Geeking Glenn Gould


2017062520180802 (R3)James Rhodes goes in hunt of his boyhood hero, Candian pianist Glenn Gould.

James Rhodes is a massive Glenn Gould Geek: throughout his childhood he listened to Gould's recordings, had posters of him on his bedroom walls, and in the years since, those recordings have helped James through some of his darkest times.

Gould is globally famous today not just for his astounding recordings as a pianist but also his many idiosyncrasies - humming throughout his performances, abandoning the concert stage in his early thirties, bundling himself up in winter coats and hats in the middle of summer, and soaking his arms and hands in warm water are just a few. He was an obsessive hypochondriac who monitored his physical health relentlessly and took an alarming amount of prescription medication. In recent years theories have abounded about his mental health, and whether or not he was on the autism spectrum.

But beyond all this Gould was at heart a futuristic visionary - as early as the 1950s he saw the potential for technology to both serve and liberate the artist and audience. A prolific writer and broadcaster he expounded on ideas around listeners curating their own audio experience and editing their own versions of performances. He foresaw a time when artistic careers could be pursued entirely through electronic media, which in turn would have significant effects on human psychology and behaviour: so much so that product designers at Apple have recently been exploring Gould's ethos as a source of inspiration for future technology.

For BBC Radio 3, James travels to Toronto, the city Gould called home, seeking out the real Glenn, the visionary who left us not just a rich legacy of recordings, but one of colourful ideas too. He tracks down his very closest acquaintances and finds them not just open and honest but fiercely loyal to Glenn and still deeply moved by their memories 35 years after his untimely death.

And as Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary year, James also meets up with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to discuss the country's colonial past, diverse present and promising future: a future which may well produce the next Glenn Gould...

Producer, Ruth Thomson
With thanks to Denis Blais
Photo (c) Kenneth Chou Photography for The Glenn Gould Foundation.

CANADA 150: a week of programmes from across Canada, marking the 150th anniversary of the founding of the nation and exploring the range and diversity of Canadian music and arts.