GLENN GOULD - on recording, technology, giving up live concerts and damning the virtuoso tradition.
When Glenn Gould stopped performing in public in 1964, there was little doubt as to the fact that he was making history by being the first major classical musician to abandon a successful concert career. But he was not the first great artist to abandon an established position in concert life : Leopold Stokowski, a musician who was one of Glenn Gould's own idols, left his post as conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra for Hollywood (remember the Disney picture Fantasia?). He explained this by saying " I go to a higher calling."
Glenn Gould's own concert career departure had no such sweeping statements, no theatrical press conference. He always spoke about giving up playing in public by the age of thirty-five and said that he hoped to devote his life to composing after that, but few thought that he literally would never play in a piano recital again - in fact, he himself always left open the possibility that he might return.
However, unlike Leopold Stokowski who continued to make guest appearances with the Philadelphia Orchestra and other major orchestras, Glenn Gould never looked back. A clean break was what he seeked, and that is exactly what he got. He is referred to, even in this day and age, as the "concert drop out", yet this was as far from the truth as one could get. For Glenn Gould the recording artist, writer, radio broadcaster, television personality and philosopher was even more prolific post 1964 than he had ever been. Though as a composer, Glenn Gould failed to create anything out of the ordinary, and produced a small output of works, perhaps because as he himself said, he lacked a "personal voice".
Music historians and critics, fans and "Gouldians" have argued for over forty years as to why Gould gave up live concerts. Despite the fact that he remained astute, if a little off the mark, when he talked about the future of music (for example, he predicted that the live classical concert would cease to exist by 2000), nobody can accurately determine whether his prophecies as to the prospect and future of recording and technology were the result of his own intense dislike for the "circus" atmosphere of the classical concert stage, or something more perverse.
So, in 2009, twenty seven years after his premature death, and forty-five years after that final concert in Los Angeles, how do Glenn Gould's philosophies reflect upon today's musical life, technology boom and one-click culture? As someone who was born the year Gould died, a child of the 80s and 90s, and yet as someone who was not brought up on a diet of email, facebook, iTunes, MySpace and youtube, I feel that a lot of what Glenn Gould predicted has come true, at least to some extent. Unfortunately, the classical live concert is not dead. Quite the opposite - it is well and thriving despite the fact that arts organisations around the world continue to moan at the declining audiences and lack of funding. Not only is the live classical concert still alive, but little has changed since Glenn Gould's time. It continues to be a circus act, a charade, irrespective of how great the artist, or how incredible the repertoire.
I was a full-time classical musician until a few months ago. Yet, I never went to many concerts. Sacrilege, I know - but there you are. Most of them were too expensive (and the best concerts were always sold out within a few hours, given the corporate entertainment culture we live in, where sponsors are entitled to nearly 90% of tickets before they go on sale), and the ones that I did go to, with a few exceptions, were tedious clichés. Rehashed operatic favourites, the same warhorse piano repertoire, symphonic concerts where the orchestra members look like they would rather be in a dentist's chair than playing Beethoven's fifth.
At twenty-six years of age, I am not even of the "internet junkie" generation (that is, kids that were born in the mid/late-nineties and noughties), so I really have no excuse. Surely devoting a childhood and life to the classical repertoire and study of the same should make it second nature for me to be able to enjoy and appreciate the classical concert, or a classical piano recital. With a few exceptions, I find it easier and more enjoyable to sit in silence, staring at a blank wall for three hours (meditation and solitude are incredibly healing) than I do sitting in the audience at a concert hall. And I'm a classical musician! I genuinely pity the poor kids dragged into a classical concert by their over-eager parents who may be just as bored or disinterested as their eight year old kids, but are there to " be seen". In my own case at least, Glenn Gould's prophecies have been realised. I do listen to nearly all music through the medium of radio, or through recordings (LPs, cassettes and CDs, I don't own an iPod) and even with live performances, I try my best to maintain the integrity of every worked performed, but bring in technology and the spoken word, to turn it into something a little less predictable and bland. Like Gould, I really do not see the point of regarding a certain performer, or a certain recording or performance of a work as the yardstick of performance, because that is exactly what leads to an unmistakably mediocre, and purely spectatorial recital.
