Glenn Gould: The Performer in the Work: A Study in Performance Practice

By Kevin Bazzana | Go to book overview
Save to active project

The Role of the Performer

The Work, the Score, and the Performer as Creator

GOULD'S IDEALISM, however commonplace in principle, was directly responsible for his unusual freedom in realizing works in performance. Believing that a musical work existed apart from performance, he considered the profile of the music in performance--how the music sounded--to be a function of a specific interpretation, not an integral part of the work. Contrapuntal balances, rhythmic nuances, dynamic levels, articulation, tone colour, instrumentation-- even where specified by the composer--were all subject to the performer's will without compromising the identity or status of the work. (This was a matter of principle, and did not depend on how precise the music's notation was.) In other words, for Gould 'the work' was not equivalent to 'the score', in the conventional sense of 'everything on the printed page', including both the notes and the supplementary words and symbols intended to shape the profile of the work in performance.1 He was in accord with a theoretical position put forward by Nelson Goodman, that only what can be considered notation (that is, what can be specified quantitatively) can be considered to define a work--in essence, pitches and rhythms.2 Goodman denies that there can be 'correct' renderings of, say, dynamics because these cannot (in the present Western system, at least) be fixed quantitatively--cannot be part of the notation. Goodman's view demands a distinction between the identity and the aesthetic character of a musical work--if only what is notational in a score defines the work, then its aesthetic character can vary substantially without its identity changing. It is a controversial position, much criticized in the literature on aesthetics and rare among practising performers. Most writers and musicians, it is fair to say, believe that a work must possess certain fixed aesthetic properties, conveyed through prescriptive performance directions, if it is to retain its identity and make sense; for most it is disturbing, absurd, even potential chaos to suggest that a piece might be played either andante or allegro, piano or forte, dolce or maestoso. But Gould seems to have been willing to entertain just such possibilities. Like Goodman, he put all non-notational directions into the

In his copy of Prisms, Gould flagged Adorno's comments to this effect, with which he was obviously sympathetic ("The musical score is never identical with the work . . .'); see NLC B1, 144.
Goodman explains his five qualifications for notationality in Languages of Art, 127-73.


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Glenn Gould: The Performer in the Work: A Study in Performance Practice


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 300

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?