Friday, May 13, 2016

Beautiful Biography

I just saw, for the third time, I think, the magnificently done film called Thirty Two Short Films about Glen Gould.
Gould was a brilliant  pianist, especially an interperter of Bach. He was a Canadian whose mother wanted him to be a musical genius and got her wish.  He was highly eccentric and gave up public performing in mid-career and recorded and composed thereafter. He died, sadly at age 50 of a stroke (he had been taking far too many drugs, some for high blood pressure but many more than needed. No responsible MD should have allowed a patient to have the collection of medicines he had.

This film is, as the title suggests, in 32 short segments.  Nearly all of them are brilliantly paced, filmed, lighted, edited.  Of course there is a great deal of music, mostly Bach but not exclusively.  He is seen dancing in an ecstatic trance to a Beethovan set of variations.

I was lucky enough to see Gould perform during the final few years of his public performances.  He was famous by then for his eccentricities and I remember a rickety old chair carried on stage for him to use - a leg held together with duct tape, the seat putting him several inches lower than pianists usually chose to perform but that's what he preferred at that time.

As the small group who saw it were talking about the film and Gould, I realized that throughout the film, it was clear he lived in his own world, was entirely narcissistic (had no idea what others were thinking or feeling or needing), but at no time was there a hint of pettiness, meanness, unkindness in him.  (Unless you count the middle-of-the night phone calls when he juat wanted to talk  -- not a conversation but to talk. But the friends and relatives he called all seem accept that quirkiness with a smile and a sense of indulgence.) The world could use more geniuses of his sort.  (A portion of his recording of Bach's music was included in  the cache of items sent to the farthest edge of the galaxy (perhaps it's not there yet)  on Voyager I and II to tell aliens that there is intelligent life on Earth.)

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