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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.

7 Responses to Until Next Year: Eminent Reflection 2016

  1. talonsalumna says:

    Loved how your learning centre was so comprehensive while still having a few very memorable bits, like the chair! And the board put up high with his name and face is absolutely a must-have!
    About closing the door behind you… I think you may be surprised in the coming months and years how often GG will make a return into your life, whether it’s in the new connections you’ve made with places and people (interviewees) or more likely, just in your thoughts. You can never really walk away from them, especially once you’ve internalized them in the speeches and discovered so many why’s for their decisions. And it’s their courage, integrity, and putting-my-foot-down doing-it-my-way spirit that really sticks with us.
    It’s pretty awesome that the whole NOTN gives us a chance to be all those things, isn’t it?

  2. talonsalumna says:

    You bet I did, though I wouldn’t have minded: my all-knowing, wise-sensei, super-awesome boss sisters. (Does sensei work for girls too?)

  3. Mr. J says:

    I concur with the glorious sensei sister alumna: outstanding post that shares a great many of the insights, thoughts and feelings that unfolded through your first pass at Eminent, Lucas. Excellent stuff!

  4. talonsalumna says:

    YES. ( and that comment is a keeper! )

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