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Glenn Gould: Music and Mind

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Glenn Gould was one of the most innovative and prophetic musical thinkers of the twentieth century. Few musicians of his time have had as much influence on the way people think about the art of music, its purpose, its effects, its practitioners, its audiences.Glenn Gould, Music and Mind was the first, and for many years the only, study of Gould's work. It is about Gould as Glenn Gould was one of the most innovative and prophetic musical thinkers of the twentieth century. Few musicians of his time have had as much influence on the way people think about the art of music, its purpose, its effects, its practitioners, its audiences.Glenn Gould, Music and Mind was the first, and for many years the only, study of Gould's work. It is about Gould as a musical thinker, Gould as a literary artist, Gould as a glorious misfit.Geoffrey Payzant taught music at Mount Allison University and philosophy at the University of Toronto. He specialized in musical aesthetics, and was particularly fascinated by Glenn Gould and Eduard Hanslick. No one who takes an interest in performing or listening to music, or in thinking about it, can fail to be informed and delighted by Payzant's exploration of the music and mind of Glenn Gould.


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Glenn Gould was one of the most innovative and prophetic musical thinkers of the twentieth century. Few musicians of his time have had as much influence on the way people think about the art of music, its purpose, its effects, its practitioners, its audiences.Glenn Gould, Music and Mind was the first, and for many years the only, study of Gould's work. It is about Gould as Glenn Gould was one of the most innovative and prophetic musical thinkers of the twentieth century. Few musicians of his time have had as much influence on the way people think about the art of music, its purpose, its effects, its practitioners, its audiences.Glenn Gould, Music and Mind was the first, and for many years the only, study of Gould's work. It is about Gould as a musical thinker, Gould as a literary artist, Gould as a glorious misfit.Geoffrey Payzant taught music at Mount Allison University and philosophy at the University of Toronto. He specialized in musical aesthetics, and was particularly fascinated by Glenn Gould and Eduard Hanslick. No one who takes an interest in performing or listening to music, or in thinking about it, can fail to be informed and delighted by Payzant's exploration of the music and mind of Glenn Gould.

30 review for Glenn Gould: Music and Mind

  1. 4 out of 5

    Evan

    HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION! A personal favorite, and an absolute classic of its kind, though, as an example of musical essay-biographical-philosophical-dialectical treatise there simply aren't many of its kind. Glenn Gould: Music and Mind attempts to dissect and identify its artist not by conventional external biographical events but by a fundamental, scrupulous, detailed and very deep analysis of its subject's art. In doing so, it becomes more than an analysis of Gould--the unconventional Canadian p HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION! A personal favorite, and an absolute classic of its kind, though, as an example of musical essay-biographical-philosophical-dialectical treatise there simply aren't many of its kind. Glenn Gould: Music and Mind attempts to dissect and identify its artist not by conventional external biographical events but by a fundamental, scrupulous, detailed and very deep analysis of its subject's art. In doing so, it becomes more than an analysis of Gould--the unconventional Canadian pianist, writer, composer, radio producer, etc.--but a multifaceted rumination on musical aesthetics, what music is, the mechanics of how it can be played, the merits and demerits of live versus recorded music (an issue that preoccupied Gould his entire life), the nature and limitations of musical instruments in realizing the abstract ideals and impossible enigmas inherent in music, the perceptions of music listeners, the thought processes of musicians and much more. And this doesn't even begin to describe how deeply this book goes into the mechanics and psychology of music-making. My fascination with Gould goes back at least 30 years, and near the beginning of that interest I watched a PBS music series in the late 1970s called The Music of Man, in which another great musical philosopher, the violinist Yehudi Menuhin, led the viewer through a series of thematic episodes on the evolution and nature of music. In at least one of those episodes, Menuhin--a great humanist, teacher, and outgoing lover of humankind--takes on Gould (the hermetic, antisocial and arguably misanthropic introvert) in a debate on the merits of live versus recorded and edited performances. Gould--a great champion of studio recordings as superior and more valid as an intimate form of transferring music to the listener than live performances--eschewed concert performing early in his career in favor of "engineering" and perfecting ideal performances at the sound board. Gould's essential premise is that imperfections as well as the distracting aspects of live performance are actually detriments to music-making and perception, whereas Menuhin believed the polar opposite. Their debate made for thought-provoking viewing, and I have to say that reading this book made me consider an entirely new angle on this debate. And it is one that author Payzant touched upon a few pages after I'd begun to formulate it on my own. Gould's rationalizations for the superiority of studio engineered musical performances (including heavily edited ones often spliced from numerous takes) are ample and sometimes Byzantine in their elaborateness. But for each valid point he makes there is a counterpoint (appropriate perhaps, since we are talking about music) and rather than take them point by point I began to consider the source. Was all of this philosophizing and all of Gould's rationalizations and claims about the superiority of isolated music making simply a function of who he was? Were they all possibly just the rationalizations of a sociopath trying to justify a non-public form of music-making? Whatever the case, what Gould had to say, and what he did, and how Payzant parries and spars brilliantly with all of it in his prismatic analysis, makes one think anew about many aspects of music. This book unlocks Platonic forms in your brain awaiting exploration. The book does what some of the best of the unconventional biographical works do, like the documentary film on Antonio Gaudi by the Japanese director Hiroshi Teshigahara or the Chronicles autobiography of Bob Dylan: reveal more about the truth and beauty of their subjects than a conventional journalistic "facts"-based approach can do. This book was mind-massaging and exalting, and achieves on the subject of Gould what Gould sought in every note he played: ecstasy. A great, great work. ([email protected], reposted with minor modifications in May 2016)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mengsen Zhang

