Glenn Gould is a man who brought together two wonderful things; playing the piano and being weirder than a sock full of popcorn.
Now, to be what I consider a brilliant lunatic you need several characteristics. Firstly, you have to willingly have your photo taken, wearing a tweed suit, aged 12, playing the piano with your pet Dalmatian sitting and playing beside you. Check:
Secondly, you need to be strikingly good at something. Glenn Gould was an incredible pianist. He learned to play piano at three, was composing by the time he was five, joined the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto aged 10 and gave his first recital at 12. And by recital I mean publicly, on a stage, in New York. Not, as I did, with my neighbours, my friends and a photo of Beethoven, which I’d pulled up to the piano for the occasion.
Thirdly, you need to fill your life with an array of quirks, ticks and bizarre habits that will get you not only noticed, interviewed and the subject of gossip, but will also, in a park in Florida, get you arrested.
According to a highly-respected and exhaustive book I read on the subject (Wikipedia) “Gould hated the cold. He wore wool coats, metres of scarves, mittens and thick socks all year round. Even in really hot places. He was once arrested, presumably mistaken for a vagrant, while sitting on a park bench in Sarasota, Florida, dressed in his standard all-climate attire of coat(s), warm hat, and mittens.”
MISTAKEN FOR A VAGRANT!
He also insisted on sitting exactly 14 inches above the ground, which gave him the posture of a kind of glorious piano playing prawn.
Gould always had a certain rug put under his chair when he played, and that chair was constructed specially by his father . Gould was so attached to the chair that he continued to sit on it even when the seat had completely disintegrated. In pictures it looks like he’s sitting on a birthing chair. Or like when you put a boiled egg on the top of a milk bottle with a burning match inside. But, you know, a boiled egg in a razzy little wool suit.
Fourthly, you have to have a sense of humour. And, despite the way people write about him, Glenn Gould strikes me as having an awesome sense of humour. To whit:
“In his liner notes and broadcasts, Gould created more than two dozen alter egos for satirical, humorous, or didactic purposes, permitting him to write hostile reviews or incomprehensible commentaries on his own performances. Probably the best-known are the German musicologist ‘Karlheinz Klopweisser’, the English conductor ‘Sir Nigel Twitt-Thornwaite’, and the new York cab driver ‘Theodore Slutz’”.
He even once recorded a radio segment called Critics Call-Out Corner, where his friend, the CBS host Margaret Pacsu interviews two “distinguished” music critics (Twitt-Thornwaite and Slutz) — both of whom are played by Gould. The two men discuss the “controversy” raging around the Maude Harbour Flute Festival.
Now, I have no idea what the controversy was that raged around the Maude Harbour Flute Festival, but by hickory it sounds like fun.
Fifthly, your madness has to be in some way recognisable to me, and Glenn’s is. When he retired from public life Glenn Gould went off to make documentaries about the Canadian wilderness. My career has barely even started and I’m already looking forward to running away from the public eye to go and live in an unheated hut in the middle of Wales and stomp about in a vaguely Wordsworthian way thinking and talking about the sublime beauty of the wilderness while dressed like a lesbian uncle.
Glenn Gould also had a very endearing habit of humming and honking along with what he was playing, even during recordings. Which, for any of you who have suffered through watching a film beside me, will ring very familiar indeed.
Fifthly and finally, you have to be totally unapologetic about your eccentricity. In a CBS clip I watched, Gould was asked whether he minds people focusing so much on his litany of oddness. He replies, simply, “Not in the slightest”. “One of the joys of leading your own life,” he goes on “ is to control as many factors as you can to achieve comfort.”
That’s right, you just do what you can to stay comfy. And if that means being illegally hot in Florida, pretending to be a new york cab driver, playing the piano at teeth level, running away to the woods, howling along to your own music like a fox stuck in a bin, washing your hands in boiling water every time someone touches you, or having your arse hanging through a chair like you’ve just prolapsed, then so be it. All power to your elbow. Just keep on keeping on.
Dedicated to iconoclastic Canadian pianist Glenn Gould, Weber’s film recruits the talents of virtuosos from around the world—English Violinist Charlie Siem, pianist Mason Buccheri from California, Ukrainian ballet star Sergei Polunin and 12 year-old violin prodigy Claudius Agrippa. A series of vignettes feature the four interpreting works by Ravel, Debussy and others in Weber’s signature black and white tableau, unleashing the irrepressible spirit motivating such disciplined arts.
Art Basel Miami Beach—Tis the season for the men of Miami to dress up in Dior. Artistic Director for Dior Homme Kris Van Assche is launching a fifth freestanding retail boutique, a multi-dimensional luxury space offering instant access to the label’s ready-to-wear, footwear, eyewear, leather goods, watches, jewelry and fragrance. Distinctly anchored in the rapidly rising Design District, the space emphasizes Dior Homme’s signature sleek symmetry and contemporary architecture with rich, tactile finishes creating a sensory-stimulating shopping experience – including a permanent film installation.
What better way to inaugurate Dior Homme’s presence in Bruce Weber’s hometown than enlisting the filmmaker to create Can I make the music fly, a short merging the timeless sophistication of the Dior man with the elegant expression of a particularly diverse range of prominent and passionate classical artists. “I greatly enjoy collaborations with other artists, it’s one of the great perks of my job to work with creative talents who I admire,” Van Assche muses. “Bruce is an incredibly talented photographer and filmmaker and one of the most influential figures in the world of fashion. This film is particularly fascinating, as he brings a very personal aesthetic to his work.“
Premiering in synergistic timing for Art Basel, art and fashion luminaries converge to revel in the very thing motivating Weber’s latest work—the emotional dimension of creativity in every form. Van Assche adds, “It is one of the largest and most important international art fairs, drawing crowds from fashion, art, music, film and integrated industries from all over the world. For us, there was no better time to open a boutique in the Design District, and no better time to celebrate the store and this film project with Bruce.”
“The Loser” (Il soccombente)written by T. Bernhard in 1983 (Adelphi edition – trans. Renata Colorni), tells the story of a pianist, the story of the pianist, the one in front to which it becomes useless existence, as musicians and as human beings. The absolute defeat.
The plot? At a piano course held in Salzburg by Maestro Horowitz meet 3 pianists, one of them is Glenn Gould, the second one of his friends, and the third is the narrator, the unsuccessful party, the one who tells us how the talent of a man can bring other pianists gifted and extraordinary, to live a profound identity crisis. Great pianists but not enough to survive the music, being the music of Glenn Gould.
As I look at this piano closed and dusted, here beside me, I think of all of our talents, those from whom we allow to crush the fear of not being enough. Enough men or women? Who knows.