Glenn Gould Mistaken for Glenn Gould
G. Reading Sheet Music
The muscles in his face twitch over and over again in an
irritated fashion, someone who is lost in the music. He is
looking at Bach's F major invention for the 2,234th time in
his life. His eyebrows are presto, while his fingertapping is distinctly a high allegro, about 130-140bpm. This is the proven tempo. It is the best tempo. He is away from the piano. It is approximately twenty-five feet away from him. But he is thinking about the piano. He is thinking about the hammers hitting the strings, how much damper pedal he should use. Should he sustain here, with the middle pedal at measure 43, or use the pedal on the left to bring the hammers closer to the strings, muffling the sound no matter how hard he strikes the keys? He goes through the various artistic iterations of the piece, what choices he can make. This is his 64th iteration of Bach's Invention in F major. He reads the piece, occasionally getting up and pacing around, all while looking at the sheet music. Bach is comforting. Bach is order. Bach is perfection. It becomes apparent that there is not enough light. He fumbles for the lamp's switch in the dimness. He is very serious. He wishes the B flat would go away. He thinks it is a troublesome note. It is not a useful note to him. It is a note in-between notes. He also knows that B flat is also A sharp. He thinks it’s frivolous that the same note must have two different names. In his world, he would remake the piano. But he is unfortunately a performer and a composer, not an instrument-maker. He dejectedly strides over to the piano. It is a cherry upright Baldwin, which is his least favorite piano. He places the music onto the stand and then begins to play without thinking, relying entirely on muscle memory and emotion.
G. As Described by His Manager And His Mother
1: "He was always an isolated individual, but I think that he is becoming more so now that he feels that his livelihood is being threatened. Don’t ask me why. He did not have many childhood friends growing up. He was an unusual man, but most unusual men who are considered geniuses are going to be loners. They’re not going to really open up to anyone."
2: "G. was always my special boy. I sometimes believe that I weaned him too early, but his doctor insisted that it would build character. Whenever he calls me he is always being irritable. I sometimes have to listen to drivel, but I ask him to play the piano and he does, just like I taught him.
G. was also a naughty child occasionally, too smart for his own good. He’d never go to bed when he was told, mainly because I couldn’t get him off of the damn piano. I sometimes threatened him for undermining me. I was fearsome to him, and scolded him in French frequently.”
G. Trying to Describe Bach To A Young Pianist Who Does Not like Bach
"Look, I wanted to talk to you… Yes, it's important that you would not like to play Bach… I think that you would enjoy playing Bach if you do not like to… yes, the technique is strenuous, I am certain of that, but it is a necessary evil if you’re going to get any good…
"I will tell you a secret: I did not like playing Bach when I was your age. This is normal. It is as normal as a passing cold. You will get over it. Just keep your fingers on the keyboard. That is the key to winning.
Run to your mother now, and one word: PRACTICE!"
Too much pounding on the keys.
Crushed on all sides by dirty, dirty people. Naked. Cold.
Hospitals. Adult diapers. Hospice care.
A doppelganger. A look-alike. Same name. Confusion.
Broken piano strings. Broken promises. Failed trills. Cold nights.
Catheters. Liver Failure. Persistent Vegetative State.
At A Bar
He is at another crowded function. At this function, he makes for the bar, where he sees a man that looks strangely familiar at the opposite end of the bar, sitting with his head bowed. The man who seems to look like him is nursing his beer, his index finger tracing the rim of the glass. It is long and spindly, much like G.'s. He is frightened. He has never met anyone who is like this. But at the same time, he wishes to approach the stranger who also ordered a Guinness. He goes over to the other side of the bar, and takes an empty stool. The stranger turns to face him.
They Have a Conversation
"Hello," G. says, with an outstretched hand.
"Hello, I’m a big fan."
"Do I know you?"
"I think you do. Our names are the same."
"So are our faces."
Attitude Towards Romantic-Era Composers
"I never played any of the Romantics into adulthood. They were all simpering lunatics. Especially Schumann, but what else can you expect from a man who threw himself into the Rhine while afflicted with a terrible case of syphilis?"
G.'s Doppelganger Relating to Glenn Gould
"My name is Glenn Gould, but you are nicer than me. We are similar, but we are different. For example, I had a nicer mother than yours, but I turned out to be a worse kid. Unlike you, I never learned from my mother. I taught myself how to play the piano. And I am proficient, but not as proficient as you are.
