The Glenn Gould Foundation thanks all its readers and contributors to The Contrapuntal Blog.
Since the release of our new website in March 2010, we have created a new space for creative Submissions and have wrapped up the Blog for the time being.
Please visit us at www.glenngould.ca for updates on our activities.
The Glenn Gould Foundation Team
The Contrapuntal Blog
The Glenn Gould Foundation thanks all its readers and contributors to The Contrapuntal Blog.
|DJ Young hails from the Pacific Northwest. She grew up on the island of Wrangell, Alaska, surrounded by Tlingets, drunken lumbermen and lots of water. When she wasn't climbing trees and stealing cigarettes she enjoyed listening to tales of mystical land otters, ravens and cholera epidemics. As young musician in college she came across Gould's '81 recordings of the Goldberg Variations and has lived in fascination ever since. She is currently at work revising her first (well third really) novel, To the End of Love.
My introduction to the Goldberg Variations came in 1991, when I was still in college, pretending to study music. I was completely directionless at the time, unable to decide if I wanted to be a writer or a composer or a filmmaker or a chain smoking vagabond; I did not have the musicianship to be a performer (nor the discipline to attain it), and I was thoroughly absorbed by the late 19th century, Impressionism, Debussy, Satie, Les Six -what I then considered to be the last great gasp of art. Silly youth.
My professor, for reasons only he knows, decided it was time to open our ears a little further and played both the 1955 and 1981 versions of Glenn Gould’s performance of the Goldberg Variations. I remember feeling transfixed, completely removed from my immediate surroundings and later borrowed a copy of the 1981 recording from the library. I listened to it for three days straight – the clean, clarified logic of it, the mathematical precision of it and the provocative intimacy of Gould’s humming spinning me further inside of it. I was 21, lonely and felt isolated amongst peers who were more outgoing than I was, better performers than I would ever be, seemingly unafraid of anything. I had never felt comfortable as a student. Bouts of anxiety and depression kept me largely friendless and while I was crawling inside my own skin to explore my varied obsessions, I rarely showed my own efforts to anyone. Then came Gould and Bach and the Variations and very suddenly I felt almost liberated.
On practice hours when one of the choir rooms was empty, I would sneak in, keeping the lights off and put on Gould’s Variations, usually the 1981 recording, which, while less energetic than the 1955, felt more personal to me. I would listen and watch the other students go by from the window, waiting for one in particular who went the same way every day. I watched her carrying her large sack full of books, hoping she would pause at one of the benches to rest so I could take her in for a short while. I never knew her name and never approached her, not even by accident. She was The Girl, with long, auburn hair, so thin she looked lost in the bulky coats she always wore. She didn’t remind me of anyone else. I’m not sure I would remember her face today.
One after the other, the Variations was the perfect accompaniment to my own youthful, anxious thoughts. Gould’s precision and egoless finesse bringing some order to the world, a sense of something more important, expansive, ongoing – sure of itself. I did not relate to my anxieties at those moments, or my depression, the mood swings that would leave me crawling in pathetic circles, up and down walls just to find some balance, some idea of where I was headed. The world was too much then, too straight to be suddenly gay in, too serious to be crazy, too demanding to not be good enough in. When the headphones went on, all the doubts went away.
Two weeks before that class, before that momentous (for me anyway) introduction, I had swallowed a bottle of pills, aspirin tablets mostly. I never cried out for help, had no interest in being helped; my family life was a mess. I had a younger brother with a terrible heart condition that, in two years, would make him a transplant patient. My parents were divorced and uninterested in anything but their own half-lives. I could not concentrate in my classes or anywhere else in my life. I wanted to learn but had no idea what to do with myself. I did not feel necessary, just another waste of space. Realizing I might also be gay only made my reality seem that much more alien. No one wants to be an outsider, especially where it rains a lot.
My suicide attempt failed, of course, though I was sick for about a week. I returned to class with no one the wiser, I had told no one of my attempt, only felt more pathetic than I already was, couldn’t even die properly. How difficult should something like that be, anyway? A part of me knew I didn’t really want to die – I just wanted some certainty, some clarity and something approaching self-esteem. I’d stopped believing in God in my teens, but I never stopped hoping. I just wanted to find my way through that unfound door, to Wonderland or Neverland or Oz or wherever the outcasts went.
