Friday, March 25, 2016

A Translation of "Ebene," a Short Story or Fragment by Thomas Bernhard


If we had ever been informed of and thereby enlightened in a tremendous fashion about the fact that our life-process is in truth nothing but a process of illness—we say to ourselves and ask ourselves, what, or rather, who has not informed us of it and not enlightened us about it to any extent whatsoever, time and again and specifically with the same allegations against our parents as well as against our entire environment, in which we, as we now see, were compelled to exist for decades without ever actually seeing and hence for decades without ever actually thinking; above all, we ask ourselves why our parents never informed us and therefore enlightened us, when it was after all their duty, as we now believe, as we are well within our rights to do, to inform us and enlighten us and, as we know full well, above all regarding the fact that our life-process is nothing but a process of illness and consequently has always been nothing but a process of illness, a fact that is immediately recognizable as a fact of nature—we would in those informed and enlightened circumstances have relinquished everything and abandoned everything much earlier and in point of fact would have left behind everything for ever; many decades ago we would have been gone—and gone under—and also have let ourselves go—we would have gone under and would have relinquished and abandoned and left behind and extinguished everything.  Now we see, to our horror, the ruthlessness and the vulgarity and the dimwittedness of our parents, by whom we, because they are our parents, were never enlightened to any extent whatsoever about the fact that our life-process is in truth a process of illness, because our parents always hid their understanding from us, as we are now learning all too late.  In such a case we would, we think, have let ourselves go and gone under and have abandoned everything and left behind everything; in that case, we would have been obliged to do what we are doing now many decades ago; obliged to go away, to abandon, to leave behind, to extinguish, such that what we have now been straining and overtaxing ourselves to accomplish in the most acute and in the most humiliating fashion we would have been able to put up with and get over with effortlessly decades ago; what we now regard as an enormity and not only an enormity against everything, but also quite simply an enormity against nature in its entirety; what we now regard as lies, we would have regarded as nothing but our development, our education; we would have regarded as thought what we now find nothing but lethal.  In that case we would not in full knowledge of our causes been at the mercy of our effects  in the most degrading fashion; in that case we would not have done what we have done and would not be what we are.  Decades ago we would have let ourselves go and gone away and gone under and would have abandoned everything and left behind everything: our walls and our furniture and the air in these walls and in these pieces of furniture and our books and our papers and the air in these books and in these papers, which have always been our books and our papers and also, as we now see, have always been lethal walls and lethal furniture and a lethal air.  Our lethal parents, we think and we think many decades ago we should have relinquished everything and abandoned everything and left behind everything and extinguished everything in which we have been imprisoned for whole decades and not been imprisoned in this horrible state, but rather have been exhausted from the very beginning and as we now see, thanks to our lethal parents in uninterrupted and persistent and ultimately insistent exhaustion.  Many decades ago we should have relinquished what even if we go away and if we abandon and leave behind and extinguish, we now no longer can relinquish and abandon and leave behind and no longer can extinguish, because we no longer have the strength to do so, because our exhaustion is a total exhaustion.  Decades ago we should have calmly abandoned these walls and these pieces of furniture and these books and papers and shut these doors and patiently exhaled this air in order to avoid having to inhale a single breath ever again and to be able to forget everything, as we can now no longer do.  We have relinquished and abandoned and left behind and forgotten what we believed we had to relinquish, abandon and leave behind and ultimately forget; we have let ourselves go and we have gone away and we have gone under, but we have relinquished nothing and abandoned nothing and left behind nothing and forgotten nothing; we have in reality extinguished nothing whatsoever, because our parents did not inform us of or enlighten us about the fact that our life-process is in reality nothing but a process of illness.  We were up above, in the company of our parents, locked up in our walls and in our rooms and in our books and papers and everything around us and in us was nothing but lethal and we are down below, without our parents, again locked up in these walls and in our rooms and in our books and papers and everything around us and in us is nothing but lethal.  

Source: Thomas Bernhard, Werke 14, herausgegeben von [Works, Vol. 14, edited by] Hans Höller, Martin Huber und Manfred Mittermayer (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 2003), pp. 395-397. Originally published in Walter Pichler: 111 Zeichnungen [111 Sketches]. Mit einem Essay von Max Peintner und einem Prosatext von Thomas Bernhard. Salzburg: Residenz 1973, pp. 245-247.

Translation unauthorized but Copyright ©2016 by Douglas Robertson   

Friday, March 11, 2016

A Translation of "Die Frau aus dem Gusswerk und der Mann mit dem Rucksack," a Short Story by Thomas Bernhard


The woman, who is employed at the foundry, found her eye caught by a fairly old man who, with a fully-packed rucksack was pacing up and down the riverbank, a man who was wearing buckskin lederhosen tied up at the ankles, a pair of high-topped lace-up boots, a coat made of milled cloth, and a sturdy felt hat on his head.  She thought there was something terrifying about the face of the man, who seemed, like her, to be impatiently awaiting the arrival of the train, this man who now and then would quite unwarrantably shove another person out of the way in order to keep his own path clear.  She had already observed the man on her way to the stop and begun forming thoughts about him.  The man was a complete stranger to her.  He also was a stranger to her male and female coworkers, who on the way to the stop had successively asked her about him in the most unobtrusive fashion and invariably by means of the same question:  who is he?  Most people can be quite easily placed by their clothing, by their hats and coats and footwear; having categorized what a person is wearing, one can immediately establish where he comes from.  The foundry’s employees are immediately recognizable, as are the warehouse staff, the woodcutters, the day-trippers from the city, brewery-workers, railway-men, postmen, miners.  But the man with the extraordinary felt hat on his head, with the extraordinarily highly topped lace-up boots, the man with the coat of sturdy milled fabric, with the buckskin lederhosen tied together at the ankles and not under the knees, was irritating.  And to a most appalling degree he irritated the woman from the foundry, who suddenly, at the same time as several of her male and female coworkers were beckoning her over to them, walked up to within a pace of the man and ordered him to open his rucksack.   The stranger, utterly taken aback by her super-suddenness, being mindful of this woman’s menacing and malignant comportment towards him, and of her ultimately unmistakable suspiciousness of him, opened his rucksack, and the woman from the foundry peered into it.  Disappointed, the woman raised her head, and the man with the rucksack resumed breathing.  The rucksack had contained nothing but a rolled-up Hubertus coat.  At this moment the train pulled up to the stop.  The foundry workers climbed aboard; the woman from the foundry climbed aboard as well.  In the poorly lit and overheated train she tried to find a seat as far away as possible from the strange man with the rucksack, which was already beginning to give her the creeps again.


Source: Thomas Bernhard, Werke 14, herausgegeben von [Works, Vol. 14, edited by] Hans Höller, Martin Huber und Manfred Mittermayer (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 2003), pp. 393-4. Originally published in Almanach 4 für Literatur und Theologie, edited by Dorothee Sölle et al. Wuppertal 1970, pp. 23f.

