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Glenn Gould

The first session of my "The Imagination of Glenn Gould" class will take place this afternoon, Thursday, February 9, 2017. I remember seeing Glenn Gould play with the Cleveland Orchestra when I was in high school. And his recordings of Bach's Goldberg Variations have remained among my favorites. I had already offered several music classes. Offering a class on Glenn Gould made sense. The challenge is to find ways to translate my enthusiasm for his work into a meaningful LIFE course.

One of the things I didn't recognize when I initially sketched the course is the degree to which Glenn Gould was the product of a unique moment in technological and economic time. After only ten years on the international concert hall stage, he withdrew from public performance. Fortunately, recordings had improved enough that a recorded performance could be a close approximation of what might have been heard in the concert hall.  Even though Glenn Gould was no longer present before us in the concert hall, his ideas, his imagination could still be with us through the new world of high tech recordings.

G;enn Gould, the concert pianist, could prosper through his recordings and through the video productions in which he participated. That is much less true for today's classical musicians, ... the Internet world of "sharing" audio and video files has dramatically changed the economic equation. Today, classical recordings draw people to live performances. What little money this is to be had from classical music depends on live performance. Before Glenn Gould, the technology wasn't good enough for recordings to provide a full musical experience. After Glenn Gould, the sale of classical recordings isn't sufficient to provide a reasonable living to recording artists.

Clearly, Glenn Gould felt that the essential essence of what he had to offer could be capture by audio and video recordings. It was his mental image of the music that was so important. Yes, that imagining needed to be expressed, but the concept was what was so important, ... and so distinctive in the recordings he made. He was widely reported as having practiced by thinking through the various ways in which he might express his conceptualization of a piece of music. He practiced by thinking about the music. The idea came first. The idea was of central importance. Actual performance was of secondary importance.

... to be continued