Glenn Gould expert: Legendary Canadian pianist would have loved the Internet


Summary

TORONTO – Glenn Gould died just days after his 50th birthday, and many fans have spent the nearly three decades since pondering how the legendary Toronto pianist might have added to his legacy had he lived.

But Gould expert Tim Page believes that one specific innovation above all others would have particularly enchanted the musician.

Story continues below

HangZhou Night Net

“If I’m going to make predictions on Glenn Gould, the one thing I can pretty much say for certain is that he would have been obsessed with the Internet,” said Page, a professor of music and journalism at the University of Southern California and the editor of “The Glenn Gould Reader.”

“He would have done his own podcasts … I think he would have controlled his own website, recorded any music that interested him, and any time he wanted to do a new version of it, he would just do it and upload it.

“I cannot think of anybody who missed the Internet who would have loved it more than Glenn would have.”

Perhaps it’s fitting, then, that CBC has launched a new website in Gould’s honour with the aim of introducing new fans to the idiosyncratic genius ahead of what would have been his 80th birthday next September.

At the same time, the public broadcaster has also released the 10-DVD set “Glenn Gould on Television: The Complete CBC Broadcasts, 1954-1977.” The exhaustive set is a veritable treasure trove for fans of the iconic Canadian, bundling over 19 hours of Gould’s rare TV specials, performances and interviews.

Among the set’s impressive inclusions? Well, there’s Gould’s earliest surviving television performance, first broadcast on Dec. 16, 1954. There’s a series of enthralling discussions between Gould and the British broadcaster Humphrey Burton, in which Gould delivers astute analyses of Bach, Beethoven and Arnold Schoenberg. There’s also the 1966 interview clip with a bowtie-clad Alex Trebek, which begins with Gould’s famous declaration: “I detest audiences.”

For Gould aficionados who have diligently hunted and swapped bootlegged recordings of moments like these for years, the elegantly assembled boxed set is a blessing.

“Finally, it’s the last real piece of Glenn,” said Page, who won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 1997 for his work at the Washington Post.

“I think what will be revelatory for viewers who are seeing it for the first time will just be the fact of how good he was … what a smart guy he was, and what a funny guy he was.”

“People will get a lot of his humour.”

Indeed, the set showcases elements of Gould’s unique personality, which in some ways has become as famous as his dazzling talent at the piano.

Gould’s personal eccentricities are well-documented. He wore heavy clothing year-round, had a strange proclivity for soaking his arms and hands in warm water and carried a reputation for reclusion.

Of course, he had plenty of quirks behind the piano, too: he insisted on sitting in the same worn-out chair, he was fastidious about the temperature surrounding his performances and he hummed to himself noisily as he played. And in 1964, he turned away from public performances altogether, because he simply preferred the precise control afforded by a recording studio.

Page was among the last people to interview Gould before his death of a stroke in 1982, and while he certainly saw evidence of the musician’s personal peculiarities – “He was a different kind of guy,” Page points out with some diplomacy – he also recognized Gould’s strengths.

“(He was) very kind, very shy, very guarded until he knew you and then almost profoundly unguarded,” Page recalled. “He’d just talk about anything that came to his mind. He’d be excited. He’d want to go talking all night.

“There was something very child-like about him, in a nice way, in a way which he was just like an excited kid who wanted to talk about the stuff he was excited about.”

And that included radio and television, with the latter especially providing a showcase for Gould’s very physical style behind the piano.

His fruitful partnership with the CBC, which yielded so many memorable performances, interviews and even documentaries, seemed mutually beneficial. The broadcaster allowed Gould to reach a national audience, while Gould – a true international star of classical music – allowed CBC to share in his glory.

To this day, visitors to CBC headquarters are greeted by a bronze statue of the pianist seated on a bench, bundled under a heavy coat, scarf and driving cap, his brow furrowed.

“I think (Gould and CBC) are very closely associated,” said Mark Steinmetz, CBC’s director of radio music. “He was such a massive talent … and I think producers, directors, throughout the years, realized how good he was, and he was so entertaining, whether it was on TV or radio, that it made for good programs.

“It made good sense to be involved with him in that way.”

And the Gould specials would sure seem like an anomaly nowadays, when it’s difficult to imagine a major TV network devoting a sizable chunk of primetime to a classical musician.

But of course, Gould was an anomaly too. When asked about finding evidence of the pianist’s enduring legacy, Page said it would be foolish to simply look for modern talents who share stylistic similarities with Gould.

“I think if you go out there and you say, ‘I’m going to be a Glenn Gould clone,’ you have completely misunderstood him,” he said. “In my opinion, what he’s about is looking at the world anew, looking at the world from a very personal perspective and with no attempt to try to fit his thinking into a little box.”

“I mean, he didn’t like Chopin, so he’d say he didn’t like Chopin. He didn’t like Mozart. We can disagree with him … but I’m grateful for some heresy now and then, and Glenn gave you some heresy.”

“I mean, he was sort of a fresh wind through classical music, which was and remains rather hidebound…. He was always at least interesting, and right there, that’s something special.”


