Tuesday, September 9, 2014

the last book I ever read (Nicholson Baker's Traveling Sprinkler, excerpt twelve)

from Traveling Sprinkler by Nicholson Baker:

I spent all afternoon playing Logic’s Steinway Hall Piano. I didn’t use any other instruments. By playing slowly and then speeding it up, and by adding one line over another, I could sound a little like Glenn Gould, which is a powerful feeling. After that I experimented with some slow ninth chords, and I got something that I liked, and I put some words to the chords: “I saw you/I heard your voice/And then one day I knew/I loved you.” Another love song. At around noon, the Axiom keyboard developed a problem: Middle C wouldn’t play. I looked up “Axiom silent key” on some discussion forums. Apparently it’s a known problem. There’s a loose connection somewhere, and a key, often middle C, will just stop speaking. This is frustrating if you’re trying to compose a piece of music with a middle C. I thought I was going to have to drive back to Best Buy and return the keyboard. Then I found a video in which someone posted a solution: You squeeze hard on the two sides of the plastic near the mod wheel. I tried it and it worked perfectly. I’m overjoyed, because I really like this keyboard. Just give it a squeeze.

Glenn Gould, you know, used to sing along while he played Bach. He was a hero of mine when I was in high school. I liked his clean staccato playing style. Later, when I got into Debussy’s Preludes and Grieg’s Lyric Pieces, I was less sure about him. He wrote a fugue called “So You Want to Write a Fugue.” It’s got a funny title and good lyrics, but it isn’t all that original a piece of music. Gould was a performer, not a creator. He was cold all the time. He took pills and he wore scarves and hats and coats indoors. The film about him, Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould, begins with him standing on a windswept ice field. What was missing from Gould’s art was very simple: love. His jumpy playing style showed that—or no, that’s a cheap shot. He sat very low in front of the piano and did beautiful things to it.

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