Glenn Gould talked about the "non-take-twoness" as being another one of his gripes with the concert hall and all that goes with being a concert artist, in that there are no second chances, and no method of fixing something that needs fixing in a live performance. Of course, many have dismissed this as being a ridiculous statement by saying that Glenn Gould was very insecure, disliked the high pressure environment of the concert stage, and did not respond well to criticism. I did not know Glenn Gould, and very, very few people actually did, and even those that knew him intimately will never know exactly how he felt about playing in public, but the fact remains that the "non-take-twoness" that Gould talks about is exactly what has made the classical piano recital a completely pointless farce. Audiences go in expecting two fundamental things 1) that the performer will play his program through without any errors (no obvious ones anyway) from memory, and 2) that the performer will be able to play extremely fast, extremely loud, thereby defying any technical challenges the music might throw at him. The more well known or highly regarded the artist, the more predictably enthusiastic the final applause (though modern day audiences continue to love their child prodigies). This in itself is insane, because nobody (not even Rachmaninoff who not only performed, but also composed some of the most incredibly challenging music in the piano repertory) can be a hundred percent perfect all the time. And even if they do play all the right notes (something that even a computer can do, if instructed properly) there is no guarantee that they will be in top form musically speaking, or that a mobile phone does not go off in the quietest bit in the second movement. Whatever reasons Glenn Gould had for giving up the concert hall, and for claiming that recording would be the way forward, this surely is one of the most significant of them all, because a recorded performance takes away any of the dangers of the piano recital circus.
Despite the fact that the word "Puritan" comes to mind when one thinks of Glenn Gould, it is fascinating to note that the technological advancements predicted by him in the 1960s have materialized fairly quickly. An experiment like Wendy (then Walter) Carlos' "Switched on Bach" can be taken much, much further, it can be performed live, the listener or audience member is now free to choose just how they want to hear music and where they want to hear it. Even operas from the Met are being screened in cinemas across the world, and the availability of everything from archive recordings to film footage through the internet means that we, the "New Listeners" can control what we want to hear and how we want to hear it. Johann Sebastian Bach himself exercised tasteful freedom with Vivaldi's music, and Carlos did the same with Bach's. And Glenn Gould did the same with Bach's music too, though not in the radically obvious way that Carlos did.
However, there is still one thing that Glenn Gould spoke about that will probably not be realised in this century. The quest for greatness of art that goes beyond the technical brilliance of the performer, beyond the mechanical, that which Gould defined as "ecstasy" is something that made him completely and utterly unique. This solitary condition where only the performer could merge his entire being with the innerness of the music itself is something that could not be experienced in a concert auditorium. For Glenn Gould, the hope that this could be experienced by the listener through a recording was something of a revelation. The fact that Gould resented competitions of any sort, despised the graded music exam system and all the music festivals that exist, generally unchanged, to this very day, meant that he was constantly on a quest to seek this state of wonder and ecstasy that could only be possible in the solitude of the recording studio. So all the scholars, all the historians, all the music teachers and professors, all those who talk about this technique and that style, and award marks and prizes, and all those who write lengthy essays on the interpretation of a certain work, or those who compare 10 recordings of the same piece of music, and those who dismiss Glenn Gould as an eccentric who was out of his mind for ever thinking that a true musician could thrive without an audience, in the sterile, cold recording studio, is missing the point! As Gould himself said, "the purpose of art is the gradual, lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity". NO other artist has come close in achieving this through a live performance or recording, and no other artist has come close in making it possible for the listener, for the audience to share in this ecstasy. Until then, we can look back at this remarkable man who would be bemused, and a little irritated no doubt, that as a people we spend such a large portion of our lives in cyberspace, watching concerts on youtube, listening to music on our iPods, writing to people through txtmsgs and twitter, releasing music on MySpace and yet we are so backward as an audience! We refuse to budge when it comes to finding new ways of live performance, and being far more involved in the artistic process as listeners. The classical concert is not dead, nor is the piano virtuoso recital. So the state of "ecstasy" and the serenity that we so desperately crave will always elude us the minute we step into the auditorium. But as one thirty-something amateur piano student once told me after discovering Gould's recordings fairly late in life, listening to his Bach Partitas made the crowded bus ride to work a serene experience. Even now, listening to Glenn Gould makes it possible for the listener to experience that state of wonder irrespective of the surroundings, irrespective of the commotion and the mediocre, bland world around us. And because of that, in a few hundred years, Glenn Gould will be remembered as Mozart and Bach are, for through his recordings, through his art, he transcended the possibilities of his time and ours.
