Searching for

journey of a ten through talons

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Until Next Year: Eminent Reflection 2016

I really should have written this right after Night of the Notables, when all the emotions were still flowing (but not the tears – the grade tens took care of that). Instead, I turned to our Facebook group:

I really don’t know if i can say this as a lowly nine but i am so proud of the tens. Having been to so many eminents but not realizing the work the stress the fear and the energy that goes into this and seeing each and every person on that stage is so beautiful
and in the closing circle when we all rubbed our hands is when i realized that talons is a family and we all love each other and we all care about each other and talons is a big happy fam and we’re all in this together

Awful punctuation and grammar aside, those few words reflected how I felt fairly well. But I’ll write about the other parts of my day, before all the sappy stuff.

(All pictures that I took on the night can be found here)

The real day started with the final bell. And as both classes gathered together for the first time in a while at 3:10, it was getting difficult to breathe.After a quick cleanup, the learning center setup started, and with it came the screams, frantic I-need-tables-please-let-there-be-enough-tables shouts, and blasting music from the tens. Perhaps the most relaxing and refreshing moment of the day was when I stepped out into the chilly November air to collect a few materials from my dad. Dinner was great. Enough was left for another meal the next day. We got the whole MPR to ourselves. Everyone was really loud. Yay.And then there were two hours. Once everyone had been satisfied with their learning centers, there was actually time to admire other ones, and I greatly enjoyed testing out the activities that various people had planned. The guests started to flow in at 6:30, and the grade tens ran off backstage for a pep talk and to do some nervous pacing. At exactly 7:00, the show started with a wonderful performance from Bob Dylan.

A wild Jackson spotted.

This was my ninth NOTN, and around the 250th speech I’ve watched. But I didn’t realize anything until I started to see the grade tens. The brief segments filled with passion, sadness, humour, and endless life lessons meant so much more when I knew the people behind the costumes. When I had heard their struggles in person, watched the antsy rehearsal with a number of speeches unwritten, and felt their uncomfortable spirits dancing around throughout the day of, I (as much as a grade nine can) was able to understand their pain and fear. But I remembered what got them on the stage in the first place giving those speeches. It was their passion for their eminent people, being their eminent people. It was the enthusiasm. It was the bravery. And that’s what I’ll take away the most, and store away for when I look out from the stage in less than 365 days.

Being a grade nine, my job was fairly easy, without any costumes, acting, or public speaking necessary, but that didn’t mean that I had any less fun. By the time cleanup had started, I talked to nearly 30 people, including parents, younger siblings, and very interesting alumni (with some very trippy questions). I think that the more visual and hands-on components of my learning center were very popular, and everyone loved sitting on Gould’s chair (though they were skeptical it would fall apart at first). The people I enjoyed talking to the most were those who knew a bit about classical music, piano, or Gould. That way, I could tell them about the more complex parts of my learning center and Gould’s personality and playing style, and factor in my own opinions as well. They were also the people came up with the most thoughtful questions, more than just the usual “Why did you choose this person?” and “Why are they eminent?”.

If you did miss it, here is my learning center:

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I was extremely lucky to get a locker bay for my learning center, and my design revolved around the ability for strangers to walk inside the locker bay and peruse the materials I had laid out. I put the aspects of Gould that I wanted to learn about closest to the hallway, so they could look at it right away.

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First of all, I put a poster of some photos of Gould on the top of the locker bay, so people could see who my eminent person was from far away.

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The main component of my learning center was Gould’s chair. I also brought in a piano bench that I play on from home, so people could sit on both to see the difference.

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I wasn’t able to bring a keyboard, so I just printed one out! The black paper at the bottom left edge of the frame was a brief description of Gould’s attachment with his chair. Above it is a quick summary of Gould’s life and personality, as I wanted to give people who didn’t have a chance to speak to me something to read. In front of the keyboard are some scores that Gould annotated, kindly provided to me by Kevin. Lying against the locker bay was a timeline of his life.

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Above the timeline was a quick process on how I made his chair (the full process can be seen here).

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Next, I chose to speak about Gould’s hypochondria. I found a hat, scarf, and gloves that Gould always wore. Right beside it were multiple pill bottles (thanks Michelle for supplying some), and a few pages of Gould tracking his blood pressure around every half hour (thanks again to Kevin for scanning me a few pages).

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I also chose to speak about Gould’s love with the recording process. To the right of my blurb about it is a recording log. Above it are some various CD jackets that I own. On top of that are more annotated scores, as well as some books and sheet music I brought from home. I also included a video of Gould performing on a tablet, but it’s not in the photo (I took these before the night started).

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Here are the two interviews I conducted with Kevin Bazzana and Tim Page.

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I also made a poster board with quotes from critics, contemporaries, and Gould (for the composers side).

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I served some food as well! Gould loved arrowroot biscuits, and asked for them at recording sessions along with Poland Spring Water (he hated tap water and thought that they were full of germs). But I couldn’t find spring water from Poland, so I had to compromise with French Spring Water (close enough!)

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The final two components of my project were on the opposite wall. First was a collection of photos I took when I went to Gould’s hometown, Toronto (the post I made about that can be seen here).