TORONTO – Glenn Gould died just days after his 50th birthday, and many fans have spent the nearly three decades since pondering how the legendary Toronto pianist might have added to his legacy had he lived.

But Gould expert Tim Page believes that one specific innovation above all others would have particularly enchanted the musician.

Story continues below

HangZhou Night Net

“If I’m going to make predictions on Glenn Gould, the one thing I can pretty much say for certain is that he would have been obsessed with the Internet,” said Page, a professor of music and journalism at the University of Southern California and the editor of “The Glenn Gould Reader.”

“He would have done his own podcasts … I think he would have controlled his own website, recorded any music that interested him, and any time he wanted to do a new version of it, he would just do it and upload it.

“I cannot think of anybody who missed the Internet who would have loved it more than Glenn would have.”

Perhaps it’s fitting, then, that CBC has launched a new website in Gould’s honour with the aim of introducing new fans to the idiosyncratic genius ahead of what would have been his 80th birthday next September.

At the same time, the public broadcaster has also released the 10-DVD set “Glenn Gould on Television: The Complete CBC Broadcasts, 1954-1977.” The exhaustive set is a veritable treasure trove for fans of the iconic Canadian, bundling over 19 hours of Gould’s rare TV specials, performances and interviews.

Among the set’s impressive inclusions? Well, there’s Gould’s earliest surviving television performance, first broadcast on Dec. 16, 1954. There’s a series of enthralling discussions between Gould and the British broadcaster Humphrey Burton, in which Gould delivers astute analyses of Bach, Beethoven and Arnold Schoenberg. There’s also the 1966 interview clip with a bowtie-clad Alex Trebek, which begins with Gould’s famous declaration: “I detest audiences.”

For Gould aficionados who have diligently hunted and swapped bootlegged recordings of moments like these for years, the elegantly assembled boxed set is a blessing.

“Finally, it’s the last real piece of Glenn,” said Page, who won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 1997 for his work at the Washington Post.

“I think what will be revelatory for viewers who are seeing it for the first time will just be the fact of how good he was … what a smart guy he was, and what a funny guy he was.”

“People will get a lot of his humour.”

Indeed, the set showcases elements of Gould’s unique personality, which in some ways has become as famous as his dazzling talent at the piano.

Gould’s personal eccentricities are well-documented. He wore heavy clothing year-round, had a strange proclivity for soaking his arms and hands in warm water and carried a reputation for reclusion.

Of course, he had plenty of quirks behind the piano, too: he insisted on sitting in the same worn-out chair, he was fastidious about the temperature surrounding his performances and he hummed to himself noisily as he played. And in 1964, he turned away from public performances altogether, because he simply preferred the precise control afforded by a recording studio.

Page was among the last people to interview Gould before his death of a stroke in 1982, and while he certainly saw evidence of the musician’s personal peculiarities – “He was a different kind of guy,” Page points out with some diplomacy – he also recognized Gould’s strengths.

“(He was) very kind, very shy, very guarded until he knew you and then almost profoundly unguarded,” Page recalled. “He’d just talk about anything that came to his mind. He’d be excited. He’d want to go talking all night.

“There was something very child-like about him, in a nice way, in a way which he was just like an excited kid who wanted to talk about the stuff he was excited about.”

And that included radio and television, with the latter especially providing a showcase for Gould’s very physical style behind the piano.

His fruitful partnership with the CBC, which yielded so many memorable performances, interviews and even documentaries, seemed mutually beneficial. The broadcaster allowed Gould to reach a national audience, while Gould – a true international star of classical music – allowed CBC to share in his glory.

To this day, visitors to CBC headquarters are greeted by a bronze statue of the pianist seated on a bench, bundled under a heavy coat, scarf and driving cap, his brow furrowed.

“I think (Gould and CBC) are very closely associated,” said Mark Steinmetz, CBC’s director of radio music. “He was such a massive talent … and I think producers, directors, throughout the years, realized how good he was, and he was so entertaining, whether it was on TV or radio, that it made for good programs.

“It made good sense to be involved with him in that way.”

And the Gould specials would sure seem like an anomaly nowadays, when it’s difficult to imagine a major TV network devoting a sizable chunk of primetime to a classical musician.

But of course, Gould was an anomaly too. When asked about finding evidence of the pianist’s enduring legacy, Page said it would be foolish to simply look for modern talents who share stylistic similarities with Gould.

“I think if you go out there and you say, ‘I’m going to be a Glenn Gould clone,’ you have completely misunderstood him,” he said. “In my opinion, what he’s about is looking at the world anew, looking at the world from a very personal perspective and with no attempt to try to fit his thinking into a little box.”

“I mean, he didn’t like Chopin, so he’d say he didn’t like Chopin. He didn’t like Mozart. We can disagree with him … but I’m grateful for some heresy now and then, and Glenn gave you some heresy.”

“I mean, he was sort of a fresh wind through classical music, which was and remains rather hidebound…. He was always at least interesting, and right there, that’s something special.”