There are icons who go in and out of fashion, and then there is Glenn Gould, one who transcends trends of the past, present, and future. Although he is best known for his inimitable piano talent as a classical musician, he reigns as one of the most celebrated artists of the 20th century for his daring bravado, visionary thinking and intrinsically unique personal style.
Gould's originality started at the piano. While seated low to the ground and hunched over the keyboard, he delivered works of Bach and Schoenberg with absolute technical proficiency. His rounded posture, precise fingerwork, incessant humming, and habit of conducting himself whenever a hand was free while playing, became his trademark and so did his unconventional interpretations. Shocking conservative audiences, he was accused of being a maverick - playing a movement fast when it was marked adagio, accentuating unexpected notes, or breaking musical phrases where other musicians would have made a predictable connection. His musical proclivities may have seemed ruthless in rebellion, but on the contrary, they were rooted in intellectual depth, obsessive analysis and explorative experimentation.
Despite the legendary success of his prodigious career as an international concert pianist, he hated it. "The purpose of art," he wrote, "is not the release of a momentary ejection of adrenalin but is, rather, the gradual, lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity."
Gould chose to redirect his energy to more contemporary ways of communicating his musical message and pursued his devotion to the electronic media. In addition to his extensive discography, including the landmark 1955 recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations, he broke new artistic ground with his radio documentaries, television essays, and articles about the art of recording and mass media. Gould was more than curious about multimedia, he foresaw the profound impact of technology on culture and society. He probably would have had a lot of fun in our digital age.
|Karen Lin: "Thank you for your boundless
inspiration. Happy Birthday Glenn Gould!"
(September 25, 1932 to October 4, 1982)
A man of modern ideologies and an effortlessly disheveled swagger, Gould embodied what many hipsters strive for today. His unusual attractiveness, from the tousled and unkempt hair to nonchalant gestures, he was a recluse with a hint of a wild romantic and his extraordinary appearance made him the focus of Vogue, Glamour, Esquire and Life editorials. Although Gould's wardrobe choices were a prescription for his hypochondria - the overcoats and over-scarving, casual layering, simple open-collared shirts, tailored yet loose fitting trousers, and don't forget the gloves - The Gould Standard is abundant in menswear trends this autumn. We may not realize it, but just as he makes cameo appearances in pop media (listen for him in The Talented Mr. Ripley or look for his face in a scene between Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone in the film Copland), Gould's distinct style walks down the runways and is frequently captured on the street by blogging photographers.
Glenn Gould's unequivocal instinct for creating a masterpiece every time he sat at the piano, his eccentricities, his effortless style and his endless charisma, have made him not only a classical icon, but a classic. Whether or not you agree with his ideas, he must be admired for wholeheartedly expressing his individuality with such confidence and conviction.
"I believe that the only excuse we have for being musicians and for making music in any fashion, is to make it differently - to perform it differently to establish the music's difference vis-a-vis our own difference. I couldn't imagine a life in which I would not be surrounded by music. It shelters you from the world, protects you, and keeps you at a certain distance from the world. I do realize it and I know I obtain it through media. I know that I would have been very unhappy as a 19th century man."
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