Some eighteen years later, it matters less that I never found it, but I still listen for it. Listening has become the landscape of my dreams.
Below is a video of Christian Vasquez conducting the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra playing "Castellanos - Santa Cruz de Pacairigua" in rehearsal before the October 29, 2009 Youth Concert at the Rogers Centre presented by Rogers for over 14,700 students across Ontario. Enjoy!
Stay tuned for more!
The below blog post is also a Google Wave wave. View the wave to see screen shots of the app!
Adam Lazzarato (@adamlazzarato) is a 19-year-old Intern at The Glenn Gould Foundation. He is responsible for overseeing the Contrapuntal Blog and tweeting for the Glenn Gould Foundation at @GlennGouldFndn. His musical tastes consist of mainly North American indie rock, but over his time at the Glenn Gould Foundation, he has learned to love and respect Glenn Gould’s piano. He will be entering into his second year at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario in September to study Computer Science.
I recently sat down with the free "Bravo Gustavo" app on the iPhone.
"Ever wonder what it is like to conduct a world-class orchestra? Spend some time in the shoes of Gustavo Dudamel, the LA Phil's new music director and experience the rush of a maestro. Transform your iPhone or iPod Touch into a conductor's baton or set the tempo by tapping the screen. Your audience awaits!"
- iTunes Music Store
There were a couple things I really liked about the app:
There are two (more available to buy) pieces that you can play, both of which are energetic, and exciting, exactly what you would expect from an iPhone app made with Gustavo Dudamel in mind.
March to the Scaffold (Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique)
Dream of a Witches' Sabbath (Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique)
Now, the app is not an mp3 player. It gives the user control of the tempo of the piece, effectively letting the user become the conductor! It is quite interesting to see how the pieces can change when you hand the app to different people.
2) Motion Sensing
Apart from the amazing music that the user has the opportunity to play, the fact that the user can physically wave the iPhone like a baton is quite an awesome feature.
Though, I prefer not to use the motion sensing. I prefer to tap the screen to set the tempo of the piece while watching some of the stunning images of Gustavo and the Los Angeles Philharmonic pass by.
I wish there was more selection in the number of songs that come with the app, but since the app is free and there are simply awesome photos of Gustavo and the LA Phil, the poor selection is not a major problem.
Overall, this app scores a 4/5.
To give a quick report on the new documentary that screened at TIFF this week - Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould - I am happy to report that this will likely become the gauge by which we measure the quality of future films about Gould. It is a brilliant and highly accurate piece of work, in that the many interviews conducted, were done with those who were closest to Gould. The Foss family is absolutely delightful, and one really gets a sense of how much of Gould's public facade was just that. While the film is not just about his relationships with women, namely Cornelia Foss, it does make up a good portion. And rightly so, because never before have we been able to see this other side of Gould. There are some incredible pictures AND footage which has never been seen before. The film does not sensationalize anything or anyone, nor does it perpetuate the myth of him being a recluse who wears winter clothing in the summer. Gould definitely had issues with being in control, and totally knew what he was doing in creating his own image. Let's face it, we all still buy into it to some extent. This film goes beyond that, as I said, and shows us a side that has not yet been revealed. We need to know this side existed, not to be nosy or anything, but more importantly, to have an accurate conception of who he was and what he was about. It's a brilliant film and you all MUST see it! It's worth it for the interviews alone, never mind the footage. I particularly liked the interviews with Lorne Tulk, Kevin Bazzana and Pet Clark. Yes, she's in it too!
On a side note, we were informed that the film will be in theatres across Canada very soon, and also that an American company has purchased the rights to show it in that country (not sure about overseas). I believe that company will be announced shortly. In the US, the film will show in about 30 different cities. Back here in Canada, a shortened version of the film will air on Valentine's day, on the Bravo! network. As for when it comes out on DVD, I have been advised by the Estate that it likely won't be for at least another 6 months. Indeed, something to look forward to!
Best wishes from Toronto!
Penny Johnson (Contributing Author, The Glenn Gould Foundation)