Glenn Gould Playing the Goldberg Variations (Video)

I've grown up hearing Glenn Gould's two performances of Bach's Goldberg Variations. Gould's first landmark performance was released in 1955, and it was passionate, fast, and popular -- with a runtime of just over 38 minutes, Gould's first performance left out many of the repeats within the variations, plus he kept the tempo up. That 1955 recording was a blockbuster hit (as classical recordings go), and helped to put the Goldberg Variations on the cultural map; prior to that performance the Variations were not particularly well-known among non-classical-music nerds. Gould made a second recording in 1981, and he changed things quite a bit. In addition to a much cleaner stereo recording, the new performance was slower, clocking in at over 51 minutes long, though that's still considered fast for a Variations performance (others pianists can take upwards of 75 minutes for the same material). Gould also included various repeats in the latter recording.

What I didn't realize about any of this, while listening to the recordings for thirty years, was that Gould was filmed at various times performing these pieces, most notably during the 1981 recording sessions. This adds a whole new level of interest to the work, as you can finally see Gould moving his mouth -- he hums, sings, and mutters while playing -- and this makes a lot more sense when you can see it. Below, I've collected a series of videos showing Gould at work.

1981 Performance

Note Gould's piano chair (rather than a bench). This is a selection from "Glenn Gould Plays Bach," shown in its entirety at the end of this post. This video cuts out the closing Aria.

1964 Performance

Apparently the original 1955 sessions were not filmed, but here's some concert film from 1964. Looks like he's had that chair for quite a while.

1955 Performance

While the original performance wasn't filmed, it was beautifully photographed by LIFE Magazine. Here's a video showing some of those photographs:

The Entire 1981 Performance (With Interviews)

Here's the entire "Glenn Gould Plays Bach" documentary, directed by Bruno Monsaingeon. I suspect this video will be pulled from YouTube at some point, as this doesn't appear to be an official release.

Further Viewing

32 Short Films about Glenn Gould must be mentioned, if not necessarily understood. Here's a selection:

You may also be interested in this recital from French television. Finally, if you want to own Gould's Goldberg Variations recordings, I urge you to check out A State of Wonder: The Complete Goldberg Variations (1955 & 1981).

Original image
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
‘American Gothic’ Became Famous Because Many People Saw It as a Joke
Original image
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In 1930, Iowan artist Grant Wood painted a simple portrait of a farmer and his wife (really his dentist and sister) standing solemnly in front of an all-American farmhouse. American Gothic has since inspired endless parodies and is regarded as one of the country’s most iconic works of art. But when it first came out, few people would have guessed it would become the classic it is today. Vox explains the painting’s unexpected path to fame in the latest installment of the new video series Overrated.

According to host Phil Edwards, American Gothic made a muted splash when it first hit the art scene. The work was awarded a third-place bronze medal in a contest at the Chicago Art Institute. When Wood sold the painting to the museum later on, he received just $300 for it. But the piece’s momentum didn’t stop there. It turned out that American Gothic’s debut at a time when urban and rural ideals were clashing helped it become the defining image of the era. The painting had something for everyone: Metropolitans like Gertrude Stein saw it as a satire of simple farm life in Middle America. Actual farmers and their families, on the other hand, welcomed it as celebration of their lifestyle and work ethic at a time when the Great Depression made it hard to take pride in anything.

Wood didn’t do much to clear up the work’s true meaning. He stated, "There is satire in it, but only as there is satire in any realistic statement. These are types of people I have known all my life. I tried to characterize them truthfully—to make them more like themselves than they were in actual life."

Rather than suffering from its ambiguity, American Gothic has been immortalized by it. The country has changed a lot in the past century, but the painting’s dual roles as a straight masterpiece and a format for skewering American culture still endure today.

Get the full story from Vox below.

[h/t Vox]

Original image
“Dissension” by Tobias Rothe. Original image courtesy Fondazione Federico Zeri/Università di Bologna // CC-BY 3.0
Get Your GIFs Ready for This International Public Domain GIF-Making Competition
Original image
“Dissension” by Tobias Rothe. Original image courtesy Fondazione Federico Zeri/Università di Bologna // CC-BY 3.0

Excellent GIF-making skills can serve you beyond material for your clever tweets. Each year, a group of four digital libraries from across the world hosts GIF IT UP, a competition to find the best animated image sourced from public domain images from their archives.

The competition is sponsored by Europeana, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), New Zealand’s DigitalNZ, and the National Library of Australia’s Trove, all of which host millions of public domain works. The requirements are that the source material must be in the public domain, have a 'no known copyright restrictions' statement, or have a Creative Commons license that allows its reuse. The material must also come from one of the sponsored sources. Oh, and judging by the past winners, it helps if it’s a little whimsical.

The image above won the grand prize in 2015. And this was a runner-up in 2016:


This year’s prizes haven’t been announced yet (although Europeana says there will be a new one for first-time GIF makers), but last year’s grand prize winner got their own Giphoscope, and runners-up got $20 gift cards. (Turns out, there’s not a lot of money in public domain art.)

Not an expert GIFer yet? You can always revisit the audio version of DPLA’s advanced GIF-making tutorial from last year.

The fourth-annual GIF IT UP contest opens to submissions October 1.


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