Glenn Gould: An Apology...
‘When music affects us to tears, seemingly causeless, we weep not from “excess of pleasure”; but through excess of an impatient, petulant sorrow that, as mere mortals, we are as yet in no condition to banquet upon those supernal ecstasies of which music affords us merely a suggestive and indefinite glimpse’
--E.A. Poe, ‘Of Music’ (1844).
As for technical facility, Gould was a consummate master of musicianship whose seemingly effortless fluency of keyboard address was as accomplished and natural as has ever been witnessed in humankind vis-à-vis precision, clarity, control, dexterity, speed, and strength.
This technical facility was of course the sum of every fibre of his physicality--which also included perfect pitch; but what moreover makes Gould’s musical realizations uniquely distinctive--in tandem with the acoustical impact of the phenomena of his music-making, is his idealistic philosophy of poststructuralist aesthetics whereby he exercised in real space-time the production of musical sound.
In his art, Gould began with the premise that the musical artwork consists of the Idea conveyed via the intelligible data semiologically constructed within the system of orthography and illustrated upon the printed page.
In other words, the musical artwork is in fact the mental image conveyed within the immanent text itself, regardless of whether the textual data are ever acoustically realized in performance via the use of a mechanical instrument, or not--(an image possibly construed by the term ‘Augenmusik’, abetted by the ‘inner ear of the imagination’).
From this starting premise of idealist Form, the next most significant issue is that of musical intention--i.e., of metaphorical geometric design which may be termed ‘architectonic structure’.
Architectonic structure in a well-designed musical artwork is neutral in terms of dimensions, retaining its values of organic unity and consistency of relationships whether expanded or contracted in psychic duration or acoustical space-time.
From these considerations it directly follows that Gould, as the creative artist in musical interpretation, exercised liberty of decision in performance (e.g., with regards to tempi, rhythm, dynamics, phrasing, attack, tone, articulation, ornamentation, pedalling, etc.), while always maintining the principle of beauty as the sole motivating factor, thusly effecting the player (and not the auditor) as the true critic of the artwork.
‘To the critic the work of art is simply a suggestion for a new work of his own, that need not necessarily bear any obvious resemblance to the thing it criticizes. So, by intensifying his own personality the critic can interpret the personality and work of others, and the more strongly this personality enters into the interpretation the more real the interpretation becomes, the more satisfying, the more convincing, and the more true. The world has become sad because a puppet was once melancholy, and there are as many Hamlets as there are melancholies’
--O. Wilde, ‘The Critic as Artist’ (1890).