WANDA LANDOWSKA 50th Anniversary of the death of this incredible artist, and the first person to record J.S. Bach's Goldberg Variations on the harpsichord (1931).
Wanda Landowska, a member of Natalie Clifford Barney's famed lesbian salon, was almost single-handedly responsible for the revival of the harpsichord as a performance instrument in the twentieth century. In her enthusiastic research to uncover the forgotten music and performance styles of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, she paved the way for today's interest in authentic performances of early music on original instruments. Landowska, born July 5, 1879 in Warsaw, Poland, was a musical prodigy who began playing the piano at the age of four, and from a very young age was trained at the Warsaw Conservatory. At fifteen, she went to Berlin to study composition, and, although she was a rather rebellious student, began to win prizes in major competitions for her songs and piano works. While in Berlin, she met Polish folklorist Henry Lew, who encouraged her research and performance of early music, and assisted her in writing her book, Musique ancienne (1909). In 1900, she married Lew and moved with him to Paris, where she was able to gain a greater audience. While the relationship was a mostly supportive one, Landowska wished to be relieved of the sexual aspects of marriage. Accordingly, she arranged a ménage à trois, by hiring a maid who would also function as Lew's mistress. The situation was apparently satisfactory for all involved, and, even after Lew died in 1919, the maid remained in the musician's service until the latter's death. Landowska's fame grew quickly, and in 1903 she gave her first public performance on the harpsichord, an instrument that, by the nineteenth century, was considered "feeble" in its dynamics and rendered obsolete by the piano. Landowska ferociously championed its use through her performances and writings; she commissioned the construction of new harpsichords; and, in 1913, she returned to Berlin to establish a class devoted to the instrument at the Hochschule für Musik. In 1920, Landowska settled in Paris, where she became a frequent guest in Barney's circle, often providing musical accompaniment for the various artistic functions of the renowned lesbian salon. While she toured extensively and recorded during the 1920s, she also began another phase of her career by establishing the École de Musique Ancienne near Paris, which attracted students from many nations. She was recognized as one of the great music teachers of her time, and was rumored to have engaged in a rivalry with Nadia Boulanger, the other great female musical pedagogue, for the romantic affections of a number of young women in their tutelage. In the 1930s, Landowska met Denise Restout (pictured, left with Wandowska in 1948), who became, in turn, her student, her life companion, and the preserver of her artistic legacy. Landowska's fame and success continued to grow through the 1930s, but, with the Nazi invasion of France in 1940, she lost her school, her property, her extensive library, and all her instruments. She and Restout escaped to southern France and then to Lisbon and finally arrived in New York as refugees. Although Landowska had virtually nothing left to her but her talent, she nonetheless re-established herself in the United States as a performer and teacher. Through the 1940s, she toured extensively and made her landmark recording of Johann Sebastian Bach's Goldberg Variations, a work she restored to performance on the instrument for which it had been composed. She continued to work tirelessly until her death on August 16, 1959, at her home in Lakeville, Connecticut. After her death, Restout devotedly edited and translated her writings on music. Landowska was decorated by the governments of Poland and France, and she was widely respected by her fellow musicians. She thoroughly transformed the performance and reception of early music in the modern period, and, through her pioneering efforts, the harpsichord is frequently heard in many diverse musical genres today. Patricia Juliana Smith
GLENN GOULD, however, was not a fan! When asked about the significance of the harpsichord as an instrument, or any harpsichordists that have had any influence on him in his youth, Gould states that only one person had any such influence - largely negative:
" ....I knew many of the Landowska recordings when I was a kid, but I don't believe I've heard any of them since I was about fifteen, and Edwin Fischer I never knew at all. Rather than the playing of people like that, I was much more familiar when I was growing up with the recordings of Rosalyn Tureck, for instance, than I ever was with Landowska. In fact, really I didn't like Landowska's playing very much, and I did like Tureck's enormously - Tureck influenced me."
