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GG and Gramophone Magazine, August 2002

Original message

>From: Vincent Vo <Govincevo@AOL.COM>

  > I think the current issue of Gramophone will try to explain Gould's
> popularity. Has anyone read the issue yet?

Yes , I  bought a copy this morning. There is a photo of GG on the cover,
with a caption "GLENN GOULD ...: What made this pianist a 20th-century
icon?"  The magazine  comes with  a 70 minute CD which includes a track of
Gould playing Bach's toccata in E minor BWV 914.

This cover story is a reasonably brief article (three pages,illustrated with
photos  of GG from childhood with Alberto Guerrero to later life - sitting
on that park bench)  written by Rick Phillips, described  as a "fellow
Canadian".  The article gives a fairly straightforward account of Gould's
life and work, stressing  his non-pianistic activities such as broadcasting
and writing, as well as his concert career. and,  following his abandonment
of the concert stage, his recording career. I guess there will be nothing
new there to F-minors. But the writer then goes on to ask  "So what is it
about Glenn Gould that has not only kept him firmly in the public mind for
20 years after his death but has even made him increasingly popular?"

The article then   make various suggestions in answer to this question....it
speaks of Gould's "unbelievable" communicative strengths,  and describes the
"ecstasy" in his playing. it points out that not all his recordings were
that great, but "Good or bad, Gould was always challenging. always
fascinating...........To Gould . there was no point in doing anything the
same as others. Be unique and do it your own way, or don't do it at all."

We are told of his striving for perfection, and there is a ( mercifully
short) reference to his mannerisms and idiosyncratic behaviour. But for all
that, in my opinion the article does not  really explain  the deep
fascination that many still feel for "the Idea of Gould", or the passion
with which they  regard his work. As the magazine suggests, he has become an
icon, whether or not you like that term.

Perhaps it really is not possible to explain  the genesis of such an icon in
a way that will satisfy everyone, whether or not they belong to the "cult"
themselves or are just curious about its existence. A man like Gould was so
multifaceted, and his legacy  was complex enough that each of us no doubt
has his or her idea  as to now the fascination  originates. To some it is
simply the music ( so many people seem to describe it as though its creator
is talking to you); to others it is the totality of the man himself,
although I am aware that some people do not think it appropriate to discuss
the nature of his personality apart from his music!

There are many other great  musicians. I do not know if they inspire such
intense  cult-like interest as GG does: perhaps someone else can enlighten
me about this. But when I have disussed Gould with other admirers, or read
accounts of what he and his work means to someone, I have always been struck
with a quality of admiration that cannot be adequately described in words,
it seems. People almost seem to be describing discovering his music as a
mystical experience.  Perhaps that is as it should be; music is, after all,
a profoundly emotional experience that seems to have some very strange
effects on the human psyche . Whilst we can all experience this, it is
sometimes difficult to describe  to another person in a way that is precise,
so you can be fairly  certain you are sharing the same experience. And it is
this "personal" quality of the experience of music that I  myself   feel is
demonstrated so strongly by Glenn Gould, and which adds to the deep
fascination with his work. When I first encountered his music, I was
staggered by its immediacy and  its personal quality. I felt that this man
(of whom I knew nothing at the time)   was talking to me, indeed  _playing_
just for me, irrational as that sounds. Maybe other F-minors will recognise
what I am trying to describe!

Well, the "Gramophone" article concludes "Glenn Gould was so much more than
a pianist,that to think of him in only one field is to do him an
injustice.He was a brilliant mind. Glenn Gould forces us to see our world in
different, often challenging ways.We may not always agree with him, or like
the results, but we are always richer for the experience."