August 28, 2007

A “Counter-Gould” Goldberg Recording [9:33 am]

And some notes on Glenn Gould’s expectations for music: Simone Dinnerstein plays the Goldberg Variations

We hear a lot about meteoric careers, but Gould’s—his concert career—really was. In 1964, at the height and breadth of his fame, he renounced the stage to devote himself to making records. Two years later he set forth the method to his madness in an essay in High Fidelity titled “The Prospects of Recording [Ed: sorry about the hideous HTML].” In prose of a puckish fustiness as distinctive as his playing, he made three predictions: One: that recording would supplant live performance. Two: that much of the real action, musically speaking, would take place in the studio. Three: that, as technologies of sound manipulation got better and cheaper, the line between artist and audience would be smudged and maybe even—in a distant, Gouldtopian future—erased.

At last count Gould is two for three, which beats the hell out of Nostradamus, Ezekiel, and St. John the Divine, despite their far greater fudge factors and grace periods. Sampling, mashups, remixes, the laptop studio; the recognition, at long last, of the art I’ve called “phonography”—prophecies Two and Three have come true in spades, most strikingly in the realm of popular music (about which Gould had relatively little to say). Prophecy One, though, looks dead wrong.

Over the past eight years, concert ticket sales have doubled. For the average musician, recording has never replaced live performance as a way of paying the rent, and in the post-Napster age—unless you’re a superstar or a studio regular—making a living from records is harder than ever.

All of this goes double for a classical player. [...]

See also this earlier post; the New Yorker article; Alex Ross’ blog entry

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