wHAT? Johann Sebastian Bach's Keyboard Concerto in d minor BWV 1052, arranged in an improv arrangement for piano with live electronics/programming
WHERE? Dominion Chalmers, Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival
WHO? Karishmeh Felfeli, Piano Adam Saikaley, Live Programming/Electronics Glenn Gould, Spoken word
In Bach's time, and until the mid 20th Century, the tradition of performer-improvisor-composer was very much alive. Bach himself (and composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Rachmaninoff that followed) were all great keyboardists, organists and pianists, but they were also phenomenally gifted composers. Not only that, they were able to improvise, transcribe and arrange their own works, and the works of other composers. Think about Brahms' incredible reworking of Bach's magnificent Chaconne for Solo Violin for Left Hand Piano only. Or Rachmaninoff's stunning arrangement/transcription of the three movements of Bach's violin Partita in E for piano solo. However, as the tradition of performer/composers began to die out, and a new era was ushered in with the introduction of "recording", there was simply a shift in the abilities of pianists. Suddenly, it became important to gain acclaim as a great pianist, but also as someone who could convincingly reproduce this music in the recording studio, because unlike a live performance, in a recording every little glitch, every little quirk is preserved until eternity. So pianists found that they needed to devote more and more time to perfecting, polishing and learning a vast repertory instead of also composing and transcribing/arranging. That is all very well, and of course one has to move with the times, and that is exactly what legendary artists such as Glenn Gould (and Rosalyn Tureck before him) did. Others such as Horowitz, Richter, Brendel, Argerich also come to mind. Here's where the problem arises. All these phenomenal performers/recording artists set the world alight with their stunning recordings - just think about Gould's 1955 Goldberg Variation LP or Argerich's debut recital. However, times have changed to such an extent, that now nearly every pianist who graduates from a music conservatory releases a recording (either independently, or through a recording label) of the major works in the piano repertory. Yet realistically speaking, how many of these hundreds and thousands of recordings are actually going to stand the test of time?
While there are many works by Johann Sebastian Bach that are already widely known, and many, many recordings of his music in the traditional sense, there are also scores of works that are not as widely performed, or as widely known. The performance practice surrounding most of JSB's music is also restricted and realistically, how many pianists are going to be able to have an orchestra or chamber ensemble with them at their disposal? Does this mean the 7 keyboard concerti by Bach, or indeed even Mozart and Haydn's music should only see the light of day in concert auditoriums for subscription ticket holders? If this music is to stand the test of time, and find new listeners, and new audiences, it does not need to be watered down or sampled in a 3 minute pop song, it simply needs to be reinvented and improvised, and it is in this area that the "Trippin on Bach" concept was originally conceived. Between 2008 and 2012, this project hopes to explore and perform my own interpretations of the complete keyboard music of Bach, beginning with the concertos for harpsichord and strings. Instead of traditional performances with string orchestra, these works are arranged for electronics, piano, keyboards, turntables and laptop as well as non-classical instruments. The complexity of Bach's music is not compromised, instead the improvisatory style that is so distinctive of Bach is pushed to the forefront. Glenn Gould himself was such a fan of one such early experiment that Wendy Carlos' Switched on Bach LP presented. In fact, Gould thought it extraordinary - he himself said that this was as Bach's music should be approached, and the sheer technical brilliance in the fact that Carlos recorded everything in his living room in one take, so to speak was just unbelievable (of course, Gould was renowned for his splicing and multiple take obsession).
