[f_minor] The Idea of North -- GG's Winnipeg-to-Churchill MNwilderness train in a few weeks! Polar bears! Aurora!

Pat pzumst at bluewin.ch
Fri Sep 21 10:30:16 MDT 2012

and this is what I left as a comment on Bob’s blog, slightly edited and remixed here

As romantic as the idea of GG recording the interviews on the Muskeg Express is, he actually conducted the interviews in CBC studio in Toronto. One person remembers that he did ask quite intelligent questiona and was “conducting” during the interview. It would later take weeks for the whole thing to be cut and pasted together again. What would now be quite easy with Cubase must have been tedious work back then ! ! 
It was the first ever broadcast in stereo by the CBC if I remember correctly and even if some issues are out of date now it is still fascinating to hear. I also heard that the Muskeg is no longer in use, so Bob’s Adventure is now History, like flying with Swissair or going to the post office for stamps.

If you are new to GG and never heard IoN before you can do so here:
http://www.cbc.ca/gould/audio.html (60s section) and while you are there please also check out the other documentaries he did (Memnonites and Newfundland).

Maybe his idea of mixing IoN the way he did was remarkable, but hardly revolutionary. Artists like Steve Reich in his pieces Come Out and It’s Gonna Rain used similar concepts before and I assume that GG borrowed a few ideas from chaps like Pierre Scheffer, John Cage (Happy 100th !) and if he was aware of what William S. Burroughs was doing with his sound cut-ups then I would not be surprised this found its way into IoN, probably more unconcious than not. Avantgarde being absorbed by a highly conservative musician, but there you have it.
The funny thing about IoN is that it works both as a sort of “ambient” recording but also as a serious, yet dated documentary and is also quite revealing about GG himself, probably more than he ever realized.

These days it is so easy to record and manupolate sond/sounds/samples, it would be interesting to get the master tapes of the Opening Trio and try to remix the intro just for fun but that is probably just me daydreaming...
Our former f_minor list owner MaryJo Watts had a sort of fantasy of playing IoN full blast in an empty football stadium. I like that idea, with the NHL walkout that could be tried in a hockey arena with the chill as a welcome effect...
From: Robert Merkin 
Sent: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 9:12 AM
To: Discussion of the Canadian pianist Glenn Gould. 
Subject: [f_minor] The Idea of North -- GG's Winnipeg-to-Churchill MNwilderness train in a few weeks! Polar bears! Aurora!

Hi et salut hallo f_minorites,

Been busy lately, pecked about the ankles by angry ducks ... so I'm sorry if I haven't posted much lately. But I faithfully read (almost) every post.

* * *

Between the last week of September and the first week or two of October, (mostly male adolescent) polar bears will make their annual migration around and through the tiny Hudson Bay freight shipping port town of Churchill, Manitoba Canada.

I guess rich pervs can comfortably fly there, but for Normal Human Beings, you catch a train (diesel, 'cause you're going Way Off The Electric Grid) in Winnipeg and head North through the vast gorgeous Canadian forest wilderness for 2.5 days until -- far beyond the Tree Line, in Arctic permafrost tundra -- it finally reaches Churchill.

(Like all beach towns, you'll be just a block or two from the beach, which is the astonishingly otherworldly Hudson Bay.)

One Human Being who rode this train there and back again was Glenn Gould. In 1967 the CBC asked what he'd like to contribute to a big Anniversary, and GG took a tape recorder and talked to the passengers riding this train to the Canadian North. The result -- after GG's revolutionary mixing -- was his first radio documentary, "The Idea of North."

(If you've never heard TIoN, a little web shopping or library surfing could get all three radiodocs to your ears in a few days.)

It's my wish that the world-unique train trip, the wilderness, and annual polar bear migration might seduce just 1 or 2 or maybe 3 addled f_minorites to investigate buying a round-trip seat or sleep box on This Amazing Train.

I promise any GG fan addled and irresponsible enough (as I once was) only The Adventure of a Lifetime. I promise nothing more than that. 

(Except up-close-and-personal encounters with polar bears, polar bear warning signs, barred doors up and down main street to keep out the poar bears ... )

For a week you'll be Less Than No. 1 on the Food Chain. Running shoes are much better than great wildnerness boots.

For whacks like me, this is one of the most famous train journeys on the planet, the subject not just of TIoN, but of documentaries that have peppered TV for decades.

Likely, you've waited too long to book this famous trip -- but it's been my experience that if you want a journey bad enough, and you whine, and bribe, and lie, and wheedle, and then just show up waving cash, they usually find space for you and your backpack.

Or for you and a pal, and both your backpacks.

The crammed snack bar car -- this is a heavy-drinking frontier train, affordable transportation for the people in these parts -- is possibly the most interesting cage of colorful people I've ever spent hours in.

You could semi-officialize something This Train has never had -- a living, travelling memorial to GG's 1967 trip, what it meant to him, and what it did to his creative life. By just chatting with passengers, or lending them flash drives of TIoN, f_minor could treat Glenn to another train ride to Churchill. Glenn made Hudson Bay his own just as much as Toronto.

The buzz is that Churchill is the world's hottest, most active spot to view the Aurora. It sure looked astonishing to me. The Native-Canadians are mostly Inuit, some Swampy Cree, they have their own (missionary-introduced) alphabet, and if you are lucky they will share some of their experience with you. 

The food's very interesting, some of it stunningly delicious, and unobtainable in civilized regions. (Calling Churchill "civilized" would be a stretch.)

In my Amazing Adventure, there was no hint, no rumor, no whisper that the polar bear -- the largest and best hunter-carnivore on Earth, mostly it hunts seals on winter ice -- might be coming to the end of its mellennia as undisputed ruler of the circumpolar Arctic. The anomolous numbers of polar bear drownings hadn't yet been reported by US federal scientists. 

GG's earlier trip ditto -- everyone assumed the great and dangerous wild polar bear migration would be there for humans to marvel at forever.

So now, as you ponder a wildly irresponsible and impulsive adventure, there's an added urgency. We're looking at a future, some now think in our lifetimes, when there'll still be polar bears ... but only in the world's zoos. As the polar ice melts, the wild bears will drown trying to swim to the next ice cake.

If you are completely impulsive and irresponsible -- bring me back photos and souvenirs, send me a postcard!

Massachusetts USA

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