Monday, September 07, 2009

New Horizons

Glenn Gould once said that he would stop playing the piano at the age of fifty. This happened in fact—just not in the way that he had in mind. The idea was that he would then move on to some other pursuit. Probably conducting, or further explorations in documentary radio production.

This is what you would expect. But I think it would have been interesting if GG had branched out in completely new directions. He certainly had the opportunities, if not necessarily the inclination, to do any number of things. Here's a few of the alternative occupations I would have liked to see GG try out, at least.

1.) Jazz Musician. Gould was an awesome improviser in the manner of the great composers of yore. But he said he was not cut out to be a jazz musician, claiming that he had no sense of swing. I don't doubt it. Gould had a few jazz records in his collection, focusing on pianists who were either really virtuosic like Oscar Peterson, or more cerebral like Lennie Tristano. Gould was telephone friends with Bill Evans and the two of them have sometimes been been compared to each other, kind of in the sense of being jazz vs. classical versions of the same guy.

Anyway, I think it would have been cool if Gould was just thrown in feet-first into the middle of something like Miles Davis' electric band from the late 60's with no preparation or time to think about it. Just go. It would have been way out of his comfort zone but eventually I bet it would have produced good results.

2.) News Announcer. Gould actually almost did this. I was reading about it somewhere. He was at the CBC studio and the news announcer couldn't go on for some reason. Gould was the only person around at the time who was prepared to go on mic, so he volunteered. He got as far as actually having the papers in hand and getting ready to go into the broadcast booth when, at the last second, a replacement announcer was brought in. I think it would have been cool if Gould decided to take the gig and make it his new full-time job.

3.) Variety-Show Host. In the 60's and 70's, variety shows were big TV. In those days there were only a few channels, so network executives figured that to get the biggest audiences you should make a show that had a little something for everybody. Hence, the variety show, usually featuring some combination of music and comedy. Various musicians or comedians had their own shows at one time or another: The Smothers Brothers, Glen Campbell, The Jackson 5, Sonny and Cher, Donny and Marie, and the list goes on and on . . .

I imagine that The Glenn Gould Music and Comedy Hour would most closely resemble The Carol Burnett Show, with a focus on sketch comedy featuring recurring characters, interspersed occasionally with music performances. On this show Gould would develop and expand his existing repertoire of comedy characters like Karlheinz Klopfmeister (or whatever) and Myron Chianti. There would be a regular cast of performers as well. It would be cool if the guys from Goin' Down the Road were on it.

There would be music on the show but Gould would not perform it, and it would not be classical either. It would be stuff like Ann Murray, or The Guess Who.

Apparently, Gould actually wanted to do more comedy for the CBC, but the producers discouraged him because they thought his performances weren't very funny. If so it would be the only known case of the CBC rejecting a comedy idea on the grounds that it wasn't funny enough.

4.) Game-Show Host. I believe Gould would have made a good host for a show like Jeopardy although I'm not sure why. I also think he would have been an okay panelist on Hollywood Squares, or What's My Line? But, being Canadian, he would most likely have ended up as a panelist on Front Page Challenge, which would have been best suited to his personality, but also very boring.

5.) Stock-Car Racer. Gould should have looked into this since, apparently, he drove like that anyway.

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