[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

GG: Pilgrim pianist

The problem with this analysis is that it is so non-specific: it 
could equally apply to almost any young celeb. The interesting, and 
specific, thing about Gould was the extent to which he used his 
celebrity status (and the wealth that went along with it) in a 
creative way - in order to give his life a shape it could not 
otherwise have attained. 

Gould was more than the passive recipient of adultation, or a clever
public relations man. And, of course, he was more than the
post-modernist solitary mystic he sometimes seemed to aspire to. He
was primarily _creative_ in a way that contemplatives are not.

Much is made of the paradoxes of Gould's life and work - this is true 
enough, but grabs the wrong end of the stick. We are all paradoxical 
- what made Gould so fascinating was his unity, 'together'-ness and 
the way he created a remarkably self-consistent and satisfying 
creative life. And although there is a cult-ish quality about those 
of us who admire his life/work; Gould was far far from being a 
cult-leader, psychopomp or guru himself. 

All this makes him one of the most fascinating and significant
individuals of recent years- in a way fairly closely analogous to the
position occupied by Thoreau in the 19th Century. 


Date:          Fri, 2 Aug 96 14:30:51 EDT
From:          Mary Jo Watts <mwatts@rci.rutgers.edu>
To:            f_minor@email.rutgers.edu
Subject:       GG: "The Pilgrim Pianist"

	It's now been about a year since f_minor began and our
conversation has covered much ground. In an effort to keep things
fresh, I'll quote from time to time, passages of articles and reviews that
present unique viewpoints on Gould, his ideas and his art.  This week,
I've chosen an article that has made me consider the packaging of
Gould as a celebrity.  

>From "The Pilgrim Pianist" by Sanford Scwartz in _The New Republic_ (1984)

	"When Gould became internationally prominent (he was in his
early 20's) he was an awkward, gangling kid, and he was also
extraordinarily handsome.  Part of the incredible success of his 1955
debut album, the 'Goldberg Variations'-- one of the industry's
best-selling classical music disks-- was due to Dan Weiner's album
jacket photos, which showed Gould in different stages of recording.
With his high cheekbones and long brown hair, he was a budding matinee

	"...Gould's public couldn't help seeing him as a rebel. (In
pictures of him in _Variations_ where he waits during a pause in the
recording session, or reads at the piano, he's reminiscent of the
surly young Brando.)"

	"As a theorist, [Gould] is a combination of mystic, futurist,
and the take-charge leader of a boy's adventure story.  He's like a
hip Mountie, and you may find yourself drawn to him even while being
uncertain about his ideas."

	"...there is another story in the [Glenn Gould Reader], one
that is inferred.  I heard someone concocting an elaborate myth for
himself.  I had the image of a child who is born with a great gift--
an unthinking command of the keyboard, an effortless ability to read
and feel music-- and who is mystified and troubled by this gift and
proud of it. Looked at in one way, Gould's story is about the burdens
that a prodigy may feel and the way he comes to live with his genius.
It is a story about a person who, never believing that he has earned
his universally admired power, first begins to deny that it means
much, then to sabotage the system that supports it, and finally to
envision a world in which such a superstar doesn't exist."

	"He frequently recorded works that shift quickly back and
forth between the high-flying and the sorrowful, and though it doesn't
sum up his range, he often conveys the state of a man who is
alternately elated and under some kind of gun."

	"Beginning in the mid-60's, he sometimes appeared distant and
disapproving on album jacket photos, as if to announce that he didn't
want us to buy his records because he was his own glamourous selling
point.  In his last jacket photos he seems impatient, angry at himself
and at us, and his face and his eyes look worn out.

	[on the Monsaingeon film of the Goldbergs] "...the most
defined part of him is his dark, heavy-rimmed glasses, and they make
no sense, not only because he generally didn't wear glasses but
because he isn't, after all, reading music; he usually played with his
eyes closed.  The glasses don't seem to be there to help him see out;
they're more like the lid on a bottle that seals off what's in the


-Mary Jo,

Dr Bruce G Charlton MD
Department of Psychology
University of Newcastle upon Tyne

Fax 0191 222 5622