Glenn Gould

A Life Off Tempo

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Glenn Gould was a fas­ci­nat­ing fig­ure— mys­te­ri­ous and ec­cen­tric, yet un­de­ni­ably gifted, and con­nected to the mu­sic he played in a way un­like most mu­si­cians. San­drine Revel’s chal­lenge, in her book Glenn Gould: A Life Off Tempo, is to com­mu­ni­cate what isn’t eas­ily ex­pressed—mu­sic it­self, of course, but also the deep-seated psy­cho­log­i­cal quirks that made Gould so ex­cit­ing to watch per­form, yet that trou­bled him so deeply.

Revel man­ages to pull it off by us­ing sev­eral se­ries of small close-ups fo­cused on Gould’s face. For ex­am­ple, she con­veys the ec­stasy the pi­anist

San­drine Revel, NBM Pub­lish­ing, Hard­cover $25.99 (136pp), 978-1-68112-065-2

felt when per­form­ing his fa­vorite clas­si­cal works. While Revel’s il­lus­tra­tions are ex­cel­lent in a tra­di­tional sense, the sto­ry­telling, per­haps in a nod to Gould’s off­beat mind, re­quires close at­ten­tion. Revel of­ten jumps to and from var­i­ous time pe­ri­ods and nar­ra­tors, with flash­backs to Gould’s child­hood sud­denly giv­ing way to adult mus­ings, amid sym­bol­ism that’s some­times eas­ily dis­cerned (when Gould’s trea­sured pi­ano breaks, Revel shows him fall­ing and break­ing into pieces on stage) and some­times harder to de­ci­pher (an open­ing dream se­quence of Gould play­ing an in­vis­i­ble pi­ano while wear­ing a dog mask).

As a wel­come bonus, the book in­cludes a playlist of the Gould per­for­mances Revel lis­tened to while work­ing on the book, as well as a se­lect discog­ra­phy. Glenn Gould: A Life Off Tempo adds a new di­men­sion for those al­ready fa­mil­iar with the man, and for new­com­ers, a per­fect in­tro­duc­tion.

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