Translation unauthorized but Copyright ©2016 by Douglas Robertson   

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Gould versus Rosen: a Postscript

This postscript has been occasioned—and, indeed, in a certain modest but by no means trivial sense necessitated—by the flagrantly coup de foudre-esque appearance, just before Christmas before last (a.k.a., Christfest 2014), of the 21-disc Charles Rosen: The Complete Columbia and Epic Album Collection.  For it will be remembered by the ideal reader of “Gould versus Rosen” (and, a fortiori, of this postscript) that in that essay I professed (honestly, of course) to be unacquainted with Charles Rosen’s official discography apart from a sub-handful of Sony CD reissues, among which notably figured Mr. Rosen’s recordings of the Goldberg Variations and of the last half-dozen Beethoven piano sonatas.  Admittedly, in that essay I also asserted and enacted my right to treat this sub-handful of recordings as a synecdoche for the whole of the Rosenian discography on the grounds that they were, so to speak, multiple Oedipus Rexes of that discography--i.e., the recordings within it that had garnered the greatest praise from their first hearers.  As it happens, my audition of The Complete Columbia and Epic Album Collection has largely vindicated that assertion and enactment, for none of the seventeen or so of its discs containing recordings unfamiliar to me at the time of Gould versus Rosen (as Rosen’s Goldbergs and late Beethoven recordings were issued on Columbia, they naturally form a part of the CC&EAC) has catalyzed in me any radical reappraisal or re-ranking of Rosen as a pianist.  Nonetheless it is worth devoting some attention to those remaining seventeen discs, as in virtue of their mere newfound phenomenal availability they perforce shed light on Gould’s and Rosen’s comparative pianistic métiers—this in exactly in the same manner as the discovery of a dozen hitherto seemingly lost tragedies of Sophocles would shed light on the comparative dramaturgical métiers of Sophocles and Euripides, even if none of the new finds was extraordinarily good enough to displace Oedipus from the center of the Sophoclean corpus.  There are a couple of things I should mention before I proceed to the appraisal of the CC&EAC proper, simply because I don’t know where else to say them.  First: the timing of the release of the CC&EAC seems a bit odd.  If during Rosen’s later years Sony had been withholding the collection so as to be able to capitalize on the usual postmortem sales bounce, they presumably would have released it within a few months of his death, certainly no later than early summer of 2013.  The fact that they did not issue it until December 2014, more than two years after CR’s disparation, suggests that by the time of his death Rosen had either dropped off Sony’s radar screen or been consigned to Sony’s lumber room, that by then Sony either did not deem Rosen popular or significant enough for a reissue or had even forgotten that he figured in their back catalogue at all; and yet, the fact that they did eventually issue the CC&EAC suggests that they were impressed, if taken aback, by the volume and character of the journalistic-cum-interwebbial reaction to CR’s death, that in the weeks and months after it enough people and enough of the right sorts of people praised Rosen’s qualities specifically as a pianist to make them realize that in this trove of hitherto undigitized recordings they certainly had a hefty cash calf, albeit probably not a full-fledged cash cow, in their vaults.  As the CC&EAC marks most of these recordings’ world premieres in CD format, one cannot help feeling a twinge of remorse at being vouchsafed a pleasure that Rosen himself never got to enjoy, and whose absence he must have felt especially keenly towards the end, when he could walk only very slowly and painfully even with the aid of a cane, and most likely found the amount of shifting and lifting involved in listening to his own or anybody else’s records quite taxing.  
Like many retrospective classical music collections issued since the dawn of the millennium, the CC&EAC is an assemblage of replicas of LPs: each of its CDs contains the exact sequence of tracks of a given LP and is housed in a miniaturized version of that record’s original jacket, complete with so-called artwork and liner notes.  The notes, being a fraction of their original point-size, are of course almost completely illegible, which is something of a pity as, their bylines, the principal occasion for my “almost,” reveal that a fair proportion of them were written by Rosen himself.  The so-called artwork (here I write so-called not in contempt but in mere non-automatic-self-prostration), however, is easy enough to discern and appreciate even in miniature, and from it, as from no other source that I am aware of, one really gets a sense—or at least fancies one is getting a sense—of how Rosen the youngish pianist was regarded (which is to say marketed and ogled [i.e., through shop windows and at record racks]) by his contemporaries.  On three of the LP-jackets it was thought both sufficient and worthwhile to display a likeness of the underratedly photogenic pianist—once smiling and in semi-profile in a blue-highlighted but otherwise straightforward photograph, the second time again smiling in semi-profile in a pencil or charcoal drawing [I know: not a photograph, but the sheer physical impracticability of holding the sort of smile he is smiling leads one to assume the so-called artist {again, no contempt in the so-called] was working from a photograph rather than from CR directly}], the third time head-on in a physiognomically inscrutable photographic negative that made (and still makes) him look like someone being exterminated by a dalek.  The common tonal keynote (non-music-derived idioms regrettably elude me at the moment) of all three of these covers is intellectual seriousness, an intellectual seriousness that is, to be sure, not unleavened with good humor and urbanity (except perhaps in the dalek-extermination shot), but also utterly uncorrupted by the slightest tincture of schmaltz, sycophancy, or meretriciousness.  They collectively epitomize an historically characteristic recessive antipode of the dominant gushing, lamé-spangled 60s-and-70s Vegas-centered “I’m so happy to be here”-spewing showbiz habitus.  They (collectively) also immediately put one in mind of the covers of Glenn Gould’s albums released during the same period.  In particular the cover of the Schubert album, the one with the pencil-or-charcoal sketch, reminds one of the cover of Gould’s recording of Bach’s Two and Three-Part Inventions, which is likewise occupied solely by a pencil-or-charcoal sketch of the head of the presiding pianist.  

