[f_minor] Gould and problem-solving

David Gracer david_gracer at hotmail.com
Sun Mar 10 12:39:06 MDT 2013

Belated thanks to all for your great advice! I will definitely investigate the Hafner book.

From: bobmerk at earthlink.net
To: f_minor at glenngould.org
Date: Fri, 22 Feb 2013 16:29:36 -0500
Subject: Re: [f_minor] Gould and problem-solving

Hiya Jörgen, Karl 
et omnes --
Maybe a side trip to a parallel art and a 
different artist might help illuminate this odd question of why and when Gould 
mysteriously strayed from his trademark musical perfectionism.
Probably in one of his interviews 
with The Paris Review, the American visual artist Donald Evans (1945–1977) was asked about the 
(intentional) imperfections in many of his faux postage stamps and mail art (all 
of which he painted actual postage-stamp size). Examples might include 
intentionally ruined/damaged stamps -- a coffee-cup stain ring in a corner is 
the sort of thing one might expect to find in an Evans 
Evans had a phrase (which I've merrily 
forgotten) for these intentional imperfections, but he wanted them as 
important tools to achieve the "realism" of his faux postage stamps. Our 
ubiquitous experience with real stamps and real mail/post objects (envelopes, postcards) is pregnant with damage and 
stains and rips and tears, physical abuse inherent in the thuggish process 
of postal delivery, and (for stamp collectors) 
the inevitable damage of old age, fading, yellowing. 
Evans was striving not just for remarkably 
beautiful and evocative visuals (almost all watercolors), but for the opposite 
of what art museums go to costly lengths to prevent and delay -- the 
deleterious effects of time, aging, accidents, light, moisture and heat 
exposure. Evans WANTED the random inclusion of these "bad things," to subtly 
draw the viewer into the realism of his postage-stamp imaginary universe, 
to convince the viewer that the viewer was seeing "the real 
thing," "the McCoy."

Gould's escape from live performances to the 
"total control" environment of the recording studio must almost instantly have 
made him acutely aware of the sterility that is perfection's handmaiden 
and reward. 
Worse and more painfully, the studio must 
constantly and starkly reminded him of the spontaneous thrill of accidents, 
mistakes, audience coughing. Stripping his music of spontaneity and 
accidents (by editing out all spontaneity and mistakes and 
accidents) must have provided painful reminders of the musical 
reality -- the beautiful reality -- of live performance.
Perfectionism is a harsh mistress, who enjoys 
taunting and tormenting the perfectionist with her built-in and unavoidable 
failures to achieve that which the artist so obsessively desired. Studio Gould 
must have been a life like Tantalus' grapes: so intimately and deliciously 
near, but forever just out of reach.
Massachusetts USA
P.S. Before I gave up the vinyl ghost and moved my 
GG to the fancy new-fangled CD format, I'd come to love and anticipate every 
scratch, hiss and hiccup of my Mozart sonatas. Of course I took pleasure in 
hearing the pieces so marvelously cleaned up, but I missed my sloppy 
needle-kicking hissing old friends. Reality ISN'T perfect, and perfection rarely 
lives up to its promise to make us happy.
----- Original Message ----- 
From: <jorgen.lundmark at mypost.se>
To: "Karl Brown" <kbrown at physics.carleton.ca>
Cc: "Discussion of the Canadian pianist Glenn 
Gould." <f_minor at glenngould.org>
Sent: Friday, February 22, 2013 12:10 
Subject: Re: [f_minor] Gould and 

> Hello Karl,
> The most prominent "hiccup" 
recording is by far the inventions and
> sinfonias. I would suggest that 
the answer has to do with Gould's search
> for a specific tactile response 
of the instrument. It needed to be fast
> and very direct, like an F1 car. 
I guess he rated this over the "hiccups"
> even if he was aware of and not 
very pleased with them (see the liner
> notes to that album). At least 
that is my interpretation of that
> particular text, even if he on the 
surface seems to be writing about them
> rather fondly.
Sometimes Gould seems to accept less than perfect results. The most
glaring example I can think of is at the end of the first half of the 
> difficult finale of the 2nd partita. Every time I hear that faulty 
note it
> makes me cringe, and I wonder why Gould never went back and 
fixed it.
> Regards,
> Jorgen
>> Jorgen 
et al,
>> I concur, Katie Hafner's "A Romance on Three 
Legs" is a great read"
>> A question if I may 
>> If Mr. Gould was such a perfectionist, then why did 
he accept the
>> repeated "hiccups" (as named by Mr. Gould himself) on 
many of his
>> recordings?
>> Prior to noticing them, I was 
very content with many of his recordings,
>> I especially love the 
clarity he brings to them etc. but since paying
>> particular attention 
to and finding these hiccup's I find them to be
>> unfortunate and as a 
result I am becoming uncomfortable (to be honest)
>> and can't find a 
reason as to why Mr. Gould would have accepted them to
>> be released 
as part of his recording.
>> I first noticed this while listening to 
his Scriabin/Prokofiev, Track
>> #1, Scriabin, Dramatico @ 07:42. The 
hiccup is as clear as a bell yet he
>> was accepting of it just the 
>> Can someone provide an explanation?
Thanks in advance,
>> On 22-Feb-2013 9:37, 
jorgen.lundmark at mypost.se 
>>> 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 
>>> 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 
>>> harder than most to get the right action and sound from 
the different
>>> pianos he's 
>>> 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 
>>> more
>>> than most 
>>> 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
>>> 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 
>>> trove of everything concerning Gould and 
>>> 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
>>> much of the very aspects of piano playing it might just make 
>>> 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
>>> contrary to these ideas; the Ravel "La Valse" is one 
>>> I can't give you any exact quotes on 
any of the above subjects though.
>>> Someone else 
>>> Regards,
>>>> Good morning 
>>>>    One of the "32 films" has a 
voice-over describing the various pianos
>>>> 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 
>>>>    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
>>>> to go, metaphorically speaking?
>>>> Dave
From:maryellenjensen28 at hotmail.com
To:f_minor at glenngould.org
>>>> Date: Sat, 16 Feb 2013 23:51:20 
>>>> Subject: [f_minor] Sartorial 
>>>> "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 
>>>> 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
>>>> http://www.getkempt.com/icon/the-icon-glenn-gould.php
>>>> It's about 
>>>> Mary

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://ff0.org/pipermail/f_minor/attachments/20130310/4cbd1bfa/attachment.html>
-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: Sourds_Evans2.jpg
Type: image/jpeg
Size: 56801 bytes
Desc: not available
URL: <http://ff0.org/pipermail/f_minor/attachments/20130310/4cbd1bfa/attachment.jpg>

More information about the f_minor mailing list