Jeez, STFU Glenn Gould!

I’ve been looking at a lot of classical music to improve my classical collection. And so I started at the top of the lost - with Bach. I had a “no name” copy of the Goldberg variations and I went looking for a better version. Then I sat that the legendary Glenn Gould had made a digital recording of it in the early 80s shortly before his death, and several reviews raved about it. So I go to Rhapsody to listen…

Jebus, it was unlistenable! It wasn’t the quality of the recording or the playing, it was Gould’s VOICE. He hums along while he plays, he mutters what sound like lyrics, but the volume of his voice is too low to understand the words. And, there are no lyrics, not that I know of.

The first part is called “Aria”, and I thought for a bit there was a terribly recorded vocal track, or maybe there had been good vocal track and someone did a terrible job of trying to get rid of it. But no, I did some more looking around at discussion boards and other review sites, and started finding references to Gould’s “vocalizations”. And even at these places, I didn’t see any explicit condemnation of the album – about the strongest comment I saw was that the voice “is a little off-putting”.

What was otherwise a brilliant performance was completely ruined by … well I don’t know who to blame. Perhaps Gould had a producer who was too scared of him to say anything. Or perhaps Gould was already sinking into senility and they wanted to get whatever product they could out of him before he died.

Please. Don’t mutter while you’re playing an instrument. Don’t hum the notes under your breath while a microphone is in range. The only other person I know who does something close to that is George Benson, but he actually sings the notes aloud and his voice accompanies his guitar – which I rather like.

Anyway, I’m really sorry to learn what may have been Gould’s last album was a waste of effort.

I have no comment on Gould, but this might be of interest:

Public domain, and no humming or muttering.

Well, he was a bit of a nut.

Um, that was not to say that people on or probably on the autistic spectrum are insane, and he may have had Aspberger’s Syndrome. His piano playing was appropriately robotic. Or he was a spoiled brat who had always gotten his way because of his talent. Or he might’ve been a bit of a nut, in addition to everything else.

Yeah, like I wanna watch Hitler playing Bach. :stuck_out_tongue:

Forgot to mention … I ended up getting the Murray Perahia recording. It is excellent.

It’s known as subvocalization and it wasn’t completely voluntary, per Gould.

Yeah, there’s a few jazz pianists who do the same thing, Keith Jarrett being perhaps the most obvious example.

Is he able to keep it off his commercial recordings?

FYI, I’m gonna go with the “Gould was nuts” theory.

He was a hypochondriac who died at age 50.

He was unable to control his need to control his environment.

He made the best recordings the worst through his humming.

No. Although his gruntings and vocalizations seem only to occur in his jazz works, and are conspicuously absent from his classical recordings.

He’s not the only one. There’s a number of jazz pianists who have audible singing along in their work. Bud Powell, Oscar Peterson, Thelonius Monk, etc., all have been known to audibly sing/grunt/hum along in their recordings.

I have Flash disabled in my browser, so it took me a while to figure out what you were on about. Poor site design, and an unfortunate thumbnail frame :slight_smile:

There are download and torrent links to mp3 and Flac files if you scroll down, and it’s free in the itunes store too. Worth a listen. I’m hoping they’ll do the same for Well Tempered Clavier.

Years ago, in the LP era, someone came out with a “Glenn Gould Filter.” Don’t know whether it worked.

He told us he was sick, but you know what a hypochondriac he was.

My old thesis supervisor wrote a biography of him. He apparently is in the “Gould had Aspberger’s” camp.

Even if he’s not humming, Gould’s Bach is terrible, IMO. You’re listening to the idiosyncrasies of Glenn Gould rather than J.S. Bach. Go find something played on a proper harpsichord, while you’re at it.

Yes, his work on Bach is certainly “interpretive.” Take the way he races through Invention #13 (the “Commodore 64 theme,” for the 80s kids), for instance. That said, his interpretation is delicate, musical, and, as you said, idiosyncratic. I kind of like that sort of fresh perspective on things, like taking a Shakespearean play and adopting it for a director’s quirky vision. I have kind of a love-hate relationship with Glenn Gould, but the older I get, the more love and appreciation I have for him.

That’s what you get with Gould. Check out *A Romance On Three Legs *by Katie Hafner.

Well, there are other pianists out there who sing along and don’t even sing in tune.

Yep, and Jarrett would be one of those.

The OP sounds legitimately concerned as a beginning novice in classical music analysis and interpretation. Most of the naysayers sound like cranks with some axe to grind. I wonder why it is that people who care about interpretation and analysis of art music like Bach or Schönberg shrug the minor issue of his humming, whereas people who are more catholic in taste recognize parallels between his performances and the low quality of early jazz recordings by King Oliver or Ferd. Obviously Gould was eccentric, obviously not mentally ill by diagnosis, and his technique is impeccable and unique, according to even his most livid detractors. I have some issues with his embellishments, in, e.g., the e minor fugue from the partita in e minor, but it is a coherent interpretation.

So there’s some background noise? That has nothing to do with his interpretations, as bizarre as they might be at times. People who disagree can probably find an adult extension course at a local community college to learn more about the music. Embellishments and rubato in his later Bach are a little odd, and obviously the Mozart and Beethovens, but that’s why it’s an art.