10-04: Gorgoroth Under the Sign of Hell 1997 - Glenn Gould : Beethoven Symphony 5 / Liszt | Bach Goldberg Variations 1955 & 1981 Remaster - Art Farmer & Benny Golson Meet the Jazztet 1960 - Janis Joplin Live 1967 - Mercedes Sosa 30 Años

1713 – Valentin Molitor (Swiss composer, organist, priest & music director, St. Gall Abbey)
1838 – Sophia Maria Westenholz (German composer, pianist, singer & teacher)
1848 – Louis Massonneau (German violinist, composer & conductor of French ancestry)
1907 – Alfredo Keil (Portuguese composer, painter & poet, Portuguese national anthem "A Portuguesa")

1935 – Marie Gutheil-Schoder (German operatic soprano, premiered Schoenberg's Erwartung)
1949 – Edmund Eysler (Austrian operetta composer & pianist)
1969 – Natalino Otto (Italian jazz singer & actor)

1970 – Janis Joplin (American rock singer, songwriter, painter, dancer & music arranger)
1970 – George Frederick McKay (American composer, author & teacher)
1975 – Alexander Gray (American pop singer, actor & television host, This is Music)
1979 – Christina Spierenburg (Dutch singer)
1982 – Glenn Gould (Canadian pianist, composer, radio broadcaster, writer, conductor & singer)

1990 – Alyn Ainsworth (English pop singer, guitarist, dance band leader & television host)
1991 – J. Frank Wilson (American rock & R&B singer, The Cavaliers)
1992 – Laurie Anders (American pop singer & actress)
1994 – Bill Challis (American jazz arranger & pianist)
1994 – Danny Gatton (American blues, rock & country guitarist)

1999 – Grim [Erik Brødreskift] (Norwegian black metal drummer, Immortal, Borknagar & Gorgoroth)
1999 – Art Farmer (American jazz trumpeter, flugelhornist & flumpeter)

2009 – Mercedes Sosa (Argentine folk singer, drummer & leftist political activist)
2010 – Sir Norman Wisdom (English comedian, singer-songwriter & actor)

Write-up and SUPPLEMENTAL POST (how could I forget about Erwartung?) in several more hours...

Oh, and...

Përshëndetje, Shqipëri!
[5 hours later]

Okay, I'm back now. That last thing I wrote there was "Greetings, Albania!" in Albanian. I noticed we had our first reader from that lovely Balkan paradise just as I was signing off. Several other new countries have been added to our readership in the past couple of weeks, including Thailand, Italy, and South Korea. Welcome and greetings to you all, in your respective languages! I KNOW YOU CAN'T UNDERSTAND ME, BUT IF I SHOUT, WILL IT HELP?

Okay, look... I've made a decision. I'm going to have to scale way back on the write-ups. There are already several posts out there that are as yet write-upless, and I still need to go back and do something with those. But I'm sensing the main thing you folks are here for is the "Read more..." bit anyway, and of course to look at the pretty pictures (I don't know if any of you appreciate how much time I spend putting those collages together; just finding all the images I need is time-consuming in and of itself). So, I'm going to be doing like I've been doing a lot recently, which is to put a lot of links in the list, so you can do your own research about any of the musicians who really interest you. That's not to say I won't be writing anything at all any more about some of them, just that I'll only be doing so when I really feel compelled to - when I really feel like there's something I need to say about one or more of them.

Today, there's only one musician I feel like I really need to say something about, and I'm sorry if all you hippies out there are disappointed it's not Janis Joplin, and if all you black metal fiends out there are sorry it's not Grim. If it makes you evil little bastards feel any better, I did put the Gorgoroth album he played on at the head of the post title, and in doing so have probably succeeded in frightening off what little readership this blog had to begin with. Ah, well... it's all for you, Damian, it's all for you...

No, the one I'm going to talk about is Glenn Gould. Glenn Gould is one of those musicians who's totally indispensable, and totally controversial, somebody you can't help but love, or hate, or love-hate. And those are the best kind. (Come to think, Janis Joplin is sort of in that category as well, isn't she? Okay, so I said something about her now. Are you hippies satisfied?) For in the arts - or really, in any field that puts one in the public eye - it is wonderful to be loved, but it is still okay to be hated! The only true curse and horror is to be not cared about at all.

I'm one of those you can put in the love-hate category as far as Glenn Gould goes. For I could listen to his piano-playing all day long. The problem is that recordings of JUST his piano-playing do not exist. The only recordings he left for us are those of his singing and humming, with the sounds of his pianoforte mixed faintly into the background. And honestly, Glenn Gould was a terrible singer. I mean, sometimes whatever note his voice was on wasn't even part of the harmony, much less the melody, that the composer was on at a given moment. Worse yet, Gould's bad habit (which it was, honestly, notwithstanding his own repeated claims that it was an essential part of how he made music) has rubbed off on later pianists, who've taken it as carte blanche to vocalize as loudly as they please throughout the entire classical repertoire. Emanuel Ax comes to mind. Among the younger generation of virtuosi, Fazil Say is particularly bad about it. Just listen to the samples of his Haydn on Amazon, and you'll see what I mean. Mind you, his Haydn (that's to say, the Haydn as produced by his fingers depressing keys, and his feet depressing pedals) is spectacular.

There were other somewhat rather maddening things about Gould. I once heard a radio interview with him from the late 60s in which he claimed that Petula Clark was superior to the Beatles. Something to do with her connection to tradition, or some horseshit like that. I think Gould enjoyed being a contrarian, someone whom you could expect to give you the unexpected, or at least something you couldn't quite get from anybody else. That philosophy was most apparent in some of his interpretive choices, especially as concerns tempo. There are many examples of pieces he took either much faster or much slower than anybody else did. And there are pieces he recorded more than once where his tempo is much faster or slower on the later recording than on the first.

But above all with Gould, of course, is that touch. That articulation, that phrasing, the smallest details of a piece, along with its grand sweep. I heard the great pianist Leon Fleisher in an interview talking about how piano teachers almost always teach their students to approach the keyboard with curved fingers, so that one plays on the fingertips. But he noted that if you look at the two greatest piano virtuosi of the mid-20th century - Glenn Gould and Vladimir Horowitz - both of them played with flat fingers, with the fat of the finger touching the keys. And they were able to get remarkable, almost superhuman results out of it.

But with Gould, it seems almost like there's something else there. It's not just a matter of flat fingers, or anything to do purely with the technical mechanism of it. There was some kind of connection between his brain, and his spinal column, and his arms, and his hands, and his fingers, and the piano's keys, and its action, and its hammers, and its strings. And then when those strings vibrated, it made some kind of crazy biofeedback loop that went through his ears and back into his brain again. Certainly it's what happens with all musicians, with all performing artists, but with him it was somehow more on the surface than usual, you could almost see and hear the cogwheels of his mind turning and churning in their madness. And those beatific expressions he would get on his face, while it all was happening, like he'd been transported to some time and place completely apart of ordinary existence...

... and then that bloody singing would chime in and ruin it all. (Read more below...)


1 comment:

  1. Oh, and I love that pic I found of Janis. Drinking Veuve Clicquot out of a paper cup! Just precious... see now, that's TWO things I said about her, ya damned hippies. Take another 17 bong hits and go to sleep, already.