The Idea of North

At the center of the technological debate, then,  is a new kind of listener—a listener more participant in the musical experience.  The emergence of this mid-twentieth-century phenomenon is the greatest achievement of the record industry.  For this listener is no longer passively analytical; he is an associate whose tastes, preferences, and inclinations even now alter peripherally the experiences to which he gives his attention, and upon whose fuller participation the future of the art of music waits. He is also, of course, a threat, a potential usurper of power, an uninvited guest at the banquet of the arts, one whose presence threatens the familiar hierarchical setting of the musical establishment.

Glenn Gould, The Prospects of Recording

And the time has come again, to celebrate one of my favorite pianists. It is listening this time to his Hindemith, whose  wide chromatic lines held by impetuous harmonies and counterpoint makes Gould’s style quite fit for hispiano sonatas. It is particularly on the first and third sonatas where the performance’s inner rhythms and phrasing conveys absolute eloquency, as if the music were being explained to us, or as he put it once, an X-ray were done over the piece.

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And it is his abstracted style, his northernness which he so always alluded to , which always spring in his playing. Though idiosyncratic, his introspectiveness is one in which if we allow ourselves, can relate to as well, that personal relationship with the elements of the music, which at times, as one of his favorite writers, Natsume Soseki, said, one is released from the world’s illusory sufferings; one is able to come and go at ease in a realm of transcendent purity, to construct a unique universe of art, and thereby to destroy the binding fetters of self-interest and desire.

Devoid of sentimentality, and in a spirit of pure reverie and serenity is were we truly grasp the essence of artistic and intelectual thoughe, free from pretensions and collective interaction, and with much deference, is what Gould aimed at his best.

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This year, coupled with Shostakovich’s birthday, I contrastingly opted for a chocolate cake, topped and filled with pistachios and seasonal spring berries. After a nice celebratory meal, rewatching his CBC special Music in the U.S.S.R. was a nice way to sum up the weekend, particularly with his performance of Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet in G Minor, a meeting of the minds of sorts on a shared birthday.

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The highest principle for all reproduction of music would have to be that what the composer has written is made to sound in such a way that every note is really heard, and that all the sounds, whether successive or simultaneous, are in such a relationship to each other that no part at any moment obscures another, but, on the contrary, makes its contribution towards ensuring that they all stand out clearly from one another.

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