photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
the recording and exhibition of CLASSICAL MUSIC has long been a bit of a creative conundrum in that conductors and musicians are held to perform (with regards to) unrecorded compositions as written, but with little to no information or knowledge regarding the nuances of such. it is a similar situation to that of performing SHAKESPEARE, in which traditions have arisen over the years to effectuate ORTHODOXIES that have largely boxed in creativity and stilted audience expectations of the true potentialities of a text. same with CLASSICAL MUSIC, whose very nature is fairly CONSERVATIVE and SELF-LIMITING in that it asks of its participants to recreate a specific experience, as written and understood by experts who have no first-hand knowledge of what such actually sounded like in its original context. in effect, what is perpetuated through generations is INAUTHENTIC to the spirit of the composer (or at least that is a central argument of this film).
enter the idiosyncratic CANADIAN pianist GLENN GOULD, as presented in the documentary GENIUS WITHIN: THE INNER LIFE OF GLENN GOULD (WHITE PINE, 2009). GOULD is arguably one of the most import musicians of the 20th century, who was so supremely skilled that he could masterfully play various compositions in a myriad of ways with subtle variances in ARTICULATION, FEEL and TEMPO that showcased the power of a composition through alternate (yet equally valid) repetitions. it is because of these variations that he is considered a CHARLATAN by some and an INNOVATOR (whose playfulness was arguably in league with the spirt of the original composers themselves) by others more than 40 years after his death. what cant be argued is that to a certain extent we are very much living in a GOULD-inspired POST MODERN reality right now, where searching for the mirage-like AUTHORIAL INTENTION is largely discarded in favor of personal interpretation and appropriation. case in point is modern-day HIP HOP whereby the original context of found sound is discarded for a newly contextualized and rebuilt sound architecture that innovates new feelings and new meanings. the layers make up the meanings as if in a modern PALIMPSEST.
also, as a musician, what is the point of recording another version of composition whose very intent is to sound like every other iteration recorded before. that intent in and of itself seems like anathema to the spirit of great art in my opinion, which is rooted in APPROPRIATION and INNOVATION.
the other interesting dynamic in this documentary is the solitary figure of GOULD himself and how his sublime VIRTUOSITY was the result of concentrated skilled honed largely in ISOLATION. the fact that he complicated and arguably reinvigorated works by composers ranging from BRAHMS to BEETHOVEN while being secluded in his beloved TORONTO. with musicians in general it is always interesting when introverts become cultural icons and thus public figures. GOULD is contrasted with that of his peer, composer LEONARD BERNSTEIN, who adored public admiration and fed off it in his compositions which fed of grand themes rooted in community. GOULD was reinvigorated when he could shut the world out and concentrate and maintain an uninterrupted communication with his own thoughts and those of the composers he adored.
GENIUS WITHIN: THE INNER LIFE OF GLENN GOULD is a fascinating documentary about the nature of genius. definitely worth watching if you have any interest in CLASSICAL MUSIC or the inscrutable root of ART and CREATIVITY.