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Impressions of Gould: Director Robin Phillips Looks Back

by Iris Winston,
National Library News

The room was small, dark and windowless. The walls were hung with leads, pipes and cables. The only light focused on the keyboard of the piano in the centre of the room. This was the place where Glenn Gould worked and conducted much of his business.

"I can still remember the overall impression of that space," says Robin Phillips. "I often think about the extraordinary darkness of the room and wonder whether he was driven into seclusion by a desire not to be hurt by criticism."

Phillips, formerly Artistic Director of the Stratford Festival and now the Artistic Director of the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton, worked with Gould during the filming of the Timothy Findley novel, The Wars, which he directed shortly before the musician's death.

"We met frequently, always in this room," says Phillips. "The meeting time was generally around 1:30 a.m. I suppose this time might seem strange to some, but such hours are not unusual for theatre people. In fact, I found everything about Glenn Gould riveting and not remotely strange. I particularly remember his remarkable hands. But remarkable as they were, they were not as memorable as his smile, his penetrating gaze or his concentration on the job at hand. Such things as his wearing his overcoat and gloves while we worked didn't matter. Only the music mattered. I remember my initial surprise at seeing how much electronic equipment he kept around him, but it was wonderful to see his great admiration for technology and remarkable that he embraced it so readily. He felt that technology could produce the perfect interpretation where the concert platform could not."

Phillips says that Gould was extremely cooperative during the scoring of The Wars.

"He was very good to work with, very sensitive," he says. "He always knew precisely when a chord should occur. This was part of his connection with technology. If there was any problem, it was only that he liked The Wars too much. I wanted the score to be a little cheaper and felt that some of Gould's music outclassed the piece. He wanted it to be perfect."

"This was a magic time," adds Phillips. "There were wonderful moments when he played for me. And when he played, every muscle of his body was part of producing that music. I totally understand why he had to sit on a particular chair, for instance. It all became part of the process of making the music."

And making music was Glenn Gould's life.

Source: National Library news. Nouvelles de la Bibliothèque nationale
Ottawa, Library and Archives Canada. -- v. ill., ports. 23-28 cm. -- Vol. 24, no. 7 (September 1992). -- ISSN 0027-9633. -- P. 10
© Library and Archives Canada. Reproduced with the permission of the Estate of Glenn Gould and Glenn Gould Limited.

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