One of the few things my dad and I agreed on wholeheartedly was that the CBC is one of the best things Canada has. He listened to the CBC whenever he was on the road (which was a lot) and I became an ardent listener once I finally had enough of repetitive FM rock radio programming. In retrospect it’s surprising that he didn’t lean more left than he did on issue after issue; I guess the CBC might not be the Liberal propaganda machine it’s sometimes made out to be.
Anyway, one of the many great things about the CBC is their fairly consistent pursuit of presenting and archiving Canadian culture and on September 27th, 2007 I was happy to be in the audience at the beautiful Museum of Civilization (now the Museum of History) for the taping of just such an event: The Idea Of North; Songs Inspired by Glenn Gould.
For those that don’t know him, Glenn Gould was a prodigious piano playing freak of nature who is sometimes (and quite rightly) referred to as the greatest musician of the twentieth century. Aside from his genius interpretations of Bach and his mind-bending, almost inhuman piano skills across the board he was also a curious, introspective composer.
Take for example the evening’s title. The Idea Of North is a spoken-word piece Gould wrote for four voices speaking simultaneously about northern Canada. He came up with the idea while eavesdropping on a multitude of conversations going on around him in a diner one morning.
He toured with his own homemade piano bench, hummed and conducted himself while he played (with his eyes invariably closed tight), retired from live performances shortly after he started, he took mad amounts of prescription drugs, and he wore gloves and a winter coat year-round, no matter the weather. Right weirdo, this Glenn Gould. He’s dead now.
This concert included a great Ottawa band called The Flaps, Inuit singer Tanya Tagaq, PEI songstress Catherine MacLellan, The Creaking Tree String Quartet, Grand Analog, and Veda Hille. We in the silent, respectful audience were treated to one breathless honorific soundscape after another, as each act had their sole (recorded for broadcast) chance at paying tribute to one of our country’s most intricate musical minds.
It was great, and it will forever live in the archives. Bless the CBC.