Gould-Rosen diptych.jpg

So taken on their own, these album covers suggest that for a time, or among a certain sector of both groups, CBS and its classical record-purchasers regarded Rosen as a second Gould—I won’t go so far as to say a second-string Gould or an understudy of or heir-apparent to Gould because I refuse to take for granted that Gould’s present official-discography-wide immunity to going out of print had already been inoculated by then, or that an immunity of parallel comprehensiveness was then out of the question for Rosen.  But these LP-jackets, as the mere ratio 3/21 or 1/7 makes abundantly clear, do not constitute a majority of the presentation styles in the collection.  The presentation style that by far occupies the largest share therein is that in which the composer completely displaces the performer.  This share comprises Rosen’s three Bach discs, his three Beethoven discs, his one Schumann disc, his one Carter disc, and his one Carter-plus-Kirchner disc, making for nine discs, or 3/7 of the CC&EAC, in all.  These jacket covers remind me of nothing so much as the jacket covers of the LPs issued by the budget label Vox-Turnabout, LPs that as an eleven-year-old I gourmandized to the extent that my two-or-three-dollar-a-week allowance permitted.  Again, I must beg forgiveness for the interjection of a personal note, but I would argue in defense of this interjection that the very circumstance of being snapped up so eagerly by an eleven-year-old speaks the proverbial volumes about such budget sets, and, by extension, about the 3/7 of the CC&EAC just mentioned.  You see, as an eleven-year-old, at least as an eleven-year-old budding lay classical music buff, one is generally more interested in repertoire than in performances; one has read in this or that music reference work, for example, The Oxford Junior Companion to Music, that, for example, Cesar Franck’s Symphony in D minor is “a cathedral in sound,” and entranced by this description, one pounces on and purchases the first recording one sees of CF’s sole orchestral masterpiece, or the most affordable of the three or four recordings of this masterpiece one sees in the record-racks (or the obvious other places one sees them nowadays), in blithe disregard of which conductor is conducting it and which orchestra is playing it.  There obviously has always been a niche for this sort of purchase, and there have nearly always been labels and series within labels dedicated to filling it.  And in the light of the purchaser’s indifference to the performer, the record companies have tended to pair recordings slotted to this niche with performers who do not mind, or cannot afford to mind, being deprived of photographic publicity—with conductors like Maurice Abravanel and orchestras like his Utah Symphony Orchestra, which was practically the house band of Vox-Turnabout, or Jenő Jandó, who, in the CD epoch, was (and perhaps still is) more than practically the house pianist of Naxos.  The reader must understand that here I am registering a mere set of objective commercial statistics and not my own so-called value judgment or even the value judgments of the tastemakers of the age.  In the annals of recorded classical music the Abravanel-led Utah Symphony occupy quite a privileged and infungible place, perhaps most notably for their pioneering complete Mahler cycle.  And I personally prefer Mr. Jandó’s recording of the Well-Tempered Clavier to his much more famous fellow-countryman Andras Schiff’s.  But for some reason or other, the record companies decided and have decided, respectively, that these performers’ recordings were destined to serve as new-listener bait rather than as showcases for infungibly stellar performances.  So, it would seem, they ultimately decided vis-à-vis a large portion of Rosen’s discography.  And yet one hesitates to make too much of the composer-centricity in Rosen’s case, one hesitates to assume that he was ever in any danger of becoming the Jenő Jandó of Columbia or Epic, largely on account of the comparative eccentricity of the repertoire housed on the discs swathed in these composer-centered jackets.  Certainly in the case of the Carter and Carter-Kirchner discs, the composers’ photographic monopoly implies nothing to the derogation of the performer(s): these men were, after all, artistically (or aesthetically) important but commercially negligible composers who deserved, and stood to benefit from, every square inch of dedicated publicity they got.  (Speaking of Kirchner, now is no worse a time than any other to mention that, pending the discovery of some Cageanly inaudible piano part in the score [the piano is after all sometimes classified as a percussion instrument], one feels within one’s rights to assume that Rosen does not figure in the CC&EAC-included performance of Kirchner’s Concerto for Violin, Cello, Ten Winds, and Percussion; and the same assumption goes for this collection’s version of Carter’s Variations for Orchestra.  The reason for including these non-Rosen-involving recordings is not far to seek: viz. the abovementioned implied editorial policy of producing click track-perfect reproductions of actual, whilom commercially available LPs.  Much as one appreciates the cosmetically aesthetic tidiness yielded by this policy, one wishes it had been either modified or signalized in some fashion.  The buyer has, after all, engaged to hear only recordings involving a specific performer and should not be expected to go to the trouble of removing tracks not involving him like so many bits of shell in a crab-cake.  I know that received consumer’s opinion across the spectrum of commodities holds that anything over and above the promised payload should be savored as a bonus, but at least vis-à-vis single-artist-eponymized boxed sets such as the CC&EAC I bumptiously beg to disagree, for while I am pleased to have a second recording of the Carter Variations, I am highly displeased at having been forced—in virtue of not having taken the by no means negligible trouble of opting out—to become acquainted with the Kirchner Concerto, which now weighs on my ear’s memory like [or perhaps as] a reworking of Alban Berg’s Chamber Concerto by some profane and inarticulate blowhard like Archie Bunker.  The compilers could have signalized such utterly Rosen-free stretches [along, incidentally, with the more numerous non-solo-Rosenian stretches (e.g., the Chopin and Liszt piano concertos and a good bit of the Webern)] quite cheaply by simply subscribing Rosen’s name on the lid of the box with the phrase and friends”).  Alternatively, and equally cheaply, they could have simply excised the non-Rosen-including tracks while leaving the LP jacket-layouts intact and noting the omissions in the liner notes.  The fact that they did neither suggests that [I really should just start abbreviating this quasi-boilerplate sentence-opener as “TFT…ST”] it never occurred to anyone at Sony to check the personnel on any of the recordings; that the whole verbal side of the packaging was a purely mechanical cut-and-paste job supervised and carried out by people who did not know Charles Rosen the pianist from Charles Rosen the sports writer  [For the Webern performances, originally strewn over several discs in CBS’s complete Webern set, the compilers were indeed considerate enough to omit the non Rosen-including tracks, but this is not signaled in the liner notes or jacket art]).  For a living, serious composer of so (and for the most part rightly)-called difficult music, any sharing of the limelight threatens to cast him into utter darkness, and the total ceding of the limelight to a performer—i.e., on a jacket on which only a likeness of the performer is seen, as on the jacket of Rosen’s Chopin-only disc—is often the kiss of death for him.  If the composer is pictured alongside the performer it may be thought that the performer is performing the work in question as a favor to the composer qua personal friend or even (if there is any kind of physical contact between the two of them in the photograph) lover, and if the performer alone appears on the jacket; why, then, it will simply be assumed that the performer himself is embarrassed about his obligation to record the work in question, perhaps because he has fallen out with the composer since the making of the recording.  To the reader who is skeptical of these composer-annihilating photogenetic (sic) powers on the part of the performer, I need only, by way of carrying my point, pose the following bipartite rope-a-dope of questions: “When was the last time you listened to a work by Ernst Krenek or Oskar Morawetz?”  Why, as recently as teatime yesterday. “And which person or persons was pictured on the so-called artwork of the recording then in point?” Why….Mr. Glenn Gould…solus.  So there you have it: any living composer of so (and for the most part rightly)-called difficult music who wishes to flog his works on the non-live circuit cannot appear in person in the company of any other person on the wrapper of any recording containing any of his works.  Accordingly, one is inclined to class Rosen’s Kirchner-Carter and Carter-only CBS discs in a separate category from his Schumann, Bach, and Beethoven ones, to class them, rather and indeed, with his Schoenberg-Stravinsky, Debussy, Ravel, Webern, and Boulez discs, discs on whose jackets a kind of J****h or M********n artistic policy prevails, in that no human figures at all are represented on them, as if in tacit assertion that not even the image of the composer, let alone that of the performer, should be allowed to divert our attention from music of such stratospheric falutine altitude, discs that did not need to vie for the attention of the buyer because unlike the budget recording of the Franck symphony they most likely did not have to contend with a dozen rivals; indeed, in the case of all but the Debussy and Ravel they were probably the only recordings of their repertoire then available.  So on the 19 disc-jackets so far discussed we are presented with three entertainable commercial manifestations of the CBS Rosen, the Rosen of the 1960s—Rosen as Gould alternative, Rosen as utility performer of the core repertoire, and Rosen as unassuming champion of fringy new and newish music.  Of the three of these, only the last jibes with the Rosen that most of us are most familiar with—i.e., the post-Classical Style Rosen known better as a writer than as a performer.  But they are all much closer to that Rosen than they are to the Rosen implied by the two as-yet-undiscussed discs in the CC&EAC, viz. one pairing the Liszt first concerto with the Chopin second, and another entitled Virtuoso! and comprising a track-listing that defies general characterization by the present writer.  The title (i.e., Virtuoso! Charles Rosen. Electrifying Performances of the Word’s Most Difficult Piano Showpieces) almost says it all (or as much of that all as I can wrest from it), but for an understanding of the tiny sliver of what it doesn’t say one has to turn to the jacket of the Chopin-and-Liszt pairing.  This disc also has a title, viz. Two Great Romantic Piano Concertos, a title that seems to have been bestowed on it on the assumption that the disc’s ideal or presumptive listener was so ignorant of music history as not to know that Chopin and Liszt were partial contemporaries [I do not know any other way of describing the temporal relationship of two people who were born within two years of each other but whose chronologies do not overlap by much more than half because one of them predeceased the other by nearly 36 years] who both dwelt in a period or epoch known as the period or epoch of Romanticism.  So from its title one gets the impression that the LP was pitched at a listener even more downmarket than the repertoire-gourmandizing eleven-year-old–namely, perhaps, the middle-aged petit-bourgeois philistine just getting curious about byoodeeful music after a youthful listening history confined the hits of Frank Sinatra, Perry Como et the usual al. (remember: this record was issued in the mid-1960s, not the mid-20-teens), and desiring a quick and inexpensive rundown of BM’s various flavors.  The jacket art none-too-subtly reinforces this impression.  It consists of a heavily scrimmed full-color photographic image of a young so-called romantic couple disporting themselves on the bank of a brook or stream.  Apart from the scrimmage, the most noteworthy element of the composition is the utter incompossiblity of the models’ costumes: while the man, a moustachio’d Alain Delon look-alike, is only barely sporting what appears to be an ordinary navy blue blazer of the sort one would regard as the minimum acceptable male overwear at any 1960s’ restaurant more upscale than a Wimpy bar or McDonalds, the woman is decked out in a purple velveteen dumbed-down pre-Raphaelite simulacrum of an Elizabethan lady-in-waiting’s gown (a.k.a. a non-dumbed down, letter-perfect simulacrum of a Disney-style princess’s gown), complete with partly visible petticoat.  The idea—i.e., the impetus behind the composition—seems to have been to throw in the whole kitchen sink of virtues that the middle-aged petit-bourgeois philistine attributes to the poshility—glamour, beauty, elegance, and, of course, romance.  At bottom this disc seems to package itself as a container of pure mood music, as a disc that you would throw on to the Victrola or Panasonic in the first or second course of a pre-coital romantic dinner by way of helping yourself to re-imagine your wife as a princess or husband as a suave Gallic lover, your dining room as a scrimmed-out impressionist copse or knoll, etc.  And when one considers the Virtuoso disc in conjunction with this one, one concludes that its contents are also basically to be regarded as mood music, albeit music evocative of a slightly (but only slightly) different mood from the one to be conjured up by the Chopin-Liszt disc.

