Glenn Gould gets it


My favorite new media theorist was better known for his work on a piano keyboard. Here’s something he wrote more than forty years ago:

One of the certain effects of the electronic age is that it will forever change the values that we attach to art. In fact, the vocabulary of aesthetic criteria that has been developed since the Renaissance is mostly concerned with terms that are proving to have little validity for the examination of electronic culture. I refer to such terms as “imitation,” “invention,” and, above all, “originality,” which in recent times have implicitly conveyed varying degrees of approval or censure, in accordance with the peculiarly distorted sense of historical progression that our age has accepted, but which are no longer capable of conveying the precise analytical concepts they once represented.

Electronic transmission has already inspired a new concept of multiple-authorship responsibility in which the specific concepts of the composer, the performer, and, indeed, the consumer overlap. …It will not, it seems to me, be very much longer before a more self-assertive streak is detected in the listeners participation, before, to give but one example, “do-it-yourself” tape editing is the prerogative of every reasonably conscientious consumer of recorded music (the Hausmusik activity of the future, perhaps!). And I would be most surprised if the consumer involvement were to terminate at that level. In fact, implicit in electronic culture is an acceptance of the idea of multilevel participation in the creative process.

— From “Strauss and the Electronic Future,” 1964

He gets it better than a lot of people today who owe their livings to electronic culture.

4 thoughts on “Glenn Gould gets it

  1. He was clearly influenced by McLuhan — but he’s got his own way of putting things I find great fun. And his work in radio (and to a lesser extent on the piano) gave him a medium to work these ideas out.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.