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Finally, I made a map of all the locations Gould made (the Eastern United States section was quite cramped, so I had to leave some locations out.

Overall, I believe the parts of Gould that I chose to focus on were quite interesting to research about and present to visitors. If I was to be able to change parts of it, I would devote a section to Gould’s personality and playing style, and feature more videos and recordings of him. But I think the chair was very engaging, as well as the documents I had collected and the pill bottles (everyone was intrigued about that!).

And then it was over. And then the cleanup was over. And as we all gathered in 204 for the closing circle, I had never heard the group that quiet. It was mostly composed of nines and tens (particularly tens) sitting on anything they could find – tables, chairs, the floor – and staring unmovingly into space. But when we started to clasp our hands with each other, and rubbed them together to unanimously thrust them into the center of the circle, that was when I understood TALONS and my place in it. And since it’s a little hard to put into words now what I felt at that moment, here – again – is the text I posted on our Facebook group just half an hour after the closing circle ended:

I really don’t know if i can say this as a lowly nine but i am so proud of the tens. Having been to so many eminents but not realizing the work the stress the fear and the energy that goes into this and seeing each and every person on that stage is so beautiful
and in the closing circle when we all rubbed our hands is when i realized that talons is a family and we all love each other and we all care about each other and talons is a big happy fam and we’re all in this together

I think now the initiation is over. Now, we are one group.

All in all, this project was extremely successful. Not only was I able to conduct an interview, create a learning center, and present a speech, I accomplished both of the rather ambiguous goals I set out for myself at the beginning of this project: I was learned about several aspects of his life beyond a Wikipedia article, by looking at his documents, speaking to people who knew him, and watching interviews. But, more importantly, I was able to gain a greater understanding of the classical music I play and how I play it, and nothing in this entire project was more powerful when I was able to speak with him when we sat together on a bench in Toronto.

To wrap up this ridiculously long post, here are some thanks I feel obligated to give to Gould and music intellectuals:

Colin Tilney – for replying to my email, providing a fairly telling opinion on Gould, and encouraging me to listen to some of his favourite Gould tracks.

Emanuel Ax – for taking a few moment from his incredibly busy touring life to recommend me a few books about Gould.

Tim Page – for providing an impromptu phone interview all the way from California, and give me a wonderful insight into his friendship with Gould, as well as autism and Asperger’s Syndrome.

Kevin Bazzana – for not only speaking with me for nearly two hours on Gould, but also providing me with several links of information and more than a dozen photos and documents that are unpublished. Thank you for always replying so promptly, and giving me extensive answers on any question I had.

A few more personal thank-you’s:

Ms Mulder, Mr Jackson, Mr Salisbury, and Ms Dingle (in order) – for helping take us on the enriching library trip, answering my many questions to do with many things, sitting on Gould’s chair while being 6’6” and allowing me to take a few photos, and helping me write my speech.

My dad – for helping me create Gould’s chair, and critiquing my learning center.

My sisters – for providing expert alumni evidence for just about everything to do with this project.

My fellow 9’s – for struggling together with me through the duration of this project, and enduring my savagery.

Finally, thank you, tens, for showing us the way.

Most importantly, thank you, Glenn Gould. Thank you for opening the door and allowing me into your life, to take a few pictures, write a few things down, collect a few things, listen to a few notes, and shut the door quietly, but firmly, behind me. Now, whenever I need to listen to some classical music, I know I’ll always gravitate towards your recordings. And I hope that I’ve done a little good to advance your legacy.

So, Eminent Person, goodbye.

Until next year.

By

Clearing House Pt. 2: Learning Center Creation

My penultimate eminent post, about how I made parts of my learning center.

This is my ninth eminent person, so I’ve seen my fair share of learning centers. I think the most powerful ones are areas that are interactive and present information through other means than text. Knowing that, I decided to compact my ideas into as little writing as possible, maximize my use of photos, engage the lesser-used senses (touch, taste). Here are the main components of my projects and how I made them (other parts will be featured in my learning center documentation post):

Documents of Gould – Due to Kevin having been to the National Archives, where Gould’s papers are stored, he had a full harddrive and cabinet of photocopies. He sent my more than a dozen photos of Gould, notepads he wrote on, annotated scores, scripts for television, and various miscellaneous things. The National Archives also had a website with tons of artifacts (I go into more detail on my annotated bi-blog-graphy. The actual presentation of this can be seen on my learning center documentation post – will be up soon! There’s a video shot of Gould’s apartment right after he died, and I used it as inspiration for my learning center.

Poster – I tried to stay away from writing on the poster, instead using it like a forum board: there was a section where Gould explained his interpretations, one where the best quotes from critics were featured, and various quotes from his contemporaries. In order to make the board fit in with my learning center, I taped black paper on either side of the tri-fold to create the atmosphere of a piano.

Chair – This was the main component of my project. Gould’s attachment with his chair was well-documented, and I chose to tell my speech from his perspective! The chair still exists and resides in a museum in Ottawa, and there are several photos of its current state. Below is the process of how I made it (the album can be viewed here):

First, I bought a black chair from a thrift store. I had to make sure it was solid, as I would be cutting parts of the legs off.

