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Re: GG: The Firebird that is creativity...

        Long post coming... This topic is one that I have pondered often in regards to GG, and in the end I don't find Gould's hesitancy to compose to be very surprising, really. I think of it like this:
        Gould has often been described as a sensitive person, one who honestly did not like to be disliked. Despite his penchant for flying in the face of musical conservativism, I think that critical review of his work *was* very important to him. From the time that he was a boy and awaited the "pats" on the head from his proud mother after he'd completed a good practice session (Jessie Grieg's essay refers to this), to the numerous testimonials of people whom he'd call to relate the latest favorable review to, Gould sought and enjoyed reassurance and praise for his work. When harsh or overly critical reviews were written, it seemed to drastically affect his work; the Art of Fugue organ piece was harshly criticised, and the second volume was never recorded. The Handel harps. sonatas were picked to pieces, and he declined to record on the instrument again. Even his departure from live performance could arguably have been hastened by the nearly freakshow status his physical performance earned him. With this in mind, it is possible that Gould took refuge in the fact that what he excelled at was interpretation, rather than composition (which, though it requires exactly the sort of knowledge and logic that Gould possesed, also requires a hell of a lot of practice and trial and error). Perhaps fear of this trial and error rite of passage kept Gould on the safe road of interpretation with an instrument he had known since childhood and could manipulate with ease. He was afraid to fail where others had so gloriously succeeded. Which brings us to the contrapuntal radio documentaries:
        The sound docs provided Gould with a much safer route of composition, in that they were new. Here was a medium where Gould could take risks, flex creative muscles in new ways for the first time, and if he were to fail it would be by his own standards. With no rich tradition of "contrapuntal radio documentary composers" behind him, Gould had no legend to live up to and could be judged solely for his own skill and creativity. Add in the credit of having "invented" a new medium, and the prospect of composing with voice and ambient noise would be irresistable to someone like Gould; it would make him a musical pioneer in an undiscovered realm. 
        Now, I'm not saying that these radio docs were a cop-out or a gimmick, far from it. I think these programs only prove to greater extent the talent and creativity Gould really possessed; he obviously heard the world much differently than I, yet through his understanding of the technical medium he was able to reconstruct small samples of what it would be like to hear the world much as he heard it. Not only are the pieces soothing and hypnotic for their content, they are a marvel because they allow the listener to hear what Gould heard, and understand what was in his heart. Quite a gift to give the listener.


"I've never had to work very hard convincing myself of a hereafter. After all, don't you think it seems infinitely more plausible than its opposite... oblivion?"   -Glenn Gould