Saturday, November 2, 2013

DIY Gouldian Kits and the 13-Inch Chair

by Drew Martin
I recently watched Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould, which is a fascinating look at the complicated life of one of the greatest pianists. Gould hailed from Toronto, where he was born in 1932, and died in 1982. He is best known for his interpretations of Bach, and is said to never have missed a note.

I did not know much more about Gould beyond Bach until I saw Genius Within, and was surprised by his media trailblazing, which the film details:

At the time that Gould stopped performing, of course, it was a very big deal, especially for someone who was celebrated, to even contemplate not having a regular concert schedule. But what became unexpected fruit of that was this defense of recorded music, as the reality of music. He happened to come along at a time when the technology for recording music was really starting to take off, and got really behind that as a real advocate and innovator.

Gould had some very fanciful theories about what the possibilities of recording and broadcasting technologies were. They were fanciful in the 1960s. They are simply how we do business today in the 21st century.

“You know, I have a feeling that the end result of all our labors in the recording studio, it’s not going to be some kind of autocratic finished product such as we turn out now, but is going to be a rather more democratic assemblage. And I think we’re going to make kits. I think we’re going to send out these kits, and we’re going to say, 'Do it yourself,' and be, in fact your own editor, be, in a sense your own performer.”

Of course this just sounded lunatic in the ‘60s. But in essence, that’s not only what we can do now on our desktops, but we do do. You know, you hear these stories about someone reediting, you know, a Star Wars movie to take out a character they don’t like. That is a Gouldian kit.

While this section of the documentary inspired this post, I also need to point out an interesting sculptural object that was part of Gould's larger-than-life personality; his piano chair, which he had made by sawing the legs off of a regular chair so that the seat was a mere 13 inches off the floor. He brought it with him everywhere, like a tattered security blanket.

Embedded here is the trailer for Genius Within, and the full-length movie.