 

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I then sawed off the piece connecting the pairs of legs, and cut off six inches off each leg.

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I then removed the seat of the chair, as Gould sat on his so much that the seat fell apart as well, leaving just the frame.

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Gould wasn’t only sitting on the outside frame of the chair, so I added a cross-section similar to his.

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The design on the back of Gould’s chair was different than the one I had, so I sawed it off and made a design from cardboard.

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Gould sat on his chair for nearly 30 years, and it gained a ghastly amount of wear and tear. So when I painted the design and the cross section of the chair, I made sure to make irregular strokes and scratch the chair legs with a knife and sandpaper.

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Finally, I glued it together.

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Bonus: here’s a pic of me looking very confused while sitting at the piano on the chair.

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The overall experience of making Gould’s chair was very fun, and it was great that I could actually try playing piano on the chair (it was very difficult). When people come around to my learning center, I’ll definitely get as many participants as possible to sit on it!

 

By

Clearing House: Speech 2016

After the dust has settled from the craze of NOTN, here are some things I meant to post previously:

Speech final draft:

The masses are waiting for blood. They wait anxiously below, wanting nothing but something to cheer for. Or, something to demean, something to groan about, something to destroy in the papers tomorrow, a performance that will only raise eyebrows in disbelief and discontent, a performance where people will emerge saying “Oh, that’s just the nutty Canadian pianist doing his own thing”. Because people are creatures of habit. And if you’re different, you’re a threat – the masses will either destroy you, dismiss you, or blindly hail you as a god. But you’ll never be taken seriously. Or, for that matter, the chair you sit on.

It was in 1953 when Glenn’s father approached me with a handsaw, proceeding to cut six inches off each of my legs, and added brackets and bolts to make them adjustable. Of course, over the years, it’s still not short enough for Glenn, so he usually raises the piano, sitting around one foot off the ground. That’s nearly half as high as where normal pianists sit. And he’s 5’11’’. But of course, using the word normal to describe my owner would be far from flattering.

Ever since he was born, he was hailed as a prodigy. The youngest ever to receive a piano diploma. Performing with an orchestra at 14. And at 23, for his first recording, playing the Goldberg Variations by Johann Sebastian Bach, and taking the musical world by storm. All this, without receiving a high school degree.

That’s when the popularity began. And it was a life to behold, especially for me. He always cared for me, packing me in my own travel crate, never performing without me. Together, we’ve gone all over the world. To sold-out crowds in every major concert hall in Canada and the United States. In Russia, where he was the first westerner to perform since the Cold War began.

But just because he was good at it didn’t mean he liked it. And as I rest on the empty stage, his beloved Steinway CD 318 in front of me, waiting along with a restless Los Angeles crowd, no one else knows, except me, that he may never give another concert. Glenn has always said that the concertizing was just for the money, and he would turn to his preferred medium, recording, as soon as he could. He’s even said this: [Play clip of Gould: “I detest audiences. I think they’re a force of evil.] Audiences, to him, are a distraction. They’re a variable that can’t be controlled, and Glenn is all about control. He wants every aspect of his life to be in perfect order, and touring is the exact opposite. The halls are cold, illness strikes in foreign countries, and playing live in front of an audience means that he’ll won’t be able to correct inevitable mistakes.

Glenn uses every excuse to cancel a concert, and he’s known in the popular media as a pill-popper and an eccentric, always wearing a scarf, hat, and mittens. He doesn’t want people shaking his hand. He suggested banning applause at his concerts. And he once attempted to sue a Steinway employee for patting him on the back.

It doesn’t help that he hasn’t sat on any other chair in the last ten years. Bit by bit, my paint has started to chip off, and my padding has started to twist away from the frame of my seat. Like Glenn, the endless struggle of travelling from venue to venue with hours in transit has taken a toll on me. I’ve been taped and wired, but nothing is stopping the aching pains I feel every concert. People can hear it, too. In most recordings, especially in the last few years, you can hear me creaking along with his awful humming. According to Glenn, though, I’m “indispensable”. We’ve developed a special bond, and I’m the only chair where he can find the “right contour”. When he moves left and right, I’m able to move with him. He’s never given a concert without me.

The thunderous applause snaps me back to the concert hall, where the program is about to begin. It’s a classic Gould performance, with works that he’s perfected over the years. The rigorous life of a concert pianist doesn’t allow one to try anything new, or to take risks. Still, as he strikes a key to begin his performance, the audience is immediately captivated. So has anyone who has listened to Glenn play. His interpretations are never conventional, often doing the exact opposite of what the composer wants, and that’s what he believes in. Take this: [Play clip of Gould: “I believe the only excuse we have for being musicians is to make it differently.”]

Classical music is still trapped in the past, refusing to embrace anything new. Pianists play pieces the same way over and over again without emotion, without heart, without the fearlessness that draws people to listen. And when a pianist who embodies change storms the stage, people either love it or hate it. Mostly, for the last few years, it’s been hate. Look at this review [Grabs newspaper]: “Playing is immature and inexplicable”. “He played like a stupid ass.” [Closes newspaper] But perhaps the worst was before a concerto with the New York Philharmonic, when the conductor personally delivered a speech in front of the audience declaring that the slower tempo and changed dynamics were not the ideas of his own, and he didn’t like them. Glenn was ripped apart in the newspapers the next day for that.