    Very nice book, which I suspect any scientist attracted to Glenn Gould's music will enjoy. The book goes in depth on Gould's philosophy about music, or life/being at large. I'm not quite into the sound of piano in general. But once I listened to Gould's Bach, there's no going back. I never knew why until I read this book. To him, music is the "backbone" structure and a subjective state of ecstasy rather than physical events. Why would it be good for scientists? That has to do with how I found th Very nice book, which I suspect any scientist attracted to Glenn Gould's music will enjoy. The book goes in depth on Gould's philosophy about music, or life/being at large. I'm not quite into the sound of piano in general. But once I listened to Gould's Bach, there's no going back. I never knew why until I read this book. To him, music is the "backbone" structure and a subjective state of ecstasy rather than physical events. Why would it be good for scientists? That has to do with how I found the book. I've been going through a stressful year of, inter alia, dissertation writing. To pull myself through this, I had to listen to one of his album on repeat: "A State of Wonder: The Complete Goldberg Variations 1955 & 1981". I didn't understand why it's called "a state of wonder" before I came across a quote of Gould from this book "The purpose of art is not the release of a momentary ejection of adrenalin but is, rather, the gradual, lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity." I immediately felt that perhaps a scientist (a budding one like myself) needed this even more than an artist (if we have to make a dichotomy). What would be a deeper drive for a scientist other than a state of wonder about the world, self, and existence? I ended up quoting it in my dissertation and adapted it for my defense, which reads "The purpose of *science* is not the release of a momentary ejection of *technical sophistication* but is, rather, the gradual, lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity." Only after my defense, I got the time to read the whole book and found that Gould would actually agree with my adaptation: on page 121, he said "Stravinsky claimed that the business of art is technique; I do not agree. Nor do I believe that the business of technology is the rule of science [...]". Listening to Gould reminds me of why a scientific career worth pursuing at all.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    I bought this book on a whim, and I am quite glad that I did. This is not a biography in the typical sense. This is a study of Gould as an artist, a book full of all the details that the performer must think about. This book provides several astonishing insights about Glenn Gould the performer, and leaves all of the details about his unorthodox lifestyle behind. Payzant does spend one, very short, chapter at the opening of the book to describe the life of the man, his childhood and his accomplis I bought this book on a whim, and I am quite glad that I did. This is not a biography in the typical sense. This is a study of Gould as an artist, a book full of all the details that the performer must think about. This book provides several astonishing insights about Glenn Gould the performer, and leaves all of the details about his unorthodox lifestyle behind. Payzant does spend one, very short, chapter at the opening of the book to describe the life of the man, his childhood and his accomplishments. The remainder of the book is used to detail, and sometimes wonder aloud, why Gould interprets the music the way he does. There is a lot of talk about Gould's "New Philosophy" vs. "Old Philosophy" that seems like a modernizing of the Seconda Prattica. The way Gould thinks about music is truly unique and definitely worth reading about, especially if you are a performer. This book also illuminates Gould as not only a great thinker, but a great writer about music and of music. The way this work is organized makes it quick to read, not quite in chronological order, but rather the book unfolds much like Gould's thought evolved, going back repeatedly to re-work previous thought. This book is truly fascinating at ever page turn and should be read by any musician regardless of instrument or whether their inclination be performance, composition or education. This book covers all the bases.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Nathanial

    Edward Said says (in "Music At the Limits") that this is the only book that does justice to Gould's virtuosity as both a performer and an intellectual, both someone who could play, from memory, from the whole history of Western music from the Renaissance to the present, and then turn to the camera and explain to amateurs what the music implies, presumes, and requires. Edward Said says (in "Music At the Limits") that this is the only book that does justice to Gould's virtuosity as both a performer and an intellectual, both someone who could play, from memory, from the whole history of Western music from the Renaissance to the present, and then turn to the camera and explain to amateurs what the music implies, presumes, and requires.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Robertmcnair

    One of the great books on a great pianist!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Emily Savary

  7. 5 out of 5

    Andrei Pogorilowski

  8. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

  9. 5 out of 5

    Iris

  10. 5 out of 5

    Betty

  11. 4 out of 5

    Corinne

  12. 4 out of 5

    Marta Czech

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jack

  14. 4 out of 5

    Eugenia Biedma

  15. 4 out of 5

    Graham

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kai

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jo

  18. 4 out of 5

    MgochaM

  19. 4 out of 5

    Roderick Mackin

  20. 5 out of 5

    Keelan

  21. 5 out of 5

    Robert

  22. 5 out of 5

    Linda Shaver

  23. 4 out of 5

    Juliana Wilson

  24. 4 out of 5

    Charles

  25. 5 out of 5

    Owldaughter

  26. 5 out of 5

    Skip Heller

  27. 4 out of 5

    San

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ayako

  29. 5 out of 5

    Korina Boukouvala

  30. 5 out of 5

    Skeener_lee

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