Toward a Theory of Beauty: Glenn Gould

That nut’s a genius. –George Szell

 

Glenn Gould sat at the piano
fourteen inches off the floor,
always that precise height,
which is to say low
enough to hang

from the keys as though
they were ivory
handholds pegged
to the grand glossy finish
of the abyss.

He rocked his body clockwise
as he played, always
twelve three six nine,
a mathematical reel,
a metronomic drunk.

He was arrested in Sarasota,
taken for a vagrant
on a park bench, muffled
in contrapuntal coat
and hat and mittens, brilliant

heat smeared everywhere but him.
He muttered when he was alone,
which was always.
In the 1981 Goldberg Variations,
his inarticulate moans and hums

bleed through the aria da capo
like the naked plainsong
of a fat man showering
in the next apartment.
Gould said his voice leaked

out of him unbidden, grew
louder with the piano’s failure
to realize the music
in the form it took in his head:
the doomed croon

of a man aching to thread
the eye of perfection
with a Steinway.
Fourteen inches
above the abyss,

he groans no no no,
but the keys nod
their heads to the bang
of hanging on,
the lift of letting go.

Front page image by Shinealight.

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