The final notes echo through the hall, and multiple curtain calls follow. As the satisfied concertgoers file out, and I’m folded lovingly back into my crate, it seems odd that this is the end. In the coming weeks, months, and years, his contemporaries will urge him to return to the stage, and hundreds of thousands of dollars will be thrown his way just to give one more concert. But that’s just Glenn. He doesn’t care about what others think about his playing or personality. The recording studio has always been his location of choice, where a combination of the controlled environment of the studio, with no more than six at once in attendance, and the ability to manipulate the sounds to perfection is exactly what Glenn wants.

The trip from Los Angeles to my native Toronto spans nearly 2,500 miles. And it gives me time to reflect. To reflect on the ten years that Glenn has enthralled audiences across the globe. And to reflect on the time where the conductor George Szell told Glenn to stick one of my chair legs up his rear end. But to also look forward. To look forward, seeing him playing the works he always wanted to play, and to complete the rest of his life alone, without the glare of the watchful public eye fixed upon him.

It’s been a long journey, as I open my eyes. The recording studio. I’m home.

I felt like my speech was very successful. I wrote my first draft one week before I presented, so I could internalize the writing when I was editing. A total of five drafts were created, and the final copy (seen above) is extremely different than the one below:

It’s amazing how the most beautiful things in life start entirely by accident. Two strangers who bump into each other on the street end up loving each other for the rest of their lives. An unknown athlete seizes his chance when the team’s starter gets injured and becomes a star. And the combination of and a teacher’s unorthodox methods, a slouching back, and a boating incident leads a young pianist to seek a chair of his own specifications.

And that’s where I come in, you see. A fairly standard model by all accounts, I was manufactured around 30 years ago, and came into the possession of the Gould family around the 1940’s. Of course, being a normal chair in a set of others and a poker table was never meant for me. I knew my calling was to a higher place, a more glamourous occupation.

The opposite happened.

Glenn’s father stared at me as he approached with a handsaw, proceeding to cut off six inches off each leg, and ad brackets and bolts to each of them to make them adjustable. Of course, over the years, it’s still not short enough for Glenn, so he usually adds blocks under each leg of the piano so he sits around one foot off the ground. That’s nearly half of where a normal pianist sits. And he’s 5’11’’. But of course, using the normal to describe my owner would be far from flattering.

Ever since he was born, he was hailed as a prodigy. The youngest ever to receive his piano diploma. Performing with an orchestra at 14. And at 23, as his first recording, playing the Goldberg Variations by Johann Sebastian Bach, taking the musical world by storm. All this, without receiving a high school degree.

That’s when the popularity began. And it was a life to behold, especially for me. He always cared for me, packing me in my own travel crate, never performing without me. Together, we’ve gone all over the world. Every major concert hall of Canada and the United States, to sold-out crowds. Russia, where he was the first to perform since the Cold War began. Germany, Bach’s motherland, performing his works to great acclaim.

But just because he was good at it didn’t mean he liked it. Glenn has always said that the concertizing was just for the money, and he would turn to his preferred medium, recording, as soon as he could. He’s even said this: [Play clip of Gould: “I detest audiences. I think they’re a force of evil.] And no one ever believed him. He didn’t care, though. And as I rest on the empty stage, his beloved Steinway CD 318 in front of me, and a restless Los Angeles crowd awaiting another concert. No one else knows, except me, that he may never give another one. I’ve seen it him, these last few years. After his breathtaking tour around Europe back in 1957, he – and the musical world – expected nothing less than greatness when he went back a year later.

Disaster struck. The cold halls were too overwhelming, and illness after illness arose. Concerts in Hamburg, Berlin and Vienna were all cancelled. Some critics have said that it was nothing more than Gould’s infamous hypochondria, a theory I must confess to agree with. Glenn uses every excuse to cancel a concert, and he’s known in the popular media as a pill-popper and an eccentric, always wearing nothing but a scarf, hat, and mittens. He doesn’t want people shaking his hand. He suggested banning applause at his concerts. And he once attempted to sue a Steinway employee for patting him on the back. It doesn’t help that he hasn’t sat on any other chair in the last ten years. Bit by bit, I’ve started to chip off, and the padded seat has started to twist away from the frame of the seat. Like Glenn, the endless struggle of travelling from venue to venue with hours in transit has taken a toll on me. I’ve been taped and wired, but nothing is stopping the aching pains I feel every concert. People can hear it, too. In most recordings, especially in the last few years, you can hear me creaking along with his awful humming. According to Glenn, though, I’m “indispensable”. We’ve developed a special bond, and I’m the only chair where he can find the “right contour”. When he moves left and right, I’m able to move with him. Once, a few people from Columbia Records, Glenn’s label, secretly took my measurements and built an exact replica of me. Imagine my disbelief! But of course, Glenn tried it, and graciously rejected the gift.