“I hope that you don't find it annoying that I have been unintentionally riding your coattails for all of this time. I simply get mistaken for you so often that it’s become my only way of making a living. I wonder if it would ever be possible to meet next week, perhaps in a more private place. I am always frustrated in these public places. I am often mistaken for you. I want to be my own person. I am Glenn Gould. You are also Glenn Gould. We are different, but even I am unsure as to how. I suggest we compare playing styles."
Glenn and Glenn Compare Their Methods
1. My stool that I use to play the piano measures to approximately 17 3/4 inches.
2. Mine is 17 1/3 inches. Shorter than yours, Mr. Gould.
1. I use my stool to pull down on the piano keys.
2. I pull myself up to the keyboard.
1. I mumble the melody sometimes. It helps me guide my hands.
2. I mumble the countermelody. It misdirects my hands to their proper place on the keyboard.
1. I tap the keyboard.
2. I pound it.
1. I mostly carry on fantastic conversations with myself.
2. I converse with my friends: My left and right hands.
At A Restaurant They Speak to the Wait Staff In Unison
"Duck a l'orange."
"The house Cabernet Sauvignon"
"The Chocolate Souffle to be split between us."
They Interview Each Other
G: Well, Mr. Gould, we know that we are similar. Our names are similar; our facial features are quite similar, even our professions are uncannily similar. But I hope that we are going to talk about music in this interview. Do you have your recorder at the ready?
G: As a matter of fact, I do have my recorder ready. In fact, I am recording you now as you have spoken to me. I find it hilarious that we enjoy tape recording
G: Yes (mild laughter), that is true. Our hobbies are even the same. Instead of my first question being about music, does this interview make you nervous?
G: Yes (mild laughter), this interview does make me nervous. In fact, it makes me so nervous. How do we know who is who? Are we both each other?
G: This is a good question, Mr. Gould, but we must first record for the sake of posterity our views on music. How do we view music differently?
G: I believe that music is more of a moral exercise than a dictatorial one. The artist today is far too totalitarian.
G: But isn't that necessary today? The audience craves instruction. They do not wish to collaborate. They are content to be passive. They are meant to be just receptacles for the artist's view. For example: If you and I were each to play Bach's Invention in D minor, at varying tempo speeds, wouldn't we be instructing the audience in different fashions?
G: Yes, but we are playing the same piece, and our artistic objective is the same: To play the piece the way that we intend to play it to convey certain truths to the audience and for the audience to either affirm or deny their preexisting notions about Bach.
G: I would agree with that, but we must realize that when we perform, we are enacting musical thoughts and iterations of those particular musical thoughts at a particular moment or place or time. We are still bound by context.
G: Yes, context binds us to the Promethean rock of temporal limitations. This is why I am a sincere believer in broadcasting and will cease to continue to play on April 22nd, 1964.
G: Why would you discontinue performing, Mr. Gould?
G: Well, Mr. Gould, I would have to say that it is primarily because of the limitations of live performance. Also, your use of the word "discontinue," gives me another reason to dislike live performances. They remind me far too much of a packaged product.
G: But in those limitations there isn’t there freedom?
G: Perhaps, but I enjoy the limitations of recording.
G: Yes, of course there are limitations of recording.
G: And I love those handicaps, the chief one being perfection.
G: The time to perfect sounds. Their shapes, their hearing. My interpretations and no one else's. It would be a zero-sum game. You can do that now with the new technology.
G: Then why perform?
G: Because it is expected. No modern composer is ever going to not perform.
G: This is true. (PAUSE) I do have a proposition though.
G. Mistaken for Glenn Gould
APRIL 22 1964 -- They are sitting together backstage, one shabbily dressed in a worn out overcoat, his driver's cap off to one side of his head, revealing one of his widow's peaks. He says that he is cold. The other is dressed in a nice blue pinstripe suit with a bright red paisley tie, not because he desires it, but because it is expected of him. They are sitting across from each other, and they can hear the buzzing of the crowd on the other side of the curtain. A stagehand is awaiting one of them to rise from his seat, emerge to the crowd, and play.
"You go," says the shabby one.
"Are you sure?" says the other with a crisp shirt.
"I don't want to ride your coattails, Mr. G--"
"You aren't," he claps him gently on the shoulder.
"You have no idea what this means to me," says the shabbily-dressed one, "This will be the greatest concert that I have yet to play." He then embraces G. for a moment, his dirty clothes threatening to smudge the crisp perfection of G.'s freshly pressed suit. He then goes past the curtain's threshold to wild but reserved applause. G. suspects perhaps that was so because of his shabby appearance. He pictures the crowd outside, not knowing if they are supposed to applaud for a hobo striding towards the piano. And then he begins to play.