On Microphones, Music, and Our Long Year of Mock Time


Because he idealized northernness and often reflected on loneliness, Gould after 1964 was portrayed as a recluse. But it was hidden only if you don’t count phones, photography, recorded sound, recorded video and fast distribution networks. During his two electronic decades, Gould was able to be anywhere and everywhere. Although often abducted, it suffocated tens of millions of televisions, movies, car radios, and finally space, when, in 1977, his stunning rendition of Bach’s Keyboard Well Tempered it was launched out of the Earth’s atmosphere onto the time phonographic capsule aboard the Voyager spacecraft. Gould can be best experienced by curious aliens, those with decent spins or at least ESP who work.

Gould had a sweet touch for some pop music, including Petula Clark; he called the voice of Barbra Streisand “an instrument of infinite diversity and timbre resource.” And even though he himself had a perfect tone, he was fascinated by unusual speaking voices, out of key or otherwise. He invented a form of documentary film called counterpoint, in homage (perhaps) to Bach, in which the spoken voices are made to overlap with strange effects. The most evocative example is Gould’s film about the shadowy Canadian tundra, The idea of ​​the North, which is easily among the most avant-garde rate on YouTube.

Although compulsively cold while playing, avoiding shaking hands for fear of illness, developing an addiction to prescribed pills, and dressing for a winter storm whatever the weather, Gould managed to stay afloat from the eccentricity. electric, without ever falling into the monotony of madness. This delicate psychic balance is palpable in the erudite stem-winders he has transmitted directly to the camera. He goes on to record in his experimental acoustic collages and in the countless radio broadcasts he has recorded. Gould also spent hours talking to friends and unconscious acquaintances on landlines and pay-TVs, sometimes putting his classmates to sleep while escaping theories of everything, a one-man soundscape whose mutable cadences of speech they were strangely like his piano. “No supreme pianist has ever given of his heart and his mind in such an overwhelming way as he shows it so sparingly,” said Gould’s close friend, the violinist Yehudi Menuhin.

Gould became what might be known now as a pandemic musician. Tim Page, the music critic and a close confidant of Gould, was asked last year what his friend might have done to life in quarantine. “Glenn would have loved the internet,” Page replied. “He was germophobic and didn’t like physical contact. But I would enjoy things like Skype and Facebook [so he could] he always enjoys his friendships while keeping his distance. “In fact, Gould was at his best at a distance– away from the baroque room and the modern stadium, away from where he could send a signal to another person, alone, like him, afraid of touch, through the same enchanted Canadian expanses that inspired the media philosopher Marshall McLuhan, a frequent interlocutor of Gould.

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