Thursday, May 18, 2017

Glenn Gould (1932-1982)

Glenn Gould playing the piano in his characteristic position

Glenn Gould was born on 25 September 1932 in Toronto (Canada). He began to play the piano and to compose his own music very early. At 10, he entered the Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto. There he received his degree with the highest honours but never obtained a high school one. In his twenties, he isolated himself with his piano. His real name was Gold but his parents decided to change it into Gould because of the anti-Semitism that existed in Canada at the time.

He was really into Bach's music, so it is not surprising that his most famous work is his version of “The Goldberg Variations” (1955). He also began to appear on the radio and on television to record his compositions. His music was a mix between Elizabethan, classical and baroque music. He did a number of concerts but stopped after 9 years, in 1964.
After that, he became a recording artist only, because he considered the recording technologies as a ''distinct art''. He did not want to make copies of earlier works, and he therefore changed the harmonies and the structures of the pieces he took up, to end up with his own version. His talent and popularity are illustrated by the various film soundtracks that have used Gould's music; The silence of the Lambs (1991), for instance, or The English Patient (1996). He lived a calm life until he died of a stroke at 50, on 4 October 1982.

Glenn Gould was a bit of a character. He was very eccentric and lived in his own world. He was hypochondriac and had some OCDs, which made him special. He did not like to perform in front of an audience. He also hated it when people shook his hand, which is why he always wore gloves, no matter the temperature. In fact, he was a very solitary person who preferred to be left alone. He didn't really know how to act in social situations. The great and popular artist he was did not let a single bit of his privacy in the hands of the media. 

His famous and special chair

He was unconventional in both his social life and his music. He also had a very famous, special chair, which gave him his characteristic position on his piano. His clothes really showed his personality. In fact, he used to wear winter clothing, heavy clothing, even in warm places, such as a coat, a hat and mittens. He completely neglected his physical appearance. All these eccentricities turned out to be caused by a mild form of autism, which could explain his genius, his memory and his perfectionism.

He was a conductor too, but not for very long. He tried to begin his career as a conductor in 1982, but sadly died after his first recording.
His work spread everywhere posthumously and he became even more famous in the decades that followed his death. He played a significant role in media and in the creation of new techniques in this field. He had anticipated the fact that new technologies, as well as the internet, would ''democratize and decentralize the institutions of culture''. Many books and films were made about him.

By ChloĆ© PierrardSoline Braeckman and Marie-Esther Poivre


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