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Glenn Gould and the artist’s new tools

(This article was originally published in the Swedish magazine Ikoner in 2006. I translated it into English especially for an American web magazine, which later gave a new meaning to the phrase editorial decorum by suddenly backing out. So, why waste the translation? Here it is.)

The pianist Glenn Gould was well-known not only for his brilliant but anachronistic interpretations of Bach, where he went so to speak in the opposite direction compared with those who aimed at authentic interpretations played on historical instruments. He was also known for his perfectionism, which manifested itself in grammophone recordings resulting from a meticulous cutting and pasting. Gould actually foreboded the working ways of the digital era.

Glenn Gould was a meteor fallen down on earth. Through him and his recordings, we get a glimpse of something quite unknown, which still is a part of our culture. Glenn Gould lifted Bach from the well of his own time up to a sort of timeless flow. Bach played on the piano is, of course, an anomaly. One can hear how Gould struggles against certain idiosyncrasies of the fortepiano, while making use of some of its others. All of a sudden, Bach becomes modern music. Or music for any epoch.

This is in accordance with Gould’s view on recorded concerts. They turn into sounding chronicles, nailed firmly to their places in history. The studio recording, on the other hand, edited together from several sessions from different points in time – and maybe even from different geographical places, free themselves from time, and thus from the anecdotal. Read more »