Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Arresting visuals and compelling stories

Glenn Gould's story has as intriguing and appealing a visual element as an auditory one. From Gordon Parks' and Alfred Eisenstaedt's iconic photographs to the arresting images in Francois Girard's 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould, this is an important component in the carefully crafted performance art that was Glenn Gould's life. Now to add to this rich legacy we have a superb graphic novel (published in 2016 and just now out in an English translation) by Sandrine Revel, the comics artist and illustrator from Bordeaux.

In her website, Revel notes that Gould and his music meant a great deal to her since discovering him in college. "Glenn Gould m'accompagne depuis comme un ami, un double et par certains côtés je lui ressemble," she says, "Since then he has accompanied me as a friend, a double and in some ways I resemble him." This, I'm sure, is a common happening for those of us who didn't fit in during childhood, and who went through life "off tempo" as the new English version deftly translates the book's subtitle: "une vie à contretemps". Off-kilter Glenn is such an appealing character, and Revel gives us many touching scenes from his childhood, many very funny ones included. But it's the big, visionary pictures that impress me the most; Revel's vision is really impressive.

Besides her obvious skills as an illustrator, Revel brings some major story-telling chops to this project. Her vision is cinematic, and isn't bound to her book format; she tells multi-page stories and then tucks smaller, but often key, bits to break up the rhythm of the story she's telling. 

Revel includes some impressive bibliographic back-matter: a full list of Gould's music that she listened to during the project, and good short lists for suggested further reading and for further viewing. Girard's film isn't included in the latter list, by the way, though it makes sense considering Revel's focus on primary sources: the music and video of Glenn Gould himself. This is very highly recommended, both for Gould fans and those who are just learning his amazing story.

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