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Re: I don't think that Gould hated Mozart, but:

    Thanks Max for your well thought-out post. There are a few things here,
though, that I might take issue with:

> I don't think that Gould hated Mozart. But I think that Gould had a set
> of musical priorities that would not fit into Mozart's shoes, hence Gould's
> Mozart sounds forced and distorted, because Gould the rebel wanted to walk a
> mile in Mozart's shoes to make this statement: " To all you who say that
> Mozart's shoes MUST FIT ME: you're wrong, they don't fit, look here, see?

    In one of the films Gould made with Humphrey Burton, he made a point of
saying that he was attempting to make Mozart (by means of Gould's
interpretations) a Baroque composer. By that he meant that he tried to bring
out the contrapuntal aspects of the music (of which there were very little).
I don't think Gould was a "rebel" in that sense at all. There seems to be
little evidence that he was motivated in any way to "rebel" against some
established practice. I think Gould first and foremost sought out to
express, as he understood, a composition's structural possibilities. These
conceptions often didn't align themselves with tradition, and I think it's
safe to say at times didn't always "work." But those are arguments I want to
stay away from...I'm not trying to convince anyone of whether or not it's
"good" or "bad".
    On a side note, one of my biggest beefs with critics who complain of
Goulds "inauthentic" Bach, is that he never intended to make it 'authentic".
He was thinking on a much different plane, one that had little to do with
the concerns of Baroque practice.

> There are other shoes besides Mozart's (other sets of musical priorities)!"
> I don't know if Gould ever talked about his musical priorities, except for
> when he said, approximately, that any music that meant a lot to him was
> contrapuntal in nature.
> Amazingly, Gould never talked about rhythm (or did he?), yet rhythm was his
> first musical priority and is the most instantaneously recognizable feature
> of his playing, right there in the foreground at all times (I mean that he
> subordinates all other aspects of his playing under an iron-willed sense of
> rhythmic drive or at least rhythmic organization). Maybe he took that for

    I disagree with this notion for a few reasons. We certainly can't
second-guess what his "priorities" were, but the rhythmic drive found in his
Bach playing, or any of the Baroque repertoire, is also a by-product of the
literature. A steady and strong rhythmic pulse belies the music. To me at
least, Gould's sense of contrapuntal clarity is the prominent foreground
feature. Certainly his steady rhythm is an important feature, but remember
also that he shied away from music, particularly the Romantic literature,
that contained much less rhythmic pulse, so it's hard to provide many pieces
which could contradict this claim.
    I don't think that he subordinated all other musical aspects under
rhythm. I can't even imagine one instance of this. The clear lines of
counterpoint, and structure, come to mind.

> granted the way he took his pianistic skills for granted and never talked
> about them, either.
> His second priority was harmony, which for him includes contrapuntal
> elaboration of harmony. This he talked about quite a bit.
> His third or lowest, by far, priority was melody (as such): you never hear
> him talking about that (or did he?). He did not worship melody as such,
> which is why he didn't know what to do with Italian Opera. He loved rhythm
> first and then harmony/contrapuntal elaboration of harmony. I doubt
> that he acknowledged the existence of  "melody" as an independent musical

    I think listening to any fugue he played would provide evidence to the
contrary. Apart from the clarity, he had an uncanny ability to bring out
statements of the subject in thick contrapuntal textures. I think though you
might mean here melody in a non-contrapuntal (or as we say, homophonic)
texture. However, I do agree that Gould didn't seem to be pre-occupied with
the "tune" of a piece, though it certainly didn't go by the wayside either.
We would have to discuss certain genres and historic periods for a clearer
view of this.

> element. I think that he could not conceive of  "melody" except as an
> extension or elaboration of some specific integration of rhythm and
> harmony, like the Goldberg Variations, that heavyweight piece of music of
> which it can be said that the main melody (Aria), as a melody, is not part
> of the essence of the piece, but rather just another variation or
> elaboration.

    Remember though that the Goldberg variations are based on a ground-bass
theme, not on a melody. And, in fact, Gould's re-recording of them was to
emphasize an arithmetic correspondence between the variations and the
ground-bass theme; the essence of the piece.

> Mozart puts melodies on the table and starts building with those and awards
> them the  highest rank in the compositional hierarchy (I think?), whereas

    I would add to that the sense of formal balance. The melodic content is
supported by an amazing structure of balance and contrast.

> for Gould, melodies are surface, not depth,  variations, not theme,
> elaboration of substance rather than substance itself. I believe that for
> Gould even a fugue theme, like the one from "The Art of", was not something
> that can stand on its own, some kind of absolute melody, but rather, I
> guess, he probably thought of that theme as a mere reason for the following
> contrapuntal elaborations to exist, which would sort of reverse things and
> turn the elaborations into the primary substance, and the theme from which
> they are derived into a derivative of some sort (??).

    I'm not sure what's going on there.....

> I admit, by now I'm getting a little confused: maybe this is one of those
> "chicken-and-egg" situations. Did melody exist first or harmony, in general?

    The research I've done so far on Gould, with respect to performance and
cognition, has yielded conclusions favoring Gould's harmonic/structural
conception of a composition. I say this based on what he has actually said,
the transcriptions I have made of his humming, the gestures I've categorized
from his conducting while playing, and from the premise that this kind of
conception allows for the most manipulation in a performance. On the
cognitive science side of things, mental imagery is most susceptible to
interpretation and reconstruction. To me, Gould's mental imagery is a kind
of substrate from which he creates his performance.
    It's an interesting topic to try and decide what "priorities" may have
existed in Gould's playing, but I think to do so may render his performances
more conditional than may be helpful. We can decide for ourselves based on
the recording we are listening to, but I wanted to point out in my post that
there are other very important considerations, including genre and
historical position of the composition. A lot of what we may conclude were
Gould's choices may have much to do with the music, and not the performer.
    Even if we could, say, make a list of these priorities, the myriad
possibilities and context dependent pressures exerted in performance would
be impossible to track. And let's not forget certain items that were up for
grabs seemingly on Gould's whim - such as tempo. An interesting question

Sean Malone