[f_minor] Gould and problem-solving

jorgen.lundmark at mypost.se jorgen.lundmark at mypost.se
Fri Feb 22 07:37:06 MST 2013

Hello Dvae,

This is an interesting question. As in many cases Gould isn't exactly
consistent in his view of the piano. Several times he writes about himself
being a "musician" (or words to that effect) that just happens to play the
piano. At the same time he looks for the ultimate instrument and works
harder than most to get the right action and sound from the different
pianos he's playing.

The story about his Israeli tour (is that in the Cott interview book I
wonder) is interesting; the instrument was terrible and in order to get
the best results he imagined he was at home playing the Chickering. The
dynamics was constricted as a result, but he was much more pleased with
the result. So he did think about the practicalities of piano playing more
than most pianists.

In that context you have to take into consideration the very different
sound the pianist hears and the sound which the audience hear. No doubt
Gould with his great experience knew that difference, but I can't help
wondering if he wasn't more concerned with what he himself heard and felt
than what he thought was getting out into the hall. That is at least
consistent with his view of the absurdity -- as far as musical contents go
-- to play for the balcony, which is necessary in order to reach out in
big concert halls. I suppose this would count for much of the changes in
his playing -- the way it sounds -- after retiring.

I recommend the excellent "A Romance on Three Legs: Glenn Gould's
Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Piano" by Katie Hafner. It is a treasure
trove of everything concerning Gould and pianos.

I also believe that Gould wanted to distance himself from the very act of
piano playing. There's this centipede metaphore problem: if you think too
much of the very aspects of piano playing it might just make it impossible
to make it work. Also, the very tradition of virtuoso piano playing with
the artist as a conqueror of the hearts (more than the minds) of the
public was the antithesis of his philosophy. Again, he did record and play
contrary to these ideas; the Ravel "La Valse" is one example.

I can't give you any exact quotes on any of the above subjects though.
Someone else perhaps?


> Good morning all,
>   One of the "32 films" has a voice-over describing the various pianos GG
> had played on tour. At least one of the instruments had been so out of
> whack that Gould wondered how the audience had tolerated it, and he said
> something about 'not being that fond of the sounds a piano makes,' or
> something to this effect. Unless my comprehension/memory are shot...
>   This started me thinking: did Gould say or write much about how his
> music was simply a means to an end? That playing the piano was nothing
> more than the work needed to be done in order to get someplace he wanted
> to go, metaphorically speaking?
> Thanks,
> Dave
> From: maryellenjensen28 at hotmail.com
> To: f_minor at glenngould.org
> Date: Sat, 16 Feb 2013 23:51:20 +0100
> Subject: [f_minor] Sartorial Interlude
> "I can put him on for hours -- he's like nobody else," says Waters, who
> owns 10 books on Gould, hunts for anecdotes on him and gives his CDs as
> gifts. "He was the ultimate original -- a real outsider. And he had a
> great style, the hats and the gloves and so on." - interview with John
> Waters (Baltimore) for the NY Times August 2003.
> The following is marvellous, from "Kempt" (who uses THAT word any
> longer?!):
> http://www.getkempt.com/icon/the-icon-glenn-gould.php
> It's about time.
> Mary

More information about the f_minor mailing list