Rosen--Virtuoso & Two Concertos.jpg

If the Chopin-Liszt disc seems to have been meant to be played during a married middle-aged petit-bourgeois 1960s couple’s dinner, then the Virtuoso! disc seems to have been meant to be played in lieu of the concert that couple would have attended as a prelude or propaedeutic to that dinner if they had had the funds to do so.  For of course if they had actually shelled out those big bucks on that concert, the petit-bourgeois 1960s couple would have expected at minimum that the performer(s) should display no small amount of technical prowess, that the music should seem to have cost the performer(s) at least as much effort as the acquisition of the concert’s ticket price had cost them, the concertgoers, for how else could they have been sure they had gotten their money’s worth?  And so, in a recorded simulacrum of that concert they are to be treated, for example, to a rendition of Chopin’s minute waltz in thirds (the first track on Virtuoso!): to be sure, the minute waltz in its original form, with its long stretches of uninterrupted eight notes, is already fairly digitally punishing, but if you make the pianist double the original line in thirds, in other words, make him play each and every one of those eighth notes with two fingers instead of one, why then you are fairly torturing the poor beast.  And the same principle of gratuitous onerousness is operative in all the other tracks on this disc: for example, Rosen’s teacher’s Moritz Rosenthal’s J. Strauss II medley “Carnaval de Vienne,” in which the trick consists, as Rosen himself puts it, in “seeing how many waltzes can be played simultaneously.”  But of course digital difficulty alone could not have sufficed to make a piece of music palatable to a musically ignorant petit-bourgeois of the 1960s, for if it could have, then Rosen’s versions of Webern’s op. 27 piano variations would have appeared on Virtuoso! instead of on a dedicated Webern disc.  Apart from the technical demands, there is obviously one and only one thing about the pieces on Virtuoso! that is meant to be appealing to a musically ignorant 1960s petit-bourgeois, and it is my inability to suss out or peg that common denominator that I was alluding to when I said that I was unable to characterize these pieces.  The scherzo from Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream incidental music and the minuet from Bizet’s first L’Arlésienne suite are of course concert favorites in their orchestral versions, but one doesn’t quite think of them as core warhorses like Bolero or the 1812 Overture.  In addition to “Carnaval de Vienne” Virtuoso! contains two other J. Strauss II pastiches (here one is dealing with transcriptions of individual waltzes, not syntheses of multiple ones), “Wine, Women, and Song” and “You Only Live Once”; of “YOLO” I feel compelled to note that its title puts me in mind of the 1949 Guy Lombardo hit “Enjoy Yourself (It’s Later Than You Think)” and that its transcriber, Carl Tausig, is a person whom pre-Virtuoso! I had known of only as one of the “characters” who according to Glenn Gould (in the 1981 Goldberg Variations interview) “corrupted” J.S. Bach’s keyboard works.  Finally there are a Liszt medley (or pastiche) of some Schubert waltzes and a Rachmaninoff transcription of a piece by Fritz Kreisler, whose reputation as anything but a performing violinist had eluded me (and whose reputation even as a performing violinist I had never and still have not yet bothered to put to the test via any audition of any of his recordings).  On the whole what I am getting at or trying to say is that together Virtuoso! and Two Romantic Piano Concertos have about them an aura of a listening habitus that I am loath to associate Rosen with even obliquely, via the presumptively clueless imaginations of the CBS advertising (or marketing) department—first because I am not really sure I have a very steady apprehension of this habitus’s contours, owing primarily to its extreme moribundity (or perhaps even full-fledged albeit shortstanding morbidity) even in the murkiest most primordial dawn of my own day and secondarily to its failure to be treated to anything in the way of a revival since; and second because at least to the already admittedly dubious extent that my apprehension of its contours is sound, it really scrapes if not the very bottom of the browbarrel of lowbrowness, then at best the very underbottom of the browbarrel of middlebrowness.  I am basically thinking of the habitus of people who would religiously tune in to the Lawrence Welk show, who owned at least a quarter-dozen Mario Lanza records, who delighted in the lay-bedizened crooning of Don Ho and even in the lamé-spangled ivory-tinklings of (I can’t believe I’m about to type this) Liberace.  It was a habitus founded in a kind of arthritic hedonism, which is to say an exclusive indulgence in the pleasures old people were still capable of partaking of combined with a rigid, blue-nosed proscription of those they were not.  Its (the habitus’s) exponents—or, rather, their minions or puppets: the singers, instrumentalists, and dancers who performed on the shows emceed by Messrs Liberace, Ho, and Welk—always seemed to be going through the prescribed motions of merrymaking (dancing in couples, drinking) in a stereotypically hedonistic setting (a ballroom or beerhall), but their revelry never seemed, as revelry always did elsewhere, to be a prelude or metonymic partner to copulation; rather it seemed to be an end in itself and to be content with a finite duration, to have no wish to survive the very early prime-time (ca. 8:00-p.m.) finishing times of the shows that catered to it.  To dance a waltz or a polka, drink a glass or two of wine or beer, maybe eat a cocktail weenie or three, and then hit the hay to sleep and only sleep, perhaps while dreaming of the early bird special at Bob Evans that awaited one the next morning—life apparently didn’t get any better than this and most certainly shouldn’t get any better than this.  If I am not mistaken there was a taxonomical designation for the music that serviced this habitus: viz., champagne music, a designation that naturally invites a simple and direct correlation with the music of Johann Strauss, Jr., or at the very broadest, with the general tradition of Viennese waltz and operetta; and, to be sure, that selfsame composer’s music and that selfsame tradition seemed to be important components of champagne music, but certainly much and possibly most of champagne music hailed from other sectors of the Western classical tradition, and some at least more than negligible proportion of it hailed at least nominally from outside that tradition altogether.  For example, the signature tune or anthem of the champagne music movement (or, rather, perhaps inertment), “Tiny Bubbles (in the Wine)” was performed and perhaps even penned by Mr. Ho, an exponent of music in the perhaps factitious but at any rate decidedly un-Hapsburgian Hawaiian tradition.  And certainly—to return to the non-Hapsurgian but still Western-classical sector of champagne music–the works of Chopin were known and held in high regard by the most ardent enthusiasts of champagne music—at least so I retrospectively assume, to judge by the I should have known-ish shrug with which I greeted my paternal great aunt (b. ca. 1920)’s Christmas 1987 gift to me of an RCA CD of Chopin’s piano concertos with Artur Rubinstein (a Glenn Gould bugbear, by the way) as soloist.  This great aunt, like everybody else of her generation on that side of the family, was (at least so it seems that it seemed to me then) a rabid champagne music fanatic.  By that Christmas I had only heard of Glenn Gould and knew nothing of his repertoire, knew nothing about him at all except that he had been dead for five years and before that an Anglophone pianist (I had probably forgotten that he was a specifically Anglophone Canadian pianist), but I had already developed decidedly Gouldian prejudices as a music-listener, among them being a contempt for Chopin as a champagne-music fan’s idea of a great composer, a writer of bagatelles for solo piano who had never had any business going within inking distance of a sheaf of folio music manuscript paper.  And he certainly never could have written anything as formally complex and coloristically varied as an even halfway-decent multi-movement piano concerto.  Any full-length multi-movement piano concerto by Chopin axiomatically needs must have proved a non-starter, as far as my fifteen-year-old self was concerned.  I think I had barely given the Rubinstein-Chopin disc a single listen-through when I traded it in for I believe, record store credit towards the purchase of an installment in Bernstein’s second, all-digital Mahler cycle or in Haitink’s sole, piebald (part digital part analogue) Shostakovich cycle.  