but if I want to hear Bach piano in all its glory I will more typically play Andras Schiff or Angela Hewitt...