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Saturday, June 13, 2009

A Romance on Three Legs - Glenn Gould's obsessive search for the Perfect Piano





The title alone of this (quite) recent book by Katie Hafner was enough to capture my attention, down at the book-shop and to buy it... the word "obsessive" or "obsession" is like a siren-call for yours truly...like if only such a state of mind would allow to reach highest peaks of interest and devotion to anything on this planet;-)

About Glenn Gould's, his rejection of live performances, his full-heart commitment to the recording process and merits, his arms and hands luke-warm hours-long baths before playing, his humming and singing along Bach's immortal notes, etc. etc. etc. the trivia about him, his art and idiosincrasies could fill several essays.... BUT what mrs. Hafner does in her book is rare and seldom read: she interviewed the blind Canadian tuner who accompanied maestro Gould almost all his musical life and was able to give to a piano, through the straighforwarded description of its building and fine-tuning, a one year long process, a soul by itself: a labour of love itself, this too, for a writer and an author.

She talks about and describes felt, needles, touch, woods, skills and secrets, down to the ugly "thing" (look at the book cover for a mix between a worn out park bench and a foldable pic-nic chair), a seat Gould used for decades, but that also would not have been enough for a great, little book... through the several sides of Glenn Gould's life, from boyhood to his death of ictus at 50, what she reaches is just a tad crazy (the love for half a ton of wood and metal "thing"), BUT so enriching and informative for a technical essay, yet a TRUE romance, like the title suggests.

An instrument, like audio gear - not new words here - is merely a tool in the hands of an artist and/or a music lover, deserving the utmost care in choosing, understanding to be used at its best for the best possible results... it's not a matter of Steinway CD 318 for Glenn Gould or, humbly, my Lowden S-35 "Rio" or Guild F-312 Brazilian/Adirondack, but in the process of blending, interaction between artist and instrument, to complete each other pros & cons to find everyone's VERY own "voice" among voices...

In the meantine, buy this book: it's a moving, pleasing, great reading.

1 comment:

R_Carter said...

If you'd like to get a different point of view on the whole Glenn Gould Gestalt (!), I'd suggest also "Der Untergeher" ("The Loser") by Thomas Bernhard.