Because he idealized the north and often thought of loneliness, Gould after 1964 is portrayed as a recluse. But it was only hidden if you don’t count the phones, photography, recorded audio, recorded video, and fast distribution networks. During his two electronic decades, Gould managed to be nowhere and everywhere. Although often sequestered, he permeated tens of millions of televisions, cinemas, car radios and ultimately outer space, when, in 1977, his astonishing interpretation of Bach’s work Well-tempered keyboard was launched out of Earth’s atmosphere onto the phonographic time capsule aboard the Voyager spacecraft. Gould may be best known to curious aliens, those with decent turntables, or at least a working ESP.
Gould had a sweet tooth for pop music, including Petula Clark; he called Barbra Streisand’s voice “an instrument of infinite diversity and timbral resources”. And although he had a perfect tone himself, he was captivated by unusual voices, false or not. He invented a so-called contrapuntal form of documentary film, in homage (perhaps) to Bach, where spoken voices are superimposed with strange effects. The most evocative example is Gould’s film on the dark Canadian tundra, The idea of the North, which easily ranks among the most cutting edge rates on YouTube.
Although he hums compulsively while playing, avoids shaking hands for fear of illness, develops an addiction to prescription drugs, and dresses for a winter storm no matter what the weather, Gould manages to stay in. the flickering of electric eccentricity, never quite slipping into monotony. madness. This delicate psychic balance is palpable in the clever winding machines that he delivers directly to the camera. This shines through in his experimental acoustic collages and in the countless radio shows he has recorded. Gould also spoke for hours to unwitting friends and acquaintances on landlines and payphones, sometimes putting his companions to sleep as he reeled off theories about everything, a soundscape of one man whose Changing rhythms of speech strangely resembled his playing the piano. “No supreme pianist has ever given of his heart and mind so overwhelmingly while showing himself so sparingly,” said Gould’s close friend, violinist Yehudi Menuhin.
Gould has become what you might now call a pandemic musician. Tim Page, music critic and close confidant of Gould, was asked last year about what his friend might have thought about life in quarantine. “Glenn would have loved the Internet,” Page replied. “He was a germophobe and didn’t like physical contact very much. But he would have appreciated things like Skype and Facebook [so he could] always enjoy his friendships while keeping his distance. Indeed, Gould was at his best at a distance—Far from the baroque chamber and modern stage, entrenched where he could send a signal to just one other person, alone like himself, afraid of touch, across the same unoccupied Canadian expanses that inspired media philosopher Marshall McLuhan , a frequent interlocutor of Gould.