Thankfully, I love so many different types of music including electronic dance music, and I also love Bach's own music (alot of which IS dance music), and his amazing sense of fun and surprise has resulted in "Trippin on Bach". Below is the result of the first live performance using this experiment. Even Glenn Gould's voice is used as a musical instrument. David Jaeger, who worked with Gould for many, many years at the CBC and who was present at this performance himself said that Gould would have loved the concept, the blend of piano and technology and the multimedia aspect - all very fugue like, indeed! The first performance of "Trippin on Bach" project took place at the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival, at the Dominion Chalmers, and featured a brand new arrangement of Bach's Keyboard Concerto in D minor BWV1052 with piano and electronics(with the brilliant Adam Saikaley, pictured below). Because it also featured Glenn Gould's voice as an instrument, it was entitled "Switched on Gould".Like it, or hate it, as long as everyone who listens to it has an opinion on it, then mission accomplished. There is nothing worse than being indifferent to a piece of music, especially a live performance of it!
I meant to discuss this article (click the link above) sooner and completely forgot! I remember talking to a few people after the Masterclass/Lecture I presented on Gould's Steinway in Ottawa last year about the something similar. It was a bit surreal being in the Gould exhibit at the Museum of Civilization, being surrounded by all the Gould memorabilia, and I remember thinking about the fact that Gould would have found all of that terribly amusing! It was all presented very tastefully, and Sam Cronk the curator could not have done a better job, but there was something to be said about the fact that Gould receives so much attention now, as a sort of cult figure and not always for the right reasons.
I would love it if more people knew Gould's thoughts on animals, for instance. The fact that he loved animals, and hated cruelty to them, of any kind. The fact that half his estate was bestowed to the Toronto Humane Society (like Vladimir and Wanda Horowitz - two other passionate animal lovers), and that he was a humanitarian at heart. We know Gould for his phenomenal Bach playing, his championing of composers such as Gibbons and Berg, his extraordinary (and sometimes downright biased) opinions on composers such as Mozart and Chopin, but few know of his championing more innovative artists like Wendy Carlos, or, in the classical world, Leon Fleisher.True, the cult of Glenn Gould is very uneven, and true, some of it is downright questionable (the crazy money hungry morons who claim to know Gould, or attach themselves to some part of Gould's legacy just because its easy), but most of the time it is justified. I remember spending nearly six hours one cold afternoon, listening to outtake after outtake at the National Library and Archives in Canada, from a recording of Gould playing Scarlatti. And I wondered was there any point - its not as if Gould needs any more people to know what he was all about. And then I came across a snippet of a conversation he was having with one CBC technician (the Archives have hours and hours of audio), about a stray dog that had walked in off the street. The genuine concern in Gould's voice, and the forthright manner in which he resolved to help the dog made me laugh, but it also made me think that my work was justified! That Sarabande-The Glenn Gould Project was living up to its name, and that the concerts that are put on in his name that do help animals, and those that need it, were what the "cult" of Gould could also be about. That if half the people who came to a concert went and bought a Gould recording based on something that they heard at the concert also knew what the recording was benefitting (not just lining the pockets of Sony but going to the Toronto Humane Society and The Red Cross), then I could rest in the knowledge that somewhere the "cult" of Gould was making a difference. Oh and coming back to the article, my favourite recordings of the Bach Well Tempered Clavier are Tureck (the high priestess of Bach) and Keith Jarrett (for the sheer compelling emotional aspect). There are some marvels in Gould's own recording, in particular some of the fugues, but while Gould's Partitas, Suites and the Goldbergs remain at the top for those works, the WTC benefits from a less erratic, more austere approach! But ironically, for my favourite Prelude & Fugue, No 13 in F sharp Major Book 1 it is the gorgeous Edwin Fischer recording that reigns supreme!