The thunderous applause snaps me back to the concert hall. The program has just begun. It’s a classic Gould performance, with his favourite composer, Bach, followed by a Beethoven and Krenek sonata. And as he strikes the key to begin his performance, the audience is immediately captivated. So has anyone, even a non-classical music lover, who has listened to Glenn play. He refuses the piano music of the Romantic greats, instead enjoying the odd combination of Bach and the Second Viennese School. His interpretations are never conventional, and that’s what he believes in. Take this: [Play clip of Gould: “I believe the only excuse we have for being musicians is to make it differently.”] And people either love it, or hate it. Mostly, for the last few years, it’s been hate. Look at this review [Grabs newspaper]: “Playing is immature and inexplicable”. “…at present suffering from musical hallucinations that make him unfit for public appearances.” [Closes newspaper] But perhaps the worst was when before a concerto with the New York Philharmonic, the conductor personally delivered a speech in front of the audiences declaring that the slower tempo and changed dynamics were not the ideas of his own. Glenn was ripped apart in the newspapers the next day for that.

The final notes echo through the hall, and multiple curtain calls follow. As the satisfied concertgoers file out, and I’m folded carefully back into my crate, it seems odd that this is the end. In the coming weeks, months, and years, his contemporaries will urge him to return to the stage, and hundreds of thousands of dollars will be thrown his way to give one more concert. But that’s just Glenn. He doesn’t care about what others think about his playing or personality. The recording studio has always been his location of choice, where a combination of the controlled environment of the studio, with no more than ten at once in attendance, and the ability to manipulate the sounds to perfection is exactly what Glenn wants.

The trip is long, spanning 2,500 miles from Los Angeles to my native Toronto. And it gives me time to reflect. To reflect on the ten years that Glenn has enthralled audiences across the globe. To reflect on the time where the conductor George Szell told Glenn to stick one of my chair legs up his rear end. To reflect on the time when Szell, during another collaboration, saw Glenn fiddling with the chair and piano, and exclaimed: “Perhaps if I were to slice one sixteenth of an inch off your derriere, Mr. Gould, we could begin.” But to also look forward. To look forward, seeing him playing the works he always wanted to play, and to complete the rest of his life alone, without the watchful public eye.

It’s been a long journey, as I open my eyes. The recording studio. I’m home.

I was satisfied with the delivery of my speech, practicing for a few hours each two days before my presentation (the day before wasn’t as productive – it was election night). I went the last in the entire class, but it wasn’t too nerve-wracking, and I enjoyed finishing off the class speeches. I enjoyed the longer time limit that the grade nines had, and it will be a squeeze to be as powerful as I was in grade nine in just two minutes.

By

Annotated Bi-blog-graphy

Websites:

Wikipedia

Very good general article about Gould. Accurate facts, contains lists of Gould’s discography and compositions. Also links to several other sources on Gould. Fairly interesting, includes several useful photos and recordings.

Sony’s Glenn Gould Website

Complete website about Gould, includes: blog of Gould news, very detailed biography by Kevin Bazzana, interactive timeline of Gould’s life, an acrostic-like list of various aspects of his life, a complete interactive timeline of his discography, a list of useful books, and a photo gallery.

Glenn Gould

Includes blog of Gould news, a link to a Facebook page with regular updates on Gould, more than 200 photos of Gould, as well as a Youtube channel of official Gould content (CBC broadcasts, performances, interviews).

The Glenn Gould Foundation

Has links to other helpful websites, short biography, podcasts of people speaking about Gould. Best feature is an interactive tour of famous Gould haunts – I used the guide to find the best places to visit when I was in Toronto.

Glenn Gould Archives

Was very helpful when I was doing my learning centre. Has a timeline of his life told by various documents, including annotated scores, photographs, awards and trophies, writings, scripts for TV broadcasts, and programmes. Also includes art inspired by Gould, unpublished interviews and a list of most books written by Gould.

Glenn Gould Archives on CBC

More than a dozen videos of Gould being interviewed, Gould’s broadcasts and radio programmes, and reports of Gould after his death. Most importantly, includes a video shot of Gould’s apartment right after his death. I used this footage to see what artifacts I would include in my virtual exhibition of Gould.

The Guardian Article on Gould

An article featuring several pianists (Angela Hewitt, Stephen Hough, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Steven Osborne, Francesco Piemontesi) offering their opinions on Gould. Hewitt’s opinions were particularly interesting, as she is Canadian, and grew up watching him. I enjoyed reading modern performers’ takes on Gould, and how much he had influenced them.

Anton Kuerti on Gould

Kuerti, a Canadian pianist, is one of the most harsh critics of Gould. They were friends at the start of his career, but Kuerti was “excommunicated” by Gould after making a joke about him. This article rips apart not only Gould’s interpretations, but also his relationships with his friends. Some of the points were rational, others were simply wrong. But I greatly enjoyed reading a drastically different opinion on Gould, and asking my interviewees on his views.

Books:

Glenn Gould: Creative Lying by Andrew Kazdin

Kazdin was Gould’s record producer for several years, and this memoir outlines Gould’s recording and editing methods. But it also sheds light on Gould as a friend, and how their relationship ended abruptly.

