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Variations on Nostalgia Boris Berman Plays Brahms and Silvestrov
In recent months, the 85-year-old Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov has received the world's attention more than ever due to the ongoing war. Silvestrov's piano music covers more than half a century, and it would be hard to find a better proponent for it than the composer's longtime friend Boris Berman, whose coming album offers a panorama of the composer's evolution. Berman has also just released a new Brahms album and feels an affinity between the two composers. Read more >>

Topic: Glenn Gould on "performance" vs "recording"  (Read 421 times)

Offline johnlewisgrant

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Glenn Gould on "performance" vs "recording"
on: October 15, 2022, 02:37:02 AM
Here's what I think is a fantastically interesting discussion, which must be about 50 years old, predicting in many ways the future of classical music.  I found Gould's remarks 16 minutes in interesting, to say the least!
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Offline johnlewisgrant

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Re: Glenn Gould on "performance" vs "recording"
Reply #1 on: October 16, 2022, 01:42:50 AM
Smart guy, Gould, but my conclusion is that his argument for recorded performances OVER live concerts is--to me, at least--overstated. Also, one might quibble with his personal definition of the word "performance."

"Performance" means, for most musicians and audiences, a "live" performance BEFORE AN AUDIENCE and IN A HALL or VENUE of some kind, with all the risks and all the advantages that a "performance" in this sense entails.

The word is also used in an auxiliary sense: a live performance before an audience heard indirectly, that is to say, on the radio, or internet, or streaming site, or CD.

But GOULD deviates from that usage, which is fine, except that he doesn't acknowledge the deviation. He calls his heavily edited recordings "performances," which, where the edits are HUGE, makes the recording less and less a "performance," in the usual sense. 

Nothing wrong with editing, even tons of editing. But where and when the question is put: "Is that a recording of X "performing," the answer must be "not exactly," or "not completely."   That answer is required so as not to confuse or mislead listeners.  (I appreciate this distinction from my own experience, since everything I personally "record" has been, over many years, subject to repeated MIDI edits as I find things I don't like.)

The other respect in which Gould "overstates" his case is the claim that recorded music REALLY IS BETTER, which means OBJECTIVELY BETTER THAN live performance.  Surely this issue boils down to personal preference, and that's it. Some folks prefer recordings, on the whole.  Others prefer, overall, the live experience.  And yet others, which I suspect may be most people, like BOTH more or less equally for all the obvious reasons, which don't need to be rehearsed here!

Offline lelle

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Re: Glenn Gould on "performance" vs "recording"
Reply #2 on: November 10, 2022, 03:01:17 PM
Well I agree that when you consider live performances vs edited performances none of them are objectively better than the other. It's all up to preference.

An edited performance might be obectively better in terms of less mistakes. But a live performances can have a spontenaity and aliveness that heavily edited recordings stitched together from dozens of take often lack. I tend to prefer the latter despite the imperfections - overall I tend to enjoy things that may be flawed but have tons of personality over clean, perfect and unattackable things.

So that might mean that clean, perfect and tons of personality would be the best. Well maybe so. But that doesn't stop me from enjoying less than clean and perfect things with personality too.

All these measurement systems we compare things to are meaningless and subjective in any case.

Offline bachapprentice

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Re: Glenn Gould on "performance" vs "recording"
Reply #3 on: December 05, 2022, 06:05:45 PM
I don't think Glenn Gould made a lot of mistakes. I think he just loved working in a recording environment. He became quite good at editing and back then it wasn't easy to do like today with protools.

Offline keypeg

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Re: Glenn Gould on "performance" vs "recording"
Reply #4 on: December 05, 2022, 07:10:48 PM
I've not yet listened to this video, but have some ideas about what Gould did.  I've also had some long discussions with a musician on some ideas.

When you play a piece of music for a listener to hear, there are different angles to that.  A lesser angle may be to show how good you are at doing this, what your chops are, "performance" like an athlete, almost. (2) You may enjoy the interaction with the audience.  I knew someone who did things live, and this person liked to shape the audience's responses - it was almost like the audience was the canvas and the paint, and he was also the paint and the canvas.  That would be "performance" too, I guess.

(3)  You have a perception of the composer's music, and you want to convey your perception to any listener.  On any day on stage something may go wrong to spoil that perception, or part of it.  The best way to convey how you perceive the music is by recording it in the way that Gould does.  Not having listened to that link, I don't know how far off I may or may not be.

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