Sunday, 2 May 2010

the solitude trilogy : part 1

I've been listening to one of Glenn Gould's CBC radio broadcasts that he made in in the 1967 entitled "the idea of North". It's a collage of various people who live in or have a relationship with the North, and in this instance, the North of  Gould's native Canada. It can be quite difficult to follow or hear as he's layered some of the voices of the 5 people interviewed over one another so that there's a fading ebb and flow of text - presumably the creativity of Glenn Gould "the pianist" was something that he wasn't willing to sacrifice for the sake of documentary clarity, and here too Gould was trying to create an audio work, rather than simply a piece of public broadcasting. Radio as art as it were. In fact, he often described his radio works as contrapuntal, borrowing the term from music and characteristic of the Bach repertoire he's most widely known for. He made these radio broadcasts after his retirement from the international recital/concert citcuit.

The piece concentrates on how people view and interact with the North as both a space and an idea, and crucially, isn't simply a romantic treatise on solitude, although of course, it acknowledges romanticism as a spur to movements Northwards. Gould says the work "sought to examine the effects of solitude and isolation upon those who have lived in the Arctic or sub-Arctic".

I still have the other two pieces to listen to, but have transcribed some of the quotes from the piece I found most interesting.

I've long been intrigued by that incredible tapestry of tundra and taiga which constitutes the Arctic and Subarctic of our country. I've read about it, written about it and even pulled up my parka once and gone there; yet, like all but a very few Canadians, I've had no real experience of the North. I've remained, of necessity, an outsider. And the North has remained for me a convenient place to dream about, spin tall tales about, and in the end, avoid. – Glenn Gould during the introduction to the idea of North.

..three of the various voices from the piece:

You're excluding the rest of the world that will never understand, and you've made your own world with these other people, and probably you'll never know, and what nobody else will know is whether you're kidding yourself or not. Have you really made your peace with these other people or, or have you made a peace because the only alternative is a kind of crack-up?

I was in many repsects solitary, but in a strange way the North has made me more, sort of, gregarious, 'cos the North does show you exactly how much you rely on your fellow man, what the sense of community means. The sense of community in the North, unlike in the South, is a matter of life and death. The thing about the North of course, in personal terms is that in the North you feel that's so big, it's so vast, it's so immense, it cares so little and, and this sort of diminishes you, and then you think "my god,  I am here, I've got here, I live here, I live, I breathe, I walk, I laugh, I have companions."

I found that the wide open spaces concept isn't quite what it's cracked up to be. I felt cooped-in in the wide open spaces because I was so afraid to get lost, that the environment around me, while being vast in the physical sense - one could see theoretically for a thousand miles, it was as nothing was in the way to break your view - it was surrounded on each side by dangers, dangers for instance of getting lost, that this was, to me, the biggest danger of all.

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