INDIA BORN PIANIST REVIVES CANADIAN ICON Original Interview - Toronto Edition of INDIA ABROAD MAGAZINE
India-born pianist Karishmeh Felfeli, lives in Ireland. She teaches music and performs across the globe. She's also promoter of an organisation called Sarabande, which promotes the music of Canadian classical pianist extraordinaire Glenn Gould. Felfeli, who is being hailed as the woman who is turning a new generation of listeners onto Gould's music, spoke to Rediff India Abroad's Ajit Jain.
What made you take up the piano? After listening to a recording by Canadian pianist Glenn Gould, my whole brain and being was seized! So, I decided to become a pianist.
Tell us about your musical background. I come from a non-musical family. I started lessons at the age of 4 with an Australian missionary, Enid Roberts, who had set up a small school in Pune. Even as a child I loved music. I didn't have a piano. I would go to Miss Roberts's house at 5 am before school just to practice. I was only 8 years old. I have always loved sharing music with people, with an audience, and telling them about the pieces I was playing. It was the most natural thing in the world for me to have a life in music, but I've had to work very, very hard for it. Listening to Glenn Gould's recordings simply gave me the extra push I needed.
Why did you leave India for good and what did Glenn Gould have to do with that decision? I received a music scholarship to study in America, so upon graduating from school aged 16, I worked in a school teaching music for 2 years, to save the money for the flight to America and went there. It was after listening to a recording by Glenn Gould that I actually felt the desire to pursue music for a living, not just as a hobby – my whole brain and being was seized!!
Do you believe you are able to share your music with people so much more by living outside India than had you continued to reside in India/in Pune?
I believe that I was able to reach a much more advanced stage of performance, technically and musically by studying with teachers outside India. My own teachers in Pune felt that they had taught me all they knew. However, I feel the love of music that was instilled in me when I was in Pune was something nobody could share with me outside of India where it is more about ego, fame and money than the music itself.
What was it about Glenn Gould that you particularly admired as a teenager, and how did this lead you to your present occupation? There is no way to answer this question in a few words. When I first heard of Gould, I didn't have access to any information about his life. There was no internet, and the local libraries didn't have any books about him. It was a slow, slow process but as I started learning about his ideas on music, performance, education, I felt that they were exactly the same ideas that I had - with a few exceptions, I love The Beatles, for instance! When I experienced life in a music conservatory full time, I realised that Gould was right about the pointlessness of having to study in an institution, when one wants to become a good performer, a good all round musician. A great teacher is important, not doing an end of year examination, or being marked on essays. Music is about performance, and you learn more working with inspired teachers and reading/collaborating with good musicians than you learn working with a mediocre teacher that is assigned to you in a music college. Gould didn't go to Juilliard, for instance, nor did he care about winning international competitions. I also agreed with Gould's thoughts about the classical concert as being a very one dimensional experience, and the fact that there was no originality or creativity involved. I disagree with him that live performances are a thing of the past, I think the very same things that make him dislike live performances are the reasons why I do what I do - don't play the same hackneyed repertoire the same way so that people can judge you. Do something new, different, mix up the classical and popular genres, surprise your audience, and don't care about the critics or anyone else. And Gould loved animals - he was a humanitarian at heart. So there are a lot of his ideas that I felt a sort of affinity to, fairly early on.
Apart from Glenn Gould, did you have any musical idols or mentors, and if so who and why?
