My first contribution to Gould studies was to hunch over a coffee table and mimic for friends the strange sight I had seen on Canadian television the night before. It was early October 1982, and I had been listening for a week to radio bulletins about a Canadian pianist, previously unknown to me, who had suffered a massive stroke and died a few days later, at the age of 50. That week I listened with growing interest to broadcasts of Gould recordings, and watched his film of the Goldberg Variations on TV. Like many, I was immediately impressed by his virtuosity at the keyboard, captivated by his intensity as a communicator, and intrigued by his eccentric personality. I soon began buying Gould recordings, beginning with his best-selling second recording of the Goldberg Variations, released a few days before he was stricken; later I read Geoffrey Payzant monograph Glenn Gould: Music and Mind and began following the growing posthumous Gould literature.
It was not long before I began contributing to that literature myself. In 1987, while an undergraduate at the University of Victoria, I published my first article on Gould, and from the beginning I consciously (if circuitously) worked towards the book-length study that is finally published here. Through the next decade, I continued to explore Gould's work, contributing articles, reviews, and reports to a variety of magazines, journals, and encyclopedias; writing liner notes for Gould CDs; giving lectures; doing research among the Gould papers at the National Library of Canada in Ottawa; and, most recently, editing a journal for the Glenn Gould Foundation. My work expanded in several directions over the years: I continued to work on specific Gould-related topics, keeping pace with the dissemination of his work and the growth of serious international interest in him, but I also found myself increasingly drawn to other, broader topics and literatures (musical and otherwise) as I pursued the implications of his work and saw it in ever-new, ever-wider contexts. My studies culminated in a Ph.D. dissertation, titled 'Glenn Gould: A Study in Performance Practice', for the University of California at Berkeley, which I began in the autumn of 1992 and filed in the autumn of 1996, and which formed the basis for this book.
This is a work of criticism, not a reference book: for all its scholarly foundations, it remains, ultimately, my own personal confrontation with Gould's work. It is, moreover, a study focused on Gould as a pianist and interpreter of music. It is surprising to note, at this late date, that Gould the performer has been somewhat slighted as a subject for sustained critical attention. There are close to three dozen books about him (including those currently in preparation), and among them one can find much material on his life, musical upbringing, career, image,