|SEPTEMBER 25, 1932-OCTOBER 4, 1982|
|LUDWIG VON BEETHOVEN|
CAN ANYONE IMAGINE THIS MAN
CONSENTING TO APPEAR ON OPRAH?
I just watched a documentary on Glenn Gould, the Canadian pianist best-known as an interpreter of Bach.
The film is called Hereafter and in it, Gould makes an interesting and useful observation about freedom. He says, "I have often thought I'd like to try my hand at being a prisoner...I have never understood the preoccupation with freedom as it is understood in the Western world. So far as I can see freedom of movement usually has to do with mobility, and freedom of speech most frequently with socially-sanctioned verbal aggression. To be incarcerated would be a perfect test of inner mobility"...
Gould was not a member of any organized religion, but he engendered deep reverence in his listeners. He made people believe in God; he linked them to the eternal. Watching him it's impossible to imagine him with a woman: he was so clearly “wedded” to, consumed by, united with his music. Famously eccentric, he wore gloves year-round, and hated to be touched. He hummed and muttered and crooned while he played, and came to abhor concert halls, likening the experience to a blood sport like bullfighting, and to prefer the control and solitude of the studio.
"I've had all my life a tremendously strong sense that indeed there is a hereafter," he observed, "and that the transformation of the spirit is a phenomenon which one must reckon and in light of which one must attempt to live one's life."
He died at 50, in 1982, and yet in the clip below, filmed in 1981, he looks like an old man, partly because he insisted, his whole life, on sitting on the beat-up chair that his father had made for him as a child and so is hunched over the keyboard (which no doubt contributed to the beauty of his playing), partly because he suffered for decades from a variety of health problems and neuroses, partly because to have the kind of genius he did is perhaps a burden too heavy to bear for the span of a "normal" life.
"When I listen to Glenn Gould, admiration is not what stimulates me," one young fan notes, close to tears, near the end of the film, "but rather what he has done, the kind of man he was, how he led his life, what it's got to do with me."