The Art of Glenn Gould edited by John P.L. Roberts

A vast collection of Gould’s writing, along with several interviews. The book helped most when I was trying to find quotes for my learning centre. It was very organized, and I could easily find scripts, letters, and essays on composers, sorted alphabetically. The interviews were also fun to read, and were full of juicy quotes by Gould.

Wondrous Strange: The Life and Art of Glenn Gould by Kevin Bazzana

The main source of information I used for this project. It was a massive work on Gould’s life, not only closely detailing his life, but also including a chapter about his various eccentricities. Every part of the book was extremely detailed, and a large part of the books included quotes from Gould. The introduction also spoke about his legacy and posthumous life.

The Glenn Gould Reader edited by Tim Page

A book similar to The Art of Glenn Gould. The writings on composers are fairly similar to The Art of Glenn Goud, but other unique interviews, including one that Gould did with the editor of the book, are featured. My favourite part was Gould’s extensive conversation with Artur Rubinstein, another pianist.

Documentaries/Videos:

Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould

A documentary on Gould made about five years ago. Features several interviews, not just of people who knew Gould (Lorne Tulk, Cornelia Foss, John P.L. Roberts, etc.) but experts who never encountered him (Bazzana). It wasn’t conventional at all, choosing to focus on his relationship with Cornelia Foss, his interpretations, recording, and the Idea of North.

Variations on Glenn Gould

Documentary made about Gould when he was still alive, featured several interviews about him as well as a recording of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. The conversations with Gould are provocative, including the famous “I detest audiences” quote, as well as interviews with other musicians and their take on Gould.

The Idea of North

A documentary made by Gould about Northern Canada. This showcases Gould’s talent in creating radio documentaries, as well as something he called “contrapuntal radio” (overlapping voices). Gould found great interest in the solitude of the north. Told by five different characters, this is as close to his autobiographical statement as it gets.

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BONUS INTERVIEW!!!

As mentioned in my first interview post, I had four responses from my six interview requests. One of them, the music critic and now professor at the University of Southern California, was Tim Page. He responded and said he would be happy to speak to me, being good friends with Gould, and I replied with some possible times. I heard no response, and naturally assumed the conversation was over.

But, on Saturday, I found an email in my inbox:

Forgive me for my tardiness, Lucas.   Can you call today?    xxx-xxx-xxxx.

I’m not brilliant in the afternoons but I’ll do my best.

Tim

Yes, something so exciting that it merits three exclamation marks in the title. I scrambled to think of a few questions for Tim, and called him 15 minutes after I saw the email.

Having spoken with an “expert” on Gould, Kevin Bazzana, my first interview was able to gain a vast amount of information on Gould. But just a handful days away from the actual eminent person, I wanted more than facts. I wanted an insight into Gould’s character, from someone who was close to him.

We conversed for nearly an hour, and the conversation (in point form) can be seen below:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/15ephHuLaDB7yndn3Xqpc13G68WCEYX9_uKhPh5ZwNVQ/edit?usp=sharing

I was extremely satisfied with the interview. The most powerful moment of the interview was definitely when we started talking about Asperger’s Syndrome. Tim himself has Asperger’s and believed that Gould did as well. He thinks that the shared condition was a reason why they related so well together. We also spoke about Asperger’s in general, how they’re viewed in society, and how people with Asperger’s should be embraced. Even though it had nothing to do with Gould, I learned the most from the five-minute conversation we had about Asperger’s and autism.

There were also more snippets of information I learned that couldn’t be found anywhere else: his relationship with his producer Andrew Kazdin, Gould’s political views, and Tim’s interactions with other Gould experts (including Kevin!).

One of the first things I will do when I have time after this project is listen to the recordings of the interviews I had with Kevin and Tim. I probably approached the interview from a more analytical sense, but once it’s over, I can listen to it again and enjoy the conversations I had.

Overall, the whole interview experience was probably the most rewarding part of eminent. Both people I interviewed were extremely excited to speak about their areas of expertise, and repeatedly asked what age I was. Next year, I’ll probably try to straddle the two aspects of the eminent person that I found worked for me: someone who knew the eminent person, and an expert.

SEVEN HOURS

 

By

A Glenn Gould Journey

A few months ago, I was invited to attend a piano masterclass and convocation (all expenses paid) in London, Ontario. I immediately accepted the offer, but it wasn’t until a few weeks before I left when I realized that a huge opportunity awaited me just two hours away, in Toronto.

The old stomping grounds of Glenn Gould.

And so, having taken a look at some of his most famous locations in the area, I decided on three that were in the proximity of downtown (I also wanted to check out Rogers Centre and the CN Tower):

110 St. Clair Ave. West – Old apartment from 1957.

21 St. Clair Ave. West – Old Fran’s restaurant that Gould always ate at, now closed.

Glenn Gould Studio – Recording and performance studio named after Gould. Includes his childhood piano and other photographs. There is also a statue of Gould in front of the studio.

The main goals/questions I wanted to accomplish from this visit were:

  1. Gain an insight on Gould’s Toronto – what the conditions he lived under were like.
  2. What is his legacy today? Are there others that are trying to find his legacy like I am?