When I was a teenager, I didn’t really have any mentors, even though my piano & singing teachers were my driving force. However, there are many people I have admired, in particular one of my English piano professors – Philip Fowke who really instilled in me a great sense of discipline for Bach’s music. There are plenty of people I have admired all my life – apart from Glenn Gould, it would have to be Leonard Bernstein, pianist Leon Fleisher, American Composer Charles Ives, and Indian composer A.R.Rahman.
You say you don't agree with institutionalized music conservatoires as being the be all and end all for musicians. However, the best teachers in the world are often found on faculties of these colleges. So how can a young student who wants to have a career in performance do so without going down that route? Well, to answer that I first need to say that I simply don't think a career as a classical performer or opera singer is the be all and end all of music. Take even someone like Gould - he was miserable as a concert pianist, and happiest when he was combining playing the piano with other things. Of course music conservatoires particularly in America, France, Austria, Germany, England have some incredible musicians on their faculty - Fleisher, for instance has taught in Peabody conservatory, and the pianist Gary Graffman teaches at Curtis. What I mean is that I simply don't think that being a student at a music conservatoire is all that it is cut out to be. I don't agree with having end of semester recitals and exams, or the ridiculous pressure that students have for performing in competitions. I don't agree with the mass recruitment of students from the Far East, simply because they have the technical mechanism required to reach a high level of performance. In conservatoires, most of the time students are assigned teachers - they have no choice but to stick with the same teacher irrespective of whether that teacher is best for them technically and musically. Conservatoires are also a breeding ground for self loathing, ego and all the ugly things that go with being a musician. I just think that a young student has a greater chance of attaining technical and musical perfection if they study with a good teacher, as supposed to studying in a good college. I made far more progress as a musician in two lessons with an incredible teacher, than I did in the few years at a music conservatoire. And the fact of the matter is that you can do all the practice you want on end of year recitals, but if you don't go out there and perform, you're simply going to be just one other mediocre music student, and there'll always be someone better, younger, more experienced than you who can nail a live performance.
Glenn Gould was very particular about composers and music that he played. Do you share the same ideas with piano music? You also have a background in vocal music, so what are your thoughts on the subject? Gould was very opinionated and not afraid to dismiss composers based on his own opinions and ideas. I am quite the opposite - I love a lot of composers, a lot of musical genres. I always say that I play the music of J.S. Bach and The Beatles everyday - so that is pretty constant. However, I absolutely love French music (which Gould really disliked) - Debussy, Ravel, Satie. I do prefer Mozart and Haydn to Beethoven, and I am not as obsessed with the second Viennese school as Gould was. I also love folk, pop, world music so I suppose that is not consistant with Gould's opinions. As for vocal music - yes, I did study classical voice, but while I love baroque opera and the art song as a genre, I realized fairly early on that I really disliked the classical vocal style of singing. I realize that that is a very strong opinion on a vocal technique that goes back centuries, but I just can't stand the high pitched screeching. I'd love to hear what opera singers sound like if they just sing a song straight - none of the wide mouthed warbling. The greatest singing voices to me have always been ones of great clarity and natural beauty - John Lennon, Paul McCartney Freddie Mercury, Aretha Franklin, John Fogerty, Ray Davies, Asha Bhonsle, Art Garfunkel but my favourite voice of all has to be that of Judy Garland. I'd give anything to hear her take on Schubert lieder or Duparc songs. That is why I adore the vocal music of composers before Claudio Monteverdi....the lute song, madrigals - music that is sung in the most natural, unaffected manner.
