Monday, January 10, 2011

Glenn Gould and My Own Retreat

In a recent recording session at NYU Dolan Studio, one of the artists brought up a description of Glenn Gould "playing" the recorded sound at the mixing console with the same detail that he brought to his performance at the keyboard. This was the first time I had thought about Glenn Gould for quite some time. By chance, I had picked up a book of poems, Everything Else in the World, by Stephen Dunn. To my surprise, I came upon a poem about Gould, "The Unrecorded Conversation" in this wonderful volume of poems. Surprising, because it came on the heels of our discussion about Gould and made me realize that elements of Gould's temperament resonated with my own experience. At the beginning of the poem, as an epitaph of sorts, Gould is quoted: "Isolation is the indispensable component of human happiness." Having made it this far in life as a loner, I find it something of a revelation to discover that my loneliness is the source of my satisfaction.

Of course I do not possess the genius of Gould, but I do understand the self imposed quarantine that may be necessary for contemplation and sustained fulfillment. Stephen Dunn creates a golden glimpse of Glenn Gould who disappeared into his private world of art and thrived in that secret, sequestered habitat:
Maybe genius is its own nourishment,
I wouldn't know.
Gould didn't need much more than Bach
whom he devoured
and so beautifully gave back
we forgave him his withdrawal from us.

...Gould retreated to his studio
at thirty-one, keeping his distance
from microphones and their germs.
He needed to control sound, edit out
imperfection. His were the only hands
that touched the keys, turned the dials.
(Stephen Dunn, "The Unrecorded Conversation" from Everything Else in the World)

The studio inside my head seems connected to some interior world that illuminates my muse. Retreating to my studio has been a refuge in time of doubt and when I have needed inspiration and spiritual sustenance. Somehow things have changed from the journey begun this past year that has taken me to this new place. There was no reason to believe things would continue on the same miraculous trajectory that launched this new adventure. Sometimes retreat represents a falling back. But a retreat is also a place of solitude for working through a dilemma. Somewhere in the isolation of this personal pause, is the spark of renewal.


Grace Y. Choi said...

Isolation is the indispensable component of human happiness...
I can barely understand what he meant after listening carefully at each piece.

Grace Y Choi said...

However, I think I'm little bit too young to fully understand that meaning..