I set out last Sunday, completing the 200 kilometre drive to downtown. My first stop was his own apartment that he lived for many years. It’s main use was for sleeping and practicing, as Gould never cooked. An anecdote that my interviewee, Kevin Bazzana, shared with me is about how a person who cleaned out Gould’s apartment after his death was surprised at how clean and unused the cutlery was. Another story comes from the superintendent of the building, Marilyn Kecskes:

I used to sit up here, after I had done my cleaning, and I would listen to him play all night long. He never knew I was up here, or else he would have been angry with me, I suppose, but I had the moon and the stars and his music and there was nothing more beautiful.

It was surprisingly normal when I visited the building, it is still an apartment, after all. A small plaque was in front of the entrance, but nothing else alluded to the fact that Gould lived here before.

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(The full album of photos I took can be seen here.)

I headed down St. Clair to his favourite haunt, Fran’s. This place was its original location, and there are multiple ones open around Toronto. Due to its proximity to Gould’s home, he ate the most often at this location. He only ate one meal a day, often at 4 am at the 24-hour Fran’s. It’s now a Union Social Eatery, with no sign of the old restaurant.

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Even though it was a place that Gould always visited, I didn’t feel satisfied at all seeing a new restaurant that he had no connection to. But there were other options as well. Right beside Eaton Auditorium, Gould’s preferred recording location in the 1970’s, is another Fran’s, and one he occasionally frequented. There was just enough time to order take-out, and I wanted to experience Gould’s diet: scrambled eggs, toast, salad, and orange juice.

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After the detour, I went to the final location: his studio. Inside was a lobby that contained several photos of Gould, along with his Chickering piano that he played as a child. Unfortunately, the public could not play it, but a few years ago, my piano teacher did! She was surprised at how quick the action was (the keys would spring back up almost immediately after being struck) when she played it at a moving Gould exhibit in Victoria.

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But perhaps the most powerful part of my adventure was seeing the statue of Gould sitting on a bench in front of the studio. All the places I had seen leading up to that were interesting and quirky, but didn’t give me a unique insight into Gould that I couldn’t experience from looking at photographs. Seeing the statue changed everything. It wasn’t popular by any means – most people I saw sat as far away from him as possible. However, as I stared into his eyes, his customary gloves, scarf and hat adorning him, I started to realize who Gould was. My countless hours of research had created a mystic aura around Gould, and seeing his lifelike figure right beside me was a little overwhelming and uncomfortable, to be honest.

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Review of my goals:

Gain an insight on Gould’s Toronto – what the conditions he lived under were like.

When I was walking on the nearly-deserted streets of Toronto (it was a Sunday morning), I quickly found striking differences in the environment between Toronto, the business capital of Canada, and Vancouver, the west coast city surrounded by trees. I was surprised at how nearly every senior was wearing sunglasses. Whether they were to actually block out the sun, or just to avoid social interaction, I’m not sure. But most people seemed to be going somewhere, and they didn’t all seem to be enjoying it. It was a huge contrast with Vancouver, where only a small fraction of the people seem to be urgently busy, and everything is more laid back.

This, I believe, made a huge impact on Gould’s work. First of all, the economical nature of his native city probably affected his work – the atmosphere didn’t suit him very well, which might be a reason why he loved recording in the wee hours of the morning, with the streets empty and darkness surrounding him. Also, culturally, Toronto is a very diverse place. It might have been a reason why Gould could find his niche inside Toronto, where a combination of the diversity and business-like, self-centered attitude of the city would mean that his eccentricities wouldn’t be too emphasized.

What is his legacy today? Are there others that are trying to find his legacy like I am?

During my interview with Kevin, he highlighted the fact that Gould was indeed still very popular today. But as I went to so many places where Gould was, there was no one else that showed remote interest in the plaques or pictures of him. Whoever sat on the bench kept shifting uncomfortably away from the statue. This may be because, again, the always-changing landscape of Toronto. It’s been 35 years since Gould died, and the musical world has moved on. I do believe his legacy has been lost, particularly in Toronto.

Before my adventure, I think I was waiting for a revelation. I wanted something to set off a spark inside of me, to reignite my passion for my eminent person during the laborious tasks of creating a speech and learning centre. But nothing did change me, or my perspective of Gould. I didn’t learn anything new about him that I couldn’t have Googled.

I think that the biggest thing I gained as a little insight. A small nugget into where he lived and how he lived. A reminder that, no matter how little people today know him, there is always something that will forever reside in Toronto.

And, to a certain extent, reside within me.

Oh, and I also brought a little snack for him.

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By

The Waiting Game: Interviews 2016

AHHHHHHHHH ONE WEEK LEFT OH NO NONONONONO PLEASE STOP

[Insert scream]

Eminent Person for ya.

It started around October 24, before the madness of speeches and learning centres started. Knowing that interviews was incredibly elusive to find, I sent out a total of six emails to various intellectuals. They are:

Angela Hewitt – Canadian pianist. Known for disliking Bach’s interpretations.

Kevin Bazzana – Gould’s main biographer. I used his book Wondrous Strange for a paper about Gould’s Russian tour when I was in grade eight, and it was an amazing resource. Interviewed by Ben a few years ago for his Eminent Person project on Gould.

