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GG: ST on LP

I heard both The Idea of the North and The Latecomers on the radio when they were first broadcast.  My strongest recollections are of Idea of the North.  I heard it
on the car radio while on a long drive in Michigan.  I've always felt since that the piece is most effective when it is heard while driving.  I caught on fairly early to the idea that the different characters represented different voices in Gould's counterpoint.  It took me longer to realize that the character of the voices and the personality of the speakers had as much to do with the piece as the substance of what they were saying.  At first I tried hard to follow and understand the words each of the speakers was saying.  I was frustrated when an interesting commentary was faded out or voiced over so that it was hard to follow.  When I began to relax and listen to the voices abstractly, without worrying so much about what the speakers were saying, the piece became quite engrossing.  I was able to apprehend more clearly its structure, formal and rhythmic.  One of the reasons I think it is best heard while driving is because the act of driving occupies you so that it is hard to rivet all your attention on individual lines and  then try to follow contemporaneous lines separately.  What happens is your listening relaxes a bit and you start to perceive the fabric, the texture of the piece.  Having the act of driving occupy part of your attention may be like practicing the piano with the vacuum cleaner on in the background.  You are less fixated on moment to moment meaning, as you might be in listening to a popular song, for example,
 and you feel instead the whole piece, the sensation of the sounds and its structure. The idea of ensemble performance of separate vocal lines is present in many great operas and I think we experience those moments in an opera production in much the same way.  Repeated hearings of the Gould pieces reveal additional meanings and insights for me, but often those are more in discovering some new aspect of the juxtaposition of the characters or the ebb and flow of the drama or emotion in their voices than in hearing more of what they are saying. I always felt that I understood enough of what they were saying to fix the character of each voice in my mind and to appreciate the emotion that moves through the piece.