Curated by
Glenn Gould—Reverse/Rebirth
by Kazunao Abe
2017 marks the 85th anniversary of Glenn Gould’s birth, but because of his early passing at the age of 50, it also happens to mark the 35th anniversary of his death. Few would deny the remarkable, epoch-spanning impact Gould achieved as a peerless pianist, artist, and thinker. However, the exact impact and standing he achieved in his time is – in view of recent world events – drifting from the public’s consciousness of Gould during the mid-20th century. In a grander cultural context, this event should serve as an excellent opportunity to reignite interest and awareness in Gould. It is a perfect midpoint along the way to 2032: his 100th anniversary.

That Ryuichi Sakamoto was the one who the Glenn Gould Foundation commissioned to plan this event in Tokyo is worth noting. Sakamoto, born 20 years after Gould, has an equally unique voice as a world-renowned pianist, songwriter, and thinker. He is also an artist with a unique appreciation for electronic music and audio technology. Much like how Gould took a special interest not just in recording technology, but in radio and TV programming and broadcast media, Sakamoto, has shown a tremendous intelligence regarding media technologies, including broadcast, mass media – and movie scores in particular – as a means of expression.

As the history of cinema enters the 21st century, a new phase has begun unlike any other point due to its strong relationship to technologies such as VR and high-resolution displays. Under this new technologically-aided perspective, our proximity to the environment of the Earth as a whole has increased. Sakamoto’s newest album, “Async” (2017), on one level makes a grand attempt to draw close to the film music of director Andrei Tarkovsky –
an artist who was also born in 1932, the same year as Gould. Gould and Tarkovsky appear to exist in similar-yet-different worlds, but imagining a thread that binds Gould, Tarkovsky, and Sakamoto reveals their shared affinity towards the German baroque composer, J.S. Bach.

When Gould passed away in 1982, the world was in the throes of postmodernism, while beginning its shift toward digitalization. Gould’s ideas and methodology was certainly well known as prophetic of such shifts as both a forward-thinking visionary and an artist. Hofstadter’s “Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid” (1979) comes to mind as a close relative and representative of the times of Bach in this regard, but how would Gould appear today, 35 years later? Fellow Torontonian Marshall McLuhan has been re-evaluated in light of the unpredictable (superficial) degradation of human society and the environment. Perhaps this event will illuminate Gould’s less-known features as an ideologist of the north, or his idea of the earth as an acoustic world. I am looking forward to the possibility of an altered memory of him presented in front of us through the merkmals that Sakamoto and our other guests will guide us with.

In addition, many artifacts are on display or being presented for the first time. However, what deserve special attention are the new and original visual recordings of testimonies from many of those who knew Gould in everyday life, thanks to the special cooperation of the Government of Canada and the Glenn Gould Foundation.

Kazunao Abe