Emanuel Ax – American pianist who grew up in Canada, introduced to various composers and their works by Gould’s recordings.

Colin Tilney – Canadian harpsichordist. Known for Bach’s interpretations, from Victoria, family connections.

Anthony Tommasini – Journalist for the New York Times. Has written multiple wonderful articles about Gould, expert in general classical music field.

Tim Page – American journalist. Interviewed Gould in 1981, compiled Gould’s writing into The Glenn Gould Reader (a wonderful resource I’ve used in the last few weeks).

I knew that all of these people would provide an amazing insight on Gould despite their varying professions. It was a complete coincidence that half of the requests I sent out were musicians, and the other half were journalists and writers. Here is a copy of one email I sent out (all of them followed a general template I created):

 

Hi Mr. Ax:

How are you doing?

My name is Lucas Hung, a Grade 9 student in Vancouver B.C. We were recently assigned an in-depth research project about an eminent person of our choice. Being an aspiring classical pianist myself (I prefer Bach, Beethoven and Chopin), I chose Glenn Gould. As a pianist, I always listen to his recordings, and although not agreeing with them most of the time, find the interpretations to be incredibly creative and exciting. Not only do I want to learn why he chose to be so different, I’m also interested in learning about his work as a producer and his personal life.

I know that you grew up watching Gould and was influenced to learn the Bach partitas and Strauss piano works by his recordings. It would be amazing if you could help shed some light on his playing, and just Bach and classical music in general, or direct me towards someone else that could help me as well.

Thanks so much,

Lucas Hung

 

Replies rolled in very quickly, to my great surprise. Here they are, in chronological order:

Hewitt/Tommasini – no reply

Bazzana – said he would be very happy to give me an interview. I wanted to speak over the phone, and we set up a time.

Tilney – declined. Here is part of his reply:

I think I shall ask to be excused being interviewed; I don’t have anything of much interest to say about Glenn Gould. I’ll do one positive thing for him, though. I suggest he listens to Gould’s playing of C20 composers (Schoenberg, Hindemith, Krenek, Berg, Prokofiev etc.) on volume 4 of the Glenn Gould Legacy – three discs, M3K 42150. He had his heart in that music and he wasn’t trying to be clever or contradictory. He just loved it – and it shows.

That speaks volumes of what he thinks about Gould in just five sentence, particularly of Mr. Tilney’s opinions towards Gould’s interpretations.

Page – Said he would be very interested! I replied with a few dates where I would be available, but he hasn’t replied yet.

Ax – Declined. It seems as if for a different reason than Colin.

I never met him so I probably would not be much help, but there are many interviews, and a book called “the Glenn Gould reader” with all of his writings which is funny and wonderful.

Manny Ax

“Funny and wonderful” would suggest he thinks highly of Gould, and he probably doesn’t want to give an interview simply because he didn’t know Gould, and there are countless interviews out there. The Glenn Gould Reader has definitely been one of the top sources I used, though.

 

And so, six requests, four responses, two declining, and one that hasn’t replied. That left Bazzana. I scheduled a phone call with him for Sunday, October 29 at 2:00, thinking that it would only take around half an hour.

I planned around 13 questions, expecting each one to be a few minutes. But Kevin went into so much detail on each one that I was left reeling of how much he knows about Gould. We ended up talking for nearly two hours, and my questions expanded into ones about his own musical tastes. I recorded the conversation, but will not include it due to his wishes. Transcribing the interview seemed like the next logical choice, and I finished around one questions and answer. It took me almost one hour, and it was one thousand words long. Thankfully, I took notes during the conversation, and slightly edited them to make them readable. You can see it here:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1goCCFuP8YNYyv4udWoKlwE-vGXeMfY3PVT-5NG1MMK0/edit?usp=sharing

I think that Kevin’s most powerful statements came when I asked him more general questions about Gould’s life, particularly about his relationship with Gould and where he thought Gould would be at. They were inspiring because he was able to relate with his life, and how Gould has inspired him as a creator. Overall, he was very articulate in his answers, and I was surprised about his breadth of knowledge. Parts of his book that had gotten one page (his chair, for instance) were topics he actually knew more about, and it was interesting to see him build on his own ideas with all the information he knew. The extra information he gave to me about Gould’s chair has already helped me in my speech.

Kevin gave me so much to think about Gould’s character that, in some twisted way, I’m satisfied with just one interview. Besides, notably in Mr. Tilney’s case, a short email declining the interview spoke volumes about his reservations for Gould. And that’s part of his legacy. Few pianists in history have drawn so much support or opposition about their playing and personality.

I’m glad that Kevin shed some light on his figure, and I will only continue to learn more about the legend and who he was.

7 days.

By

Zip: Complete

If you want to something to read for a few hours:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7Dl1AVOtF6ha0JQOFIzOGFOWDQ/view?usp=sharing

If you don’t want something to read for a few hours:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7Dl1AVOtF6hbW9od21KZ2E2aE0/view?usp=sharing

If you’re just here for the meme:

http://vignette2.wikia.nocookie.net/legomessageboards/images/3/3c/Stephen-colbert-celebration-gif.gif/revision/latest?cb=20130924031040

 

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