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Re: solitude

Original message:-

>Interesting comment Elmer.  I always thought Glenn Gould had a rather lonely
>and sad life.  I would love to be able to play the piano as well as he did, but
>I wouldn't want to give up a somewhat normal life.  What makes you say he had
>an entertaining life?


But  "lonely" and "sad" are not the same thing, and do not necessarily have
to go together.

Gould's cousin Jessie  (who perhaps was closer to him than nost people) once
said he was the loneliest man she ever knew.  Yet Gould himself said in an
interview that although he would  try to sympathise with people who suffered
from loneliness. he  himself did not really know what the word meant.  So
presumably his state of "loneliness" (as percieved by others) did not cause
him any suffering or sadness.  Perhaps "alone" is a better word, without
such negative connotations.

Elmer wrote
> "I think if we try to evaluate his life from our experience and
>our standards, we're doomed to come to the wrong conclusions."

Exactly. The problem is that we are trying to evaluate his life in
accordance with our own ideas and standards of what is "normal". Gould's
standards seem to have been very different and peculiar to his own
needs.Yes, I realise that in speaking of  "our " ideas and standards I am
guilty of generalisation; we are no doubt all as individual in our own ways
as Gould was in his (even though we may not  be musical geniuses. or indeed
geniuses of any type!).I personally dont see his lifestyle as "abnormal " in
any way; perhaps "unusual" would be a better word. ...   But there seems to
be a general concensus of opinion that Glenn Gould conducted his life in a
manner that most would think of as lonely and emotionally isolated. Not
artistically isolated, of course; the creation of music was his joy,  and
his passsion and enthusiasm for his work  shine through his correspondance
with colleagues and friends.

But he famously thought that solitude was not only important, but was an
absolute  necessity  for artistic creation to be possible at all.  And
creation for him, I believe, included a search for perfection. It is hardly
surprising that he abandoned the concert stage and rejected the cult of the
virtuoso. Not only did performing in public lack the possibility if
'"take-twoness" that was so dear to his heart, but it seemed to him
frighteningly competitive. He compared the concert stage to a gladiatoral
arena, with an audience baying for blood; I sometimes wonder if in fact some
of the reasons he gave for rejecting the concert platform  were  simply
rationalisations, and the real reason he gave up was that he was simply
scared stiff !

In fact Gould's life seems to have been beset by perceived terrors, both
rational ( wouldnt many people be scared ny the necessity of maintaining an
impeccable standard when playing in public?) and irrational  ( phobias of
flying, germs, illness, crowds) and perhaps it is these fears , rather than
his loneliness, that  rendered his existance rather sad, if indeed he  ever
saw himself as sad.

Elmer also wrote
> "I've written before about aspects of his abandonment of
> the concert stage. City after city, hotel after hotel, airport after airport
> is a brutal kind of life, and at a very young age, he rejected it.  ......
>  haunt his beloved Toronto, which energized rather than sapped his soul. He
> knew he had only one life to live, long or short, and he came to the
> conclusion that touring was a kind of violent robbery of that finite life;
> Toronto gave him the particular gifts of a rich life that he wanted."

Thats interesting. I never thought of it that way; that the touring was a
robbery of his finite life;  but I guess that this is very true.

A couple of years ago there was another discussion on F-minor as to whether
Gould's life was   sad or not . I said then that I did not think that he was
a particularly happy man in his private life, apart from the creation of
music which was ecstasy to him. Now, I am not so sure. It all depends on
what point of view you use'; from our point of view, the kind of life he led
seems rather sad; from his point of view (which is the important one of
course!) it wasa reasonably happy lifestyle,   peculiarly adapted to his
needs and ideas.

And loneliness? Well, he certainly had all his friends to communicate with,
even if this was at a distance, at the end of a telephone line. But it would
be a cliche to point out that one can be lonely in a crowd  (and I guess
this means one can also find solitude even in a city) . But  Gould  doesnt
seem to have formed any deep, longlasting relationships. And  it is this
lack of _closeness_   that , to me at least, indicates that he was a lonely
man. ( Before anyone yells at me here,  I  admit  some of this is guesswork,
since he was so reticent about giving away any details of his private life.)
Yet if we assume - for lack of hard evidence to the contrary -   that he
never experienced such  close relationships, but yet  never knew any other
kind of life, how  would he know whether to describe himself as  lonely or
not?  To recognise  the reality of an emotion, perhaps we need to have
experienced its converse.

A   "lonely" man who doesnt recognise the concept of loneliness is
opresumably happy enough. You or I might think is is a sad situation. Glenn
Gould would no sdoubt have simply described his lifestyle as "solitary",
without the emotional overtones.

I cant say if Gould's life was, to him, "sad" and "lonely',  or
"fascinating" and "entertaining". I do think it was an extraordinarily full
life (though, sadly, a rather short one) and I think that early on he found
a lifestyle that was true to his nature, and stuck with it.  However _he_
viewed his own life,  he certainly created joy for the rest of us.

Kate     .....

PS  It occurs to me to wonder how much our perception of Gould's emotional
states are influenced (maybe subconsciously)  by the many photographic
images we have of him ? So many portray him as alone, and he looks pretty
mournful in some!