Focal points

by on June 13, 2008 at 5:38 pm in Music | Permalink

He [Glenn Gould] disliked giving autographs for the same reason he was wary of writing checks for fear the results might be unlucky.  But when he did give an autograph or sign a check (or any other document, for that matter), he always misspelled his own first name writing it as "Glen."  Kazdin once asked him why, and Gould explained that he had discovered years earlier that once he got his hand to start forming the two n’s he couldn’t stop and would keep going and write three, so he decided to abort the exercise after one.  Kazdin was skeptical.  "This supposed lack of manual control is a little hard to swallow coming from the man who could play an unbroken stream of thirty-second notes faster and cleaner than any other pianist on the face of the earth."

That is from A Romance on Three Legs: Glenn Gould’s Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Piano, by Katie Hafner.  This is an excellent book showing that the choice of piano really matters.  For the pointer I thank Kat.

1 Bob Meade June 14, 2008 at 7:30 am

As is mentioned in the Amazon blurb, “The Piano Shop on the Left Bank” is another fine book about pianofortes worth reading:

2 Michael F. Martin June 15, 2008 at 10:06 pm

The title to this post is puzzling to me. Is the thought that somehow Gould had more precise motor control because he never focused his attention on precise repetitive motor activities (like double “n”s)?

3 Michael F. Martin June 16, 2008 at 12:53 pm


You’re right. That’s the more obvious point that Tyler was alluding to. He was good at piano because he focused exclusively on piano. He didn’t focus on anything else — even his own signature!

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