[f_minor] The Humphrey Burton Interview(s)
pzumst at bluewin.ch
Thu Oct 27 16:45:32 EDT 2011
In the introduction to the first Humprey Burton interview we are being cautioned by a british record producer that GG will exaggerating in some of his opinions on recording and the current state of the public performance. Mainly that recording is the future and the concert a thing of the past. We are in the spring of 1966 and GG is talking to Humphrey Burton for the BBC in a CBC Studio in Toronto. John Culshaw, the record producer, claims that after this program being aired on the BBC the phone lines of reception were kept busy by furious callers claiming this to be nonsense. NOw..who exactly was exaggerating here I wonder ?
Maybe GG did shock his contemporaries with his views, normally he was a very reluctant and conservative person imo. The idea of the Last Puritan is not far-feched, but when it comes to his views on recrding that is a different story. Wether he liked it or not (and so did McLuhan who also made valid predictions which did not please him), he had a feeling where new technolgies would lead both performer and listener.
Yet listeing to GG’s arguments in 2011 (i.e. a Tchaikowsky Contcerto in 1999 would be considered an absurdity, cutting, splicing etc can be seen as an additional instrument ) I find it courious that he was actually more than right, come to think of it. Wether he would embrace the technolgy on offer today we will never know, alas.
GG is absoluetly right, the time of the composer composing largely for himself is over. He claims to have more than one opinion on Beethoven and the interpretation of his works. That is interesting for a man who mocked the idea of chance in music (Satie, the whole ambient idea etc) and only being interested in contrapunctual music. Now I for one find that rather extrordinary. Of course he never released these albums with 14 different interpretations of one Beethoven Sonata, but it is nice to know he could have. Making such a comment these days it would almost be expected of him to do just that on a bonus CD of a new release wehr he still with us.
Within that context GG has a few strong and valid points in declaring that the concert experience as such is obsolete. Despite the fact that most concert halls have very good sound systems (surround, tons of speakers etc) nowdays, but back in his time both recording technique and concert equipment were rather primitive, therefore he had the right to have his doubts. GG gives the example of a Bach Partita that he claims corrputed one of his recordings after being performed too much. He claims that performing on stage is only valid for exhibitionists, a funny comment from someone who frequently appeared on radio and television and one has to wonder wether his excuse of playing different tempi in the Emperor was’t just a gimmick or trying to fill a niche not occupied yet as he claims.
GG’s anecdote of cutting together 2 different takes for the WTC2 must have been shocking at the time for the classical crowd wanting “authenticity” but was nothing new to rock musicians, in the very same month the Bealles were working on Revolver and used different takes, splices etc for the final mix much to their advantage and also having a concert drop-out the same year coming to the same conclusions as GG did. Not to mention the tons of remixes you can find from numerous artists(tracks (12 different approaches to a Beehoven Sonata so to speak but I digress.
These are old hats today of course, back in 1966 that was still post-modernism, the world has turned in so many ways. These changes in technology have also altered our views of GG. It is therefore most interesting to see things from his point in the time line. Absolutely fascinating, no matter if you agree with him or not (which I do just in case you haven’t noticed).
These days it is absolutely normal to create your own playlist of, say Mahler’s 1st with the 1st movement from Bernstein, 2nd from Kubelik etc. Mash-ups, remixes, 7.5 Surround Sound and live audio and even video streams from your favourite performer on your very huge HDTV or PC are no problem these days. Or mobile devices that can carry your music collection. And with audio sequencing software like Ableton or FL Studio even idiots like me are able to program a sequencer and send the results within seconds around the world. Oh, show me a semi-pro musician no matter what field who claims not to have ever worked with ProTools and I’ll show you one who always arrives on time. Such is the state of technology nowdays. Shame, GG never got to see that. But at least he had a vague idea of what was coming, contrary to most of his contemporaries.
I must admit that I had become rather critical, even had doubts about Our St. Glenn Of Uptergrove, but this DVD box set and the first Humphrey Burton Interview in particular have put me back in the Party Line Perspective so to speak, at least for the time being. He knew what was coming while the 2 pommie knobs did not. Not exactly surprising, but good to know.
If you have not yet bought this DVD set, plese consider, just this interview alone will be worth it, let alone the rest of the set. If you can’t afford it right now, sell some of your Apple gadgets or ask your auntie for a few fivers, skip the pub a few times or ask the missus to go shopping with a full stomach and an empty wallet. If you can, hurry up to the next record store, you will not regret it. Taken in small doses this set will provide fun, insights and good music for a very long time. Just the pure joy of seeing Glenn Gould talk and play....
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