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Re: GG: newbie with questions
Welcome to the list! I hope you enjoy your time here as much of the rest of
us do. I don't know the answer to some of your questions, but I will take a
stab at those I do know:
1. I think "Glenn Gould, a Life and Variations" is a good biography to read.
There is a lot of 'grit', as you put it. It's not always complimentary,
but the facts are there, presented in what is a relatively
objective fashion, in my opinion. Certainly much more objective than
"Creative Lying", as
you may have guessed!
Since you asked, allow me to recommend what I think is by far the best of
all the Glenn Gould biographies I've come across: Peter Ostwald's "Glenn
Gould: The Ecstacy and Tragedy of Genius". Ostwald was a psychiatrist who
actually had a friendship with Gould, and as a result really makes an effort
recount Gould's life, as well as explain the oddities and eccentricities,
with a sympathetic voice and actual psychiatric theory. All the facts are
there, but they are reported with a fondness and familiarity that is absent
from other biographies of Gould. I found Ostwald's book to be the most
informative and insightful. But if you turn out to be as big a fan of Gould
as it seems you're going to be from your post, you'll probably read them
>3. What video should I get next?
>From the standpoint of familiarizing yourself with Gould in a logical
progression, I have no idea what to recommend next. I believe the video "A
Portrait" is also called "On the Record/Off the Record" which consists of
two half hour segments: one of Gould playing and being interviewed at his
cottage at Lake Simcoe, the other of his recording the Italian Concerto at
the 30th Street studio in New York. If you that's not the one you've seen,
put that high on your list! Other than that, I have a couple of favorites:
>From the Bruno Monsaingeon series (of which I think there are 12) I think my
favorite is "The Conductor"--the first portion is Gould conducting the
Toronto Symphony's string section in Bach's cantata 54: "Widerstehe doch der
Sunde". It's a gorgeous piece of music, and the filming of it, which was
done in 1962, is in black and white--a good aesthetic choice compared to the
rather odd psychedelic colors and backdrops that would come along later in
the series. Also, have you seen "32 Short Films About Glenn Gould"? I
think it's a very good movie in and of itself, and within 32 short segments,
a different aspect of Gould's life and character is described, without a lot
conjecture. I highly recommend it.
>5. Did GG ever marry or have children ? Was he ever
>photographed with a girlfriend at his side?
No, he never married, never had any children, and as far as I know, was
never photographed with a girlfriend. Friedrich and Ostwald both take a
shot at explaining this, and in my opinion, Ostwald's theories about Gould's
attitude toward sexuality were the most informative, and seemed the most
plausible. Both books talk about a mysterious woman whom Gould courted for
many years, but who ultimately returned to her husband. If you have read
"Creative Lying", however, you have stumbled upon the one biography that
names her, I believe, as well as others with whom Gould might have been
involved. Kadzin was not shy about coming out with this information, and if
you're already familiar with his book, you probably have come across more
'grit' than you will in the rest of Gould's biographies, in regard to that
>8. Was GG a true pioneer
>in anything philosophical? ...
>Was that his basic message? Create and seek peace?
I'm not sure Gould was really recognized as a pioneer on any philosophical
subject, although I think he did a lot of important experimentation with
recording technology later in his career (and I know there are many people
on this list who are qualified to speak about that in great detail).
In terms of one basic message, it seems that one can extrapolate from
Gould's life many things he never said outright: generosity (close friends
of his seem to say that he was a very unselfish person), the benefits of
devotion to an art form (which we've all seen), etc. If one were to take
him completely at his word, one might come away with the idea that his
primary objective in life was to abolish the traditional concert--there is
much about that in the Glenn Gould Reader (see my next answer). But
certainly that isn't all he
was trying to get across. I once wrote a letter to a friend of Gould's, an
author, who was kind enough to write back to me, and he said that Gould had
left him with a piece of advice: "Always become who you are." Whenever I
think of Gould's life, his accomplishments and character, that phrase comes
to my mind.
>9. Did he ever write his biography, or start on it?
I don't believe so. But he did do a lot of interesting writing, and for
that you should definitely pick up "The Glenn Gould Reader", edited by Tim
Page. In it you will find many of Gould's philosophies, about music and
lots of other subjects.
>10. Was his penthouse apartment vacated after his death?
>Who lives in his penthouse apartment now? Has anyone
>here ever been inside it?
I made a trip to Toronto about four years ago, and of course took a trip up
to see the apartment on St. Clair Ave. I'm sure someone lives there--I seem
to remember a watering can in the window. I didn't go inside nor make any
attempt--I was quite sure that the people that live there probably get a bit
miffed at us Gould fans loitering outside with cameras or gazing up lovingly
at the window--I'm sure I wasn't the first. I took one picture from across
the street and left in a hurry. Maybe someone else on the list is bolder
than I was.
>11.... We know GG's mother was his first
>teacher... Was his
>mother ever interviewed on these details?
I am not aware of any interview that was done with her on her teaching
techniques. But I do know that Ostwald's book goes into a fair amount of
detail about Gould's relationship with his mother. It addresses the musical
as well as the mother/son dynamics between the two of them. I found it to
Well, that's about all I know! I hope that's helpful to you. I'm sure you
will find membership on this list to be an invaluable source of information,
as well as an unique forum for discussion about Gould. There are many
interesting subscribers here from all over the world, and with all levels of
knowledge about everything Gould. Stay tuned, and enjoy!