“At the center of the technological debate is a new kind of listener…an uninvited guest at the banquet of the arts, one whose presence threatens the familiar hierarchical setting of the musical establishment.”
At 7:15pm on Monday September 8th, the public is invited to check out a remix of Glenn Gould by Billy Iannaci and Andrew Testa, held in the lobby of the Young Centre for the Performing Arts in the Distillery District under the auspices of the Glenn Gould Estate, just before a ticketed performance of “Glenn” by Soul Pepper Theatre that evening.
Without irony, we invite artists interested in collaborative opportunities organized by BeMused Network to meet up before the free performance, and join us afterwards in cross-disciplinary conversations inspired by the “Uninvited Guests” project.
Billy Iannaci is an independent music producer who started playing guitar when he was 16, and soon found himself working in the recording industry. By 21, he‘d taken on pretty much any job anyone would let him do, and learned as he went.
Two years ago, Iannaci along with fellow musician Andrew Testa were asked to be a part of project involving Glenn Gould’s work. His first question was, “Who’s Glenn Gould?” An innocent question that would lead him down a road of discovery that turned into a sincere passion for this Canadian icon.
But actually, who is Glenn Gould? Even those with extensive musical knowledge may not be aware of Gould’s full impact on Canada’s artistic heritage, which ranged from Baroque and Classical recordings to writings on issues being hotly debated today – such as how the music industry must adapt to changes brought on by new technology.
(Scroll down to the bottom to see a video of Glenn Gould’s 1981 recording of the same work.)
Gould is best remembered for his recordings of J. S. Bach’s compositions. The best-known and -loved of these are The Goldberg Variations, which he recorded in 1955 and then again in 1981, just before his death in 1982.
Gould’s career spanned the roles of concert pianist, composer, music critic, recording engineer, and even radio producer, all with the distinct mark of an individual who was ahead of his time by just a few short decades.
The Glenn Gould Estate manages his lifetime of audio and video recordings, writings, photos and other intellectual properties, a wealth of exclusive archival materials that the Estate is making available to performing artists to create new works inspired by Gould’s intrepid spirit.
For a generation that remembers Napster transforming the way we found and listened to music, or people who have never bought a physical CD in their lives, it’s hard to imagine why Gould’s writing on the transformative nature of recording technology on the music industry was controversial.
Then again, if today you were to predict the death of the classical concert hall or question the way things have always been done, you would still get blacklisted, despite the overwhelming evidence that the market dynamics have changed.
A whole generation has grown into Gould’s vision of more active audiences who will not be dictated to regarding aesthetic experiences. Institutional experimentation is not the exception, but an absolute necessity to their relevance, and ultimately, survival.
On the other side of history is the growth of electronic influences since the 80s, with the emergence of MIDI and popularization of electronic sounds in our music. If Glenn Gould had lived a little longer, he would have seen his vision of the future performer and audience come into reality, and one has to wonder whether he might have been the first to sample Bach on the turntables, or shoot a video of himself interviewing himself about himself (he did publish a piece of writing like this after all).
“I really dug through Glenn Gould’s materials, and came across his essay called ‘The Prospects of Recording’ written almost 50 years ago. He runs through how he sees the future of music and entertainment, and to his readers, a lot of the things he said were silly and kind of crazy. But when you read it now, you realize that he got certainly things completely right about the future. He predicted how we would be consuming our entertainment today. He predicted our generation.”
The September 8th event is happening almost exactly two years after Iannaci got involved with the project. There was no frame of reference for what to do, and it has been two years of experimenting with the archival materials at the Glenn Gould Estate to create something that was true to Gould’s spirit.
Gould’s legacy lies far enough in the past that a whole generation had grown up without ever encountering him. It will take a new generation of artists such as Iannaci to reframe Glenn Gould’s relevance for a younger audience.
“A lot of the younger generation don’t know who James Dean is, but they know his bad boy image, the jacket. I never saw Elvis, but because of my parents, I understood who he was throughout my whole life. It’s our job to keep these cultural icons alive for today’s audience. This is why this is important.”
Instead of simply telling the remarkable story of Glenn Gould (which we have barely touched on in this post) and his relevance to today’s musicians, Iannaci an Testa started remixing Glenn Gould with popular artists earlier this year, aiming to create music that would trigger people to ask questions.
“It’s one thing to explain Glenn Gould to people: here he is, a classical musician, here are his ideas. It’s another to say, here’s one of your favourite songs remixed, and then explain the story afterwards.”
The name of the musical project, “Uninvited Guest”, is actually taken straight from Glenn Gould’s essay.
“He used the term Uninvited Guest as a way to describe the future audience. He predicted that technological advances would broaden musical audiences, for better or worse. In earlier times, only the affluent got to experience live performances. In the recording age, more people are ‘allowed’ to take part in the music. “
Iannaci half-jokes that this project couldn’t have happened any earlier than it did, because mashups only became a popularized form in the last few years.
“As long as we are not selling these remixes, we can do these mashups and get our foot in the door and through them tell the story of Gould as a visionary and futurist through.”
“In the best of all possible worlds, art would be unnecessary… The audience would be the artist and their life would be art.” ~ Glen Gould in The Prospects of Recording
Gould’s vision of the future describes what is happening today with amateur artists working with every media, creating art that people admire and redefining the relationship between artists and audiences. The artistic community is becoming less exclusive, and the people that previously did not have a chance to have their artistic voices heard are the so-called “uninvited guests.”.
There will of course be those that decry the irreverence to what this musical project is doing with Gould’s legacy, but not without some irony. After all, one of the reasons for Gould’s controversy was his own lack of so-called reverence for canonic works and musical traditions. For true fans of Glenn Gould, “Uninvited Guest” is exactly what a living legacy of this great Canadian icon should look like.
For artists, this is an opportunity to have Gould join the conversations and debates we are having today, through the act of performing and recording. So come out on September 8th to this free event, experience the message that “Uninvited Guest” brings about Glenn Gould as an icon, and meet fellow conspirators to expand the message to every media and discipline you happen to be in.
RSVP to be a part of the meetup we will be hosting before and after the event!