Tell me something about Sarabande-The Glenn Gould Project, and is there any connection to The Glenn Gould Foundation? I'm going to answer those questions in reverse order. First of all, while I know the work the Glenn Gould Foundation does fairly well, and I think everyone who is at the Estate and Foundation are doing a brilliant, brilliant job, I have no actual connection to either the Foundation or the Estate of Glenn Gould (that handles Gould's royalties). Nor do I work for either the Foundation or the Estate!! My idea to form a sort of performance/education society that also benefits charities that are close to me started with a few very simple concerts some years ago, for my own students. Gradually the idea to create even more mainstream performance opportunities for other musicians and to bring the ideas of Gould to the younger generation started happening. The idea that a music concert can be a laid back, enjoyable experience, where talented able musicians can perform to a public audience, and the proceeds can benefit animal rescue charities, children's charities is the reason why Sarabande-The Glenn Gould Project exists. You talk about charities, but how do you raise funds for these charities and why do you think there is such a need for creating more awareness, isn't it simpler to simply have a fundraiser dinner or recital for instance?I always think that people in Europe, particularly those involved in western classical music are fairly well off. I have always felt there has to be more to music than simply performing it, receiving applause, standing ovations and using the money to buy a nice house and do the same thing for the rest of your life. Look around you – the world is a pretty messed up place right now. There are people (including my parents) who have to make do without electricity 24/7, who live very differently to how we live in the west. When I was a young girl, I used to help out at the School for Orphan Blind girls in Pune and had also visited the Helen Keller Institute for Deaf Blind in Bombay – I was determined that if I ever got successful as a musician, I would do my best to help these people. Even profit of 200 euros from a concert is a tremendous amount when you convert it to ruppees. Its enough to buy a vehicle to transport the kids for days out, or buy Braille books and materials for them. The possibilities are endless. These are people – children – who need help. They don’t have big fundraiser events, or black tie dinners – the volunteers work tirelessly for these kids and receive nothing. It’s the same with animals – Glenn Gould loved animals, he even said he loved animals more than people!! He also donated half his estate to the Toronto Humane Society for Animals. The problem with today’s world is that we are greedy – greedy for more money, for more fame, for more success. I don’t really care about all that as long as I have a roof over my head and food to eat and am able to make music, so I give what I can. Its not complicated!!
And you are also involved in radio broadcasting now. Is this something you see yourself going into full time? Glenn Gould also loved the radio as a medium, do you share his enthusiasm for it?Absolutely. However, I do agree that the radio can never be a replacement for live performance. I'm a geek at heart, and I love the idea of talking about music I love - does that sound confusing? I really can't stand this mediocre, mindless radio that seems to be everywhere these days. If its not inane chat shows, its music that is played where the presenter simply announces the name of the piece and nothing else. For me the radio is just another way I can educate people, or share my own thoughts on a piece of music. I love television and film as well - but when it comes to music, the radio is my favourite medium. I don't believe in getting other people to research a program that one is presenting, or the whole "having to play certain music on the air" nonsense. Which is why I love the fact that I broadcast from an independent radio station - the internet has made a lot of things possible as well, as anyone, anywhere in the world can tune into the program.
And finally, many people wonder as to how at such a young age, you have acquried such an enormous recognition particularly here in North America. How do you explain this? Well, for a start I'm not that young! We live in a very different world now, where Internet, media and press mean anyone can acquire recognition if they want to. This is my problem with society, that there is no need for true greatness to emerge, that mediocrity can also acquire enough recognition. Bach and Mozart were not recognized in their lifetime – Mozart was buried in an unmarked grave….to this day we don’t know where he was buried. I don’t care for recognition much, and while its nice being appreciated, and for my work is very well known especially here in Canada, I have had to work so ridiculously hard every single day, that I feel the rewards are far greater. I also think maybe what I do is different – I didn’t go to Juilliard (the famous music college in New York) to train as a concert pianist, I didn’t have very wealthy parents who made it all easy for me, I didn’t even have a piano to practice on till I was 15, so I’ve had more of a colourful life story. There is no shortage of incredible concert pianists who can play all the difficult piano repertoire – who cares? I’d rather be remembered for creating new things, for challenging ideas and inspiring people and raising awareness about other things, charities, people that need our help.