To bring this discourse-cum-narrative nominally back to Rosen, from whom it has never essentially strayed: from the Virtuoso! and Chopin-Liszt discs one really does get the impression that the fat wigs at CBS in the 1960s were grooming Rosen to be either a full-fledged understudy for Liberace (i.e., not a mere substitute for him), or perhaps a sort of Richard Clayderman en avant la lettre—an unspeaking but highly telegenic flogger of byoodeeful music in extended-length television commercials for multi-LP standard-repertoire-spanning-and-destroying omnia gathera available only by mail-order.  At the same time one’s (i.e. my) revulsion from the idea of Rosen as such a figure seems to bespeak some radical revisal of received opinion about the nature of the pianistic métier at some point in the 1970s, a revisal, though, that Rosen himself seems never to have joined in with or seconded.  For it is not as though CR ever publicly resiled from this hyper-kitschy packaging, either at its time or retrospectively.  While CR possibly (I dare not write presumably) had no say in the artwork for either album, the liner notes to both Virtuoso! and the Chopin-Liszt disc are his own, and he did nothing whatsoever to distance himself, as they say, from either disc in later years.  For example, on some local New York City radio show in the early 1980s—to judge by the number of irritating cutaways to a so-called break it was evidently a broadcast from one of those ever-so-marginal-and-evanescent of broadcasting entities, a commercial classical music station—he cheerfully allowed the host to play the “Carnaval de Vienne” track from Virtuoso! and made not-unproud mention of the version of the Liszt first concerto on Two Romantic Piano Concertos.  At bottom one wonders whether the example and the sheer discographical prowess of Gould had not led not only me but every other classical-music aficionado who came of age later than the 1960s to form an impossibly lofty but also impossibly straitened view of the recording concert pianist’s bailiwick.  By this I decidedly do not mean that Gould directly gave us—or, at any rate, me--this view, because as I have already implied, my Gould fandom is of relatively recent vintage (specifically I would date it no farther back than 2002, when I first started seeking out GG recordings [no: strangely enough the appearance of Gould in Thomas Bernhard’s Der Untergeher/The Loser, which I first read in 1998, did not suffice on its own to catalyze a proper, shekel-remitting case of GG fandom]), but when I think back on the generation or two of pianists who followed Gould and to whom (it now dawns on me to my immense surprise) I owed almost the entirety of my youthful acquaintance with the piano repertoire—when I think back on the likes of Ashkenazy, Ax, Argerich, Perahia, Pollini, Schiff, and Uchida, I realize that they are all at least ostensibly very serious, retiring and willfully un-virtuosic performers who made their names recording works by composers who had predeceased the mid-and-late nineteenth-century heyday of pianistic showmanship—Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert.  Such pianists—i.e., commercial superstars with a preference for the highbrow-cum-low key sectors of the repertoire—simply did not exist and possibly (or possibly even probably) could not have existed before the dawn of Glenn Gould’s day, meaning before the release year of his first recording of the Goldberg Variations, 1955.  The pre-Gould superstar pianists—Rubenstein, Horowitz, Arrau, Serkin, et one or two al.—enjoyed playing Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, and Schubert (albeit not Haydn), and sometimes even Bartók and Schoenberg, at least as much as they enjoyed playing Chopin, Tchaikovsky, and Liszt, but they could not have become fantastically famous had they not devoted a good(ly) chunk of their performances and recordings to the flashy mid-and-late nineteenth-century repertoire.  In their day, if you wanted to concentrate on pre-mid nineteenth or post-late nineteenth century repertoire, you had to settle for respectable semi-obscurity, like the Austrian Swiss Bach specialist Edwin Fischer or the American Bach specialist Rosalyn Tureck; or for notoriety rather than fame, by performing on an outlandish instrument like the harpsichord or the clavichord à la Wanda Landowska or Ralph Kirkpatrick.  Rosen, having come of age as a pianist in the very zenith of the heydays of Rubenstein, Horowitz, & co. (and having been taught by a Liszt pupil, Moritz Rosenthal), must have found it quite natural to pattern his recording and concertizing career on theirs; and as a result, his early major-label discography, half-dominated as it was by mid-to-late nineteenth-century showpieces, was perhaps almost bound to fall dead-born from the record presses in the new microepoch of serious, unflashy pianistic superstardom.  Unsympathetic listeners from the 1980s onwards have tended to reject Rosen for being too intellectual, analytical, or cerebral, but his career as a recording artist ultimately may have been hamstrung by his not being intellectual, analytical, or cerebral enough in its early phase.
But perhaps we should not be especially hasty to shed tears of pity for poor Charlie, because we can by no means be sure that he would have been satisfied with being a superstar of the post-Gouldian variety, a professional eschewer of the unthinking man’s side of the repertoire.  Certainly his 2002 book Piano Notes leads one at minimum to suspect that he would not have been.  In this book, probably the closest thing to an autobiography ever penned by CR (I say “probably” because all of Rosen’s book-length texts contain at least a smattering of autobiographical matter [not so much, I conjecture, because Rosen especially liked talking about himself as because in virtue of his extraterritoriality on so many fronts {his being neither a professional musicologist, nor a professional literary critic, nor a professional art historian, nautc.} he found it prudent to spend some time on the elaboration of ethos [in a rhetorical sense]), he makes piano playing seem more closely akin to the practice of one of the more physically taxing sports than to any of the other expressive or interpretative arts (save perhaps dance).  A goodly portion of the book is devoted to what one might call the calisthenics and mechanics of piano playing, to a description, drawn from both his own experience as a pianist and his observation of other performers, of the sitting postures, chair heights, fingerings, hand placements, adjustments to the actions and hammer placements of specific instruments, etc. that are most and least conducive to various modes and styles of pianism.  Herein, Gould gets mixed reviews from Rosen: on the one hand (how one wishes for a different idiom when treating of manual occupations!) GG’s “low seated position enabled Gould to achieve a beautiful technical control of rapid passage-work with different kinds of touch” (PN, p. 4).  On the other hand, thanks to this selfsame LSP he “could not deal with” (p. 3) the entry-level virtuosic sally of fortissimo octaves, and in eliminating the “point of resistance called the aftertouch,” he “achieved extraordinarily even, soft rapid passage-work but…also caused the hammer at times to strike twice very quickly and gently” (p. 76).  As a Gould listener, I know precisely what Rosen is talking about, specifically from GG’s recording of Bach’s two and three-part inventions, which is distractingly marred by the bounce-back effect in pretty much all of the quieter two-part passages.  And yet I have not noticed it on any other Gould recordings, so perhaps Rosen overrates either GG’s enthusiasm for aftertouch-elimination or A-E’s effect on the response of the hammer.  Anyway, I should make it clear that I have cited Rosen’s remarks on Gould from Piano Notes not by way of elaborating the adumbration of Rosen’s attitude to Gould included in Gould vs. Rosen, to which it adds little if anything at all (for Rosen’s irritation at the epiphenomenon of Gould’s elimination of the aftertouch dovetails quite seamlessly with his G.v.R-cited irritation at the epiphenomena of Gould’s disregard of articulation-indications in a Mozart score), but by way of substantiating my just-now-tendered adumbration of the sort of book that PN prevailingly is.  For this purpose, Rosen’s characterizations of Horowitz’s or Rachmaninoff’s pianizing habitus would have worked just as well, but as we (or at least I) are (or am) interested here in Gould and Rosen preeminently as mutual comparanda, it would have been downright perverse to have excerpted either of those instead.  Anyway, the point of the substantiation is to point up how un-Gouldian a specimen of ecriture Piano Notes is.  One can scarcely imagine Gould devoting one of his High Fidelity pieces to the matter of the ideal sitting height for a pianist, or the negative (and literal) repercussions of an aftertouch-eliminating action.
“Indeed?  But wasn’t Gould legendary for his fastidiousness about his seating position (specifically in that ludicrous kiddy chair the adjustment of which his father the furrier was obliged to treat as a virtual second full-time job)?  And of course Rosen would not have been afforded the luxury of taking the mickey out of Gould’s adjustment of the action on his pianos had Gould been not so finicky about that selfsame action in the first place.”
Why, yes, of course Gould was, and no, of course Rosen wouldn’t have been, but we know about Gould’s fastidiousness in the one matter and finickiness in the other not because Gould himself wrote about them but because other people (including Rosen) did.  Gould may have been—and in fact almost certainly was—fanatically obsessed with sitting at precisely the right height at the piano and getting precisely the right action from its keys, but in contrast to Rosen he seems to have been quite keen on not coming across as the sort of person who thought of these techno-mechanical matters as worthy of interest as things-in-themselves, as ends rather than means.  This is not to say that Rosen was apparently a man pathologically obsessed with such techno-mechanical matters—quite to the contrary, he seems to have been much less interested in them than Gould was, but at the same time (and perhaps for this very reason) he was not embarrassed to talk and write about his interest in them, such as it was.  One likewise sees this disjunction in the two dudes’ ethoses and habituses in the domain of recording.  Everybody knows that Gould was a rabid champion of recorded classical music, and more particularly of emphatically unlive, triple-digit-take-originating studio recordings of the classic keyboard repertoire; everybody knows indeed that he spent the best waking part of the last two decades of his life working on such recordings, but how much about the so-called nuts and bolts of the making of such recordings has anybody learned directly from Gould?  Precious little (a.k.a. nada mucho), the virtual entirety of which must be gleaned from Bruno Monsaingeon’s 1974 cinematic reenactment of Gould’s recording of Bach’s sixth partita.  From this we discover that the pianist is separated by several dozen feet and a pane of glass from the person who is actually doing the recording—a beardy and rather flamboyantly dressed [I know it was the 70s; still, I imagine that even then a purple dress shirt with French cuffs would have raised an occasional eyebrow] chap by the name of Lauren, and of course that even the enregistrement of a few bars of music can require many minutes of playing.  But that is about it.  From Piano Notes’ succinctly titled chapter “Recording” we get a much finer-grained picture of a classical classical (sic on the repetition) piano-recording session.  We learn, for instance, that the pianist has not one but three human intermediaries to deal with, and we learn these three persons’ official, industry-assigned titles—viz. producer, engineer, and technician.  We learn that there is a rigid and, to Rosen’s unregenerately scornful mind, extremely silly division of labor between or among these three gentlemen (or knaves): the engineer places microphones; the producer listens along while reading the score, on whose pages he must indicate retakes and splices; and the technician operates the recording machine—hence, he is the immediate material agent of the retakes and splices.   On no account, Rosen tells us, is the producer ever to lay a finger on any part of the recording equipment, and by a complementarily counterproductive token the technician is never allowed to look at the score—indeed, he is forbidden to know how to read music.  (Apparently it doesn’t matter whether the engineer can read music or not, as he never deals with anything but microphones.)  And so the producer can effect the appropriate or desired modifications to the recording only by hand-signaling to the technician to rewind the tape, to stop rewinding it, to play it, to stop playing it, etc.  It all seems, and seems to have been meant by Rosen to seem, incredibly daft and inefficient.  From the “Recording” chapter we also learn something about the technician’s method of splicing in changes to the master tape, a method that Rosen puckishly compares to “the sophisticated cook’s [NB: “cook’s,” not “chef’s”] way of slicing carrots” (PN, p. 148), perhaps by way of shaving a few millimeters off the shoes or hooves of the high technology-fetishizing audiophile’s high horse.
“Why are you being so coy?  Why not simply write the shoes or hooves of Glenn Gould’s high horse?”
Because I know that Rosen could not have had Gould as a factual legal person-cum-phenomenal subject in mind here, given that Gould had died as many as twenty years earlier; and because I have no reason to suppose that Rosen felt so warmly about Glenn Gould in any way as to find it cathartic to make a whipping boy (or topple-worthy high-horse rider) of his ghost (irrelevant but welcome shades of the penultimate scene of Don Giovanni, what what?).  Nevertheless, I shan’t be so coy as not to conjecture that Rosen here is taking the mickey out of somebody who is or was in some salient respects not unlike Gould—at least to the extent that one imagines Gould as a retreater into the recording studio qua monastic bastion of all things anti-corporeal, as a place wherein music can come into its own as a purely conceptual practice or entity, untrammeled by the exigencies of the physical world, and most certainly by the exigencies of the belly.  (To be sure, in his later years, the years of his most fervent concentration on studio recording, Gould was a portly gentleman who gourmandized scrambled eggs by the bucketload, but the official Gould mythology always pictures Glenn indulging this vice well away from the premises of the studio, at his favorite late-night haunt, the 24-hour diner Fran’s.)  Most assuredly the recording studio as described by Rosen comes across as no such place.  Indeed, Rosen seems polemically interested in making it seem the very antithesis of such a place.  One indeed rightly or wrongly thinks of a studio by default as a for-the-purpose-built, aseptic, climate-controlled suite of windowless rooms with wall-to-wall floor carpet and floor-to-ceiling acoustic paneling (consisting either of uninterrupted slabs of smooth, presumably synthetic gray fabric or modular blocks of electric orange polystyrene foam rubber tetons).  And when a site diverging markedly from this description is used in the recording of tape masters for rightly called major-label album releases, one rightly or wrongly expects the site to be described as merely substituting or doing duty for a studio.  But one does not get this from Rosen, for whom the “large and handsome defrocked church [with] bare acoustically gratifying plaster walls” (PN, p. 149) in which he recorded his early CBS records simply is (or was) a studio [the syntax makes this clear: “When I began, the first records were all made in their {i.e., CBS’s} official New York Studio, which was a large and handsome defrocked church”], a studio that seems to have diverged further and further from his default notion of one the more it was made to seem like ours—erm, one’s: no sooner had some meddlesome label executive’s wife had the indigenous walls covered in “decorative curtains,” than “the sound immediately deteriorated.”  Complementarily, he remarks that the legendary Abbey Road studio started out as an excellent place for recording solo piano and chamber music, but that then EMI had to go muck it up for everything but big bombastic orchestral recordings by “add[ing] reflecting acoustical material to the walls” (PN, p. 158). And CR cannot resist telling us that the site of one of his Chopin recordings, another church, was “in the peaceful red-light district of Amsterdam.”  As for the above-mentioned engineers, the dedicated mike-placers, Rosen seems to regard them as technology-blinkered hacks with no affinity for (or with) music whatsoever.  One such butcher, if he had had his druthers, would have caused Rosen to make an “astonishingly ugly sound”ing Schoenberg record for the sake of his upholding his moronic idea of a special “microphone setup for contemporary music”; another actually managed to have his way with the master Schoenbergian Edward Steuermann’s performance, so that we are now left with a document thereof that sounds “as if it had been played in a confined space like a small bathroom” (PN, p. 151).  On the whole, Rosen’s account of the (so-called) high-fidelity recording of classical music makes it seem a rather shabby and virtually pointless enterprise, one that tends to do more harm than good to the compositions.
“So then Rosen was very much the epitome of the sort of pianist—and more to the point, the sort of listener—whom Gould ceaselessly reviled; viz. the listener who thinks that the only authentic and comprehensive experience of the musical work of art can be had in the concert hall under the auspices of a live performance.”
Hardly, because he believed that if anything live performances hit the mark even more rarely than (did or do) recorded ones.  But at least (so Rosen) in the old days, the days of the 78-RPM record, when editing within takes was impossible and only five minutes of music could be recorded in one go, people were free of the illusion that a performance ever could be perfect.  Back then, on the record you typically heard a rushed and sloppy performance from even the most celebrated virtuosos, and so when you heard a rushed and sloppy performance from one of these virtuosos in the concert hall, you didn’t feel as though you were attending some sort of aural analogue to a clay-feet-viewing fest.  By unfavorable contrast, the long-playing record and its descendants (so Rosen) have in virtue of their pseudo-perfection made listeners expect unattainable genuine perfection in the concert hall, and consequently engendered a mean of less exuberant (albeit slightly more nearly note-perfect) performances therein.
“Again Rosen’s argument is shaping up to be a Philippic against Gould; for wasn’t it Glenn Gould’s ambition to banish the demand for perfection in the concert hall by means of temporally heterogeneously sourced long-duration recordings?  And isn’t Rosen effectively saying not only that such recordings heightened this demand, but even that they virtually engendered it?  If this assertion is well-founded, it would seem that the entire raison d’être of Gould’s post concert-hall career is legless.”
Indeed Rosen is effectively saying this, but I don’t think that even if his assertion is well-founded it perforce renders the older Gould’s métier’s raison d’être entirely hors de combat—because, after all, it was Gould’s hope that once recorded classical music had reached its technical pinnacle—once, in other words, every piece in the repertoire had received its perfect recorded realization–the live concert would simply wither away like the State in a fully realized Marxist-Leninist society, such that whatever happened to the perforce ever-more-moribund institution of the live concert in the meantime should not have posed any problems for him.
“Fine, but in that case, why should it have posed any problems for Rosen either?  If the live concert was such a sloppy wrong-note-ridden affair to begin with, how could a return to the conditions governing its early days have constituted an improvement in his ears?”          
Why, it couldn’t have constituted any kind of improvement to his ears, eo ipso.  But at least in virtue of their shabbiness and slapdashness the pre-LP recordings forced people who were more seriously interested in the music than in the performer—who were more Beethoven fans than Kreisler fans or Chopin fans than Rakhmaninov (qua pianist) fans—to study the scores of their preferred compositions.
“Oh, I see: Rosen was some sort of super or ultra-Gould who thought that the true connoisseur should forgo the so-called listening experience entirely and silently read through the Well-Tempered Clavier or the complete Beethoven symphonies as one does a novel.”   
No, firstly because as I pointed out in Gould versus Rosen, in some cases (notably certain of the Beethoven piano sonatas) the score does not correspond even roughly to what the composer was aiming for, and secondly because the composer often does not even know what he is aiming for until after he hears the work performed.  Much as the musically semi-literate classical music fan who came of age in the epoch of high-fidelity recording would like to believe that a fully musically literate person simply hears, say, a recording of the Vienna Philharmonic or the Julliard Quartet or Glenn Gould autc. playing in his head every time he glances at a musical score, it would seem, according to Rosen, that even a fully musically literate person cannot take much more pleasure in the perusal of the score of a work he has never heard before than a gourmet can in the perusal of the recipe for a dish that he has never tasted.
“So then Rosen is some sort of Kantian who believes that the musical work of art is purely ideal; that neither the performance, nor the score, nor the recording can ever capture its essence; that each of them can merely make but the roughest and most distant—and equally rough and distant—of approaches to it.”
Sometimes he seems to be such a figure; at other times he seems to be some sort of disenchanted John Dewey who believes that the musical work of art is a chimera, that it exists nowhere at all and that all attempts to pin it down are quixotic at best and charlatanistic at worst (but also most typical).  “The love of classical music,” he writes (in Piano Notes, but not in the chapter about recording), “is only partially a natural response to hearing the works performed, it must also come about by a decision to listen carefully, to pay close attention, a decision inevitably motivated by the cultural and social prestige of the art” (PN, p. 225).  This assertion comes remarkably (some, including any committed Gouldian, would say “perilously”) close to the sociology of taste promulgated by the famous twentieth-century French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, for whom all preferences in consumption, including aesthetic preferences, and even more narrowly musical ones, were merely means of distinguishing the preferer’s social position.  Elsewhere, in a 1994 collection of essays (or lectures), The Frontiers of Meaning, Rosen goes one step further in his pooh-poohing of meta-musical Olympianism, in questioning the very capacity of music to express anything intelligible whatsoever even when liberated from the notion of the infungibility of the particular composition.  “Music,” he writes here, “has its existence on the borderline between meaning and nonsense” (75).  Music (so Rosen here) is not a language, because the states that it evokes (or tries to evoke) are neither nearly unequivocal enough nor nearly portable enough to survive translation into words, and yet music is not by any means above or beyond language, because it cannot be understood (and consequently, and, perhaps [so Rosen here] more to the point, enjoyed) in the absence of forms and gestures, forms and gestures that are every bit as potentially evanescent, every bit as subject to becoming irrecoverably and irredeemably empty clichés, as any ready-made expression in a proper language. The only way to deal with this problem of inexorable obsolescence is to listen to every work of music from an earlier period “as if nothing had come before it and nothing was to come afterward” (FM, p. 9).  So according to Rosen the perpetuation or renewal of one’s interest in and enjoyment of the supposedly great works of the past is to be contingent on a regression to childhood, to an act of deliberate make-believe: we must listen to the old works as if no music had been written before them and no music had been written since, although we know full well that acres of music with their own stocks of outmoded forms and gestures (yes: the ratio is indeed to be understood as roughly one stock of forms and gestures per acre), came before them, and other acres with their own respective outmoded forms and gestures have come since.  Almost needless to say, such willed shut-earedness does not sit well with a Gouldian approach to the great composers.  As I have more or less already indicated in “Gould versus Rosen,” according to the essentially ahistorical schema of Gould’s aesthetics of music, there were composers who were wheat-ears and composers who were tares, and composers of either type could hail from any historical period.  So, for example, Orlando Gibbons was unquestionably a wheat-ear despite his ignorance of the future contrapuntal implexities of J.S. Bach, and Mozart was unquestionably a tare despite his a posteriori awareness of these implexities.  On the other hand (or perhaps, rather, complementarily) a composer need not be excluded from the Gouldian pantheon because he had failed (or, in Gould’s view, declined) to take account of the formal and gestural innovations of his time, or continued to avail himself of the outmoded forms and gestures of previous periods (yes, even unironically, outside of inverted commas, as if nothing had indeed come afterwards).  So both Jack Sibelius and Dick Strauss easily make the cut for entry into Gouldian Olympus, and Hindemith and Krenek manage at least to pass for demigods therein (or thereupon).  And all four presumably qualify chez Gould as durable elicitors of that state of wonder that Gould explicitly posited as the telos of all rendezvous with genuinely great art.  It is difficult to imagine Rosen either evincing or recommending a state of wonder (at least clear-eyed grown-up wonder) in relation to anything; indeed, Horace’s nil admirari, the rabbit’s foot and watchword of the inwardly stiff-upper-lipped throughout the ages, could have served as his motto.  So what, then, was the gosh-damn point of listening to or playing music at all chez Rosen?  The concluding paragraph of Jeremy Denk’s New Yorker obituary on (or “for”?) CR points us towards the closest thing to an answer to this question as we are ever likely to get:
The image I have right now is Charles looking over the whole puzzle of culture, all the well-worn, greasy, handled pieces scattered in a million directions, spread over the carpet, unsolvable. He had an unending supply of discoveries and clues and he had faith that if you looked at the pieces properly, their sense and connections would reveal themselves. He would hold up a few pieces at a time, think about them, then go to the next; he was not overwhelmed by the vastness of the puzzle.
First (or, if you prefer, second) it should be noted that Denk does not write of the puzzle of “music” or even more generally of the puzzle of “art,” but rather most generally of the puzzle of “culture,” a word whose concept includes not only music and art but a good many other things besides.  Second (or, if you prefer, first), one ought to consider Denk’s choice of puzzle as the vehicle of his metaphor, and in so doing to note that Denk seems to have a specific kind of puzzle in mind, namely a jigsaw puzzle, or at any rate some sort of puzzle that like a jigsaw one is made up of sharp-edged, tangible pieces.  The pleasure afforded by a puzzle is of course of a decidedly lower temperature than that of wonderment: nobody (or hardly anybody) gets whipped up into a lathered frenzy in the attempt to solve a puzzle, and nobody (or hardly anybody) ever experiences orgasmic ecstasy upon solving one. Nevertheless, it must be admitted that both wonderment and bepuzzlement (perplexity is probably a sufficiently serviceable wavy red line-proof alternative) arise from a single category of experience, namely the experience of not understanding something, of not having a rational explanation for it.  The wonderer and the would-be-puzzle-solver are united in taking pleasure in the apparent insufficiency of their own powers of reason, or perhaps of reason tout court.  But whereas the wonderer is content to rest in this sense of insufficiency, to lounge indefinitely in a Keatsean state of negative capability, the would-be-puzzle-solver feels it, the sense, as an itch that can be scratched only via the effort to show up the insufficiency as merely apparent, to prove that there was a perfectly rational explanation for the seemingly inexplicable phenomenon all along.  And yet of course at least in the short term the search for this explanation leads only to more bepuzzlement; for, example, one may discover to one’s delight that a group of freshly discovered pieces can be fitted into one another with invigorating effortlessness but also and simultaneously to one’s annoyance that the new constellation cannot be fitted en bloc into the much larger portion of the puzzle that one has already assembled.  The gist of what I am trying to get at here is that at least mentally-cum-somatically (I might have said phenomenologically if that adverb hadn’t been discredited by the fellowship of metaphysicians decades ago, not to mention if I had not used the word phenomenon as recently as two sentences ago) speaking the experience of being a puzzle-solver is not so very different from that of being a wonderer; that while lexicographically speaking the wonderer is always statically ensconced in his amniotic cocoon of gobsmacked bliss whereas the puzzle-solver is always flitting to and fro between the twin hot coal-beds of self-satisfaction and perplexity, in point of mental-cum-somatic fact (or, in Jamesian terms, in point of cash-value) the difference between their two signature states is exactly as trivial as the distinction between alternating and direct current electric power is to a user of, say, a hair dryer that dries his or her hair equally well no matter which standard of voltage-cum-amperage out-doling it happens to be exploiting.  And the point of this gist is in turn to put paid to or stick a preemptive fork into any suggestion, let alone assertion, that Gould, in being a sort of or perhaps even a full-fledged mystic, was a member of a higher race of beings than a mere intellectual such as Rosen, to point out that the bliss followed by both piano-players was preeminently intellectual in provenance.  Any sense of the really decisive difference between the two ivory-tinklers’ habituses, it seems to me, is to be derived from Denk’s designation of the puzzle Rosen was trying to solve as the puzzle of culture.  Of course before going omniporcine or gibbonexcremental with this designation we must remember that the culture-al part of the conceit, no less than the puzzle-ular part of it, is Denk’s and not Rosen’s.  Whether Rosen himself considered culture his bailiwick is if not beyond the pale of ascertainability then at least beyond the scope of the present writer’s present recollection.  Certainly I don’t recall CR’s making a fetish of the lexeme-aut-concept culture as so many so (but by no means universally wrongly)-called intellectuals have done since the word was first made countable (and thereby fetishizable in its uncountable manifestation) by certain anthropologists (Mead? Levi-Strauss?).  Still, if one confines one’s notion of culture within certain limits, limits slightly but not much broader than those established in the nineteenth century by the likes of Herder and Arnold, one may say of Rosen that he considered no domain of culture to be intrinsically beyond, above, or beneath his scrutiny, and that he approached them all in more or less the same spirit.  Rosen   made his living as a musician; that was his official profession, but generally speaking (which is to say apart from the occasional autobiographically-tinged bits I have already mentioned), a Rosen book on music does not exude any greater aura of authority or affection than a Rosen book on painting or belles lettres.  Rosen the writer feels more or less equally at home in every Kultur-al practice, but at home in the manner not of a resident but of a guest (I apologize not quite in advance for drifting [regrettably but necessarily] from Denk’s conceit of the puzzle into a fresh conceit of my own), who must respect the rules of the house; he is not about to do the writerly equivalent of putting his feet up on a chair or walking off to the bathroom without asking for permission or excusing himself.  Complementarily, like any mere guest, he feels no sense of tarrability by any of the members of the household that is a given Kultur-al domain; if, say, its paterfamilias or eldest son is implicated (or inculpated) in, say, a drugs or sex scandal, it is no skin off the nose of Rosen’s credit rating; for fudge’s sake, it is not as if his own father or son is the implicated (or inculpated) party.  It was perhaps this inviolably detached relation(ship) to all the objects of his attention, including music, that encouraged Rosen to be so promiscuous in his choice of repertoire as a pianist: it presumably did not matter to him that Liszt or Chopin was not the greatest composer in the history of music because music was not necessarily the most important piece in the puzzle of culture; and in any case it was hardly a piece to which he felt obliged to devote any extra quantum of boosterish energy.  In thus viewing music as but one of the many (perhaps even myriad) mutually fungible elements of culture, he could not differ more stridently from Gould.  To be sure, the sheer multiplicity and intensity of Gould’s extra-musical manias and fancies quite handily belies his super-Rosenian degree of attachment to the medium of his vocation.  No dedicated acolyte of the as-yet-unnamed muse of instrumental music would have whiled away entire evenings in dramatic read-throughs of entire Shakespeare plays, as the twenty-something Gould regularly did with his Toronto chums, or so lovingly dreamt up and impersonated such a thoroughly unmusical music critic as the thirty-something Gould’s New York cabbie-turned-journalist Theodore Slutz.  But such extra-musical sallies are signs of Gould’s intense but glancing love of certain extra-musical entities, rather than of anything approaching the sort of doggedly intellectual interest in them routinely evinced by Rosen.  When Gould wished to get all publicly puzzle-solver-esque about a subject, as he all too often did, he made sure that that subject was squarely musical in provenance—as, for instance, in his unrelentingly analytical monograph on the works of Schoenberg.  And it must be remembered, too, that in his last years Gould was trying to launch a new career as a conductor, in other words, as a figure even more visibly immersed in music than a pianist, and that at an earlier point he was aspiring to become as intimately involved in music as it is possible to be, namely by becoming a composer, and he even succeeded at penning a complete and technically polished work in an established genre—namely, his sole string quartet.  Rosen, on the other hand, never as far as I know had any desire whatsoever to conduct or compose.  “Ah, but you see, there’s the clincher: as far as you know he never had any such desire(s).  But you were hardly an intimate friend of his, and indeed you never even met the guy or exchanged a single pair of letters with him. How can you be sure he didn’t harbor the most ardent desire(s) in the world to do both and simply saw fit to keep mum about it (or them) publicly?”  Ah, but you see, there’s the clincher as far as the would-be clincher of the Rosenian ethos-cum-habitus (as against the would-be plumber of the Rosenian psyche) is concerned: even if he had such a desire or desires he saw fit to keep mum about it (or them) publicly.  Regardless of what he privately wanted to be or do (and even putting it that way imparts