[f_minor] les chaises (the chairs)

Kevin Bazzana kevinbazzana at shaw.ca
Sat Jan 18 14:07:27 MST 2014

         I can contribute some additional information about the Gould

First, it is not merely a “legend” that Gould used only the one familiar
chair after 1953: He said as much, and no photographic or documentary
evidence or testimony really suggests otherwise. Lorne Tulk’s comments in
the film were a complete surprise to me, but I don’t think they really
change the basic situation. It has always been known that Gould and his
manager made occasional good-faith efforts to find an alternative to the
increasingly knackered chair over the years. As early as 1956, for instance,
there was correspondence (now in the Library and Archives Canada) with two
different companies, in Newmarket and Montreal, about constructing a new
chair for Gould (at least one of them made of aluminum); Gould himself
alluded to such efforts as well. Whether he actually ever used alternative
chairs in concerts or recordings for any significant period of time is not
documented, and Gould never suggested that he did—i.e., he never seems have
done more than sample alternative chairs, none of which were ever right in
the end (no pun intended). Lorne’s comment about Gould carrying two chairs
around for a time is interesting—it’s something no one else ever reported
seeing—though I don’t think this is something he could have witnessed at
first hand: He is talking about GG’s concert years here, and he didn’t know
Gould personally until after he had retired from concerts. Presumably he’s
remembering something Gould told him? Or extrapolating from something Gould
told him? Correctly? (Having written two biographies of artists recent
enough to have living family members and friends and colleagues, I could
tell you some real horror stories about the vagaries of human memory, even
“reliable” first-hand memories 
) Anyway, I don’t think Lorne’s revelation
somehow topples a “legend.” It’s not news that Gould made efforts to find
another chair, but ultimately there were only trivial exceptions to the rule
that he used only the one chair for almost 30 years. I mean, there are some
hastily staged photos of him sitting at a piano on other chairs, situations
in which the chair was temporarily lost or damaged in transit during his
concert days, etc.—but there’s no reason to believe that the “legend” about
Gould’s One True Chair was false, or even exaggerated.

         Even if Lorne is correct that it was Gould’s father who fashioned
the chair he displays in the film, it was not a mate to the “official” Gould
chair—it’s similar, but clearly did not come from the same set. It has a
different back (upholstered, rather than carved wood) and it’s beige rather
than green, as Gould’s was. The “official” Gould chair did indeed come from
a set of four folding bridge chairs, and in fact the identity of those
chairs was revealed in 2012, when Music and Beyond, a festival in Ottawa,
received a donation of an identical set of four chairs from the same maker
and period. And so we now know that the set from which Gould’s chair derived
was made in London, Ontario, by Hourd & Company, in the 1930s. The four
chairs that Music and Beyond received were in excellent condition, and even
had the original green leatherette seat covers. (The festival compared one
of its donated chairs with the Gould chair in the Ottawa archives,
confirming that they came from identical sets.)

The Toronto musician and writer Colin Eatock was the first to report all
this, on his blog, and he posted pictures for comparison:

         Music and Beyond subsequently put two of its chairs up for auction
on E-bay (Sept. 15, 2012—Gould’s 80th birthday). E-bay gave the dimensions
as follows, for what it’s worth:

Back height: 32 ½ inches (82.55cm)
Back width: 16 inches (40.64cm)
Seat height: 17 inches (43.18cm)
Seat depth: 16 inches (40.64cm)
Seat diameter 20 inches (50.8cm) 

         I don’t know what happened with that auction. The other two chairs
from the donated set are presumably still with the Music and Beyond
festival. Incidentally, around 2007, it was announced that a designer named
René Bouchara had fashioned an exact replica of the Gould Chair, which an
Italian furniture maker, Cazzaro, was selling for around 1,000 euros; I
don’t know if that’s still for sale.

         I’ve queried Music and Beyond about their chairs (since their
original page on the subject—linked by Eatock—has been taken down), and will
report back if they have anything further to add to the above.

         Kevin Bazzana


-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://ff0.org/pipermail/f_minor/attachments/20140118/78ca1075/attachment.html>

More information about the f_minor mailing list