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Glenn Gould: An Avoidable Presence


by Lida Prypchan
Glenn Gould has been described in many different ways…. An article written by Tom Service described Glenn as a “wilfully idiotic genius.” (Service, 2012).  He was also described him as “An avoidable presence”, “ahead of his time, a prophet even.”  Service conveys that even thirty years after Gould’s passing, he continues to contribute to an amazed and confuse music arena because of his abilities that some believe were presented before their time.   Gould’s idiocies at times caused other’s to pause…  Gould could be found with an overcoat and gloves no matter the temperature,  once being arrested in Florida for being a vagrant (Holland, 2007) , his seating did not change,  he  carried the same  folding chair with him (Service, 2012) Steve Shelokhonov wrote “Gould played his piano which was technically adjusted to his touch.” (Shelokhonov, n.d.) Holland questioned Gould’s following, was it warranted 30 years after his death. He believed Gould and his music came to life after his passing. Gould was different, his style, his music, his creations challenged other musicians with his eccentric ways.   (Holland, 2007)
Debates continue years after Gould’s death, as to whether Gould was autistic and while some believe this to be true because of the idiocies of Gould’s behaviors, others dismiss the idea.  Timothy Mahoney, a music historian spent a vast amount of time studying Gould and his mannerism, concluding that Gould most likely was autistic, believing Asperger’s disorder most likely fit Gould and his eccentric style.  According to Mahoney   “people with AS demonstrate exceptional skill or talent in a specific area. But because of their high degree of functionality and their naiveté, they are often viewed as eccentric or odd.” (Maloney, 2012).
Have Not …
Francis Merson did not believe Gould was autistic.  In an article titled “Gould not Asperger Sufferer”, Merson believed there were other reasons for Gould’s eccentric behaviors identifying extreme phobias or an obsessive personality (Merson, 2011).  Steven Laurent a clinical psychologist did not believe Gould experience the primary symptoms related to Asperger’s Disorder, limited social interaction, he postulated that Gould’s weaknesses were common place.  Gould as a social person and often interacted with others for hours.   Additionally, Gould was intimately involved with women, thus baring speculation that Gould was Asexual.
One eccentric behavior was Gould’s insistent finger tapping.  Richard Beauchamp (2005).  While it was believed to be an odd behavior, Gould believed the constant finger tapping maintained his “agile finger technique.” Beauchamp believed Gould suffered from some psychiatric disorder, however, would not lend to Asperger’s (Beauchamp, 2005).  Gould would also immerse his hands into hot water prior to a performance (2005).
There are many differences of opinion regarding Gould and his mental health issues.  The reality of gentleman is… he was eccentric and while he displayed some odd behaviors, Glenn Gould was a brilliant musician and composer who will be listened to for years to come.  
References
Beauchamp, R. (2005). Glen Gould and Finger Tapping. Retrieved from musician and health : http://www.musicandhealth.co.uk/articles/tapping.html
Holland, B. (2007, November 24). New York Times. Retrieved from Music: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/24/arts/music/24goul.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
Maloney, T. (2012, January 20). CBC. Retrieved from Digital Archives: http://www.cbc.ca/archives/categories/arts-entertainment/music/glenn-gould-variations-on-an-artist/a-rising-star.html
Merson, F. (2011, February 16). Glen Gould not Asperger’s Sufferer. Limelight.
Service, T. (2012, September 20). The Guardian . Retrieved from The Guardian : http://www.theguardian.com/music/2012/sep/20/glenn-gould-wilfully-idiotic-genius

Shelokhonov, S. (n.d.). IMDb. Retrieved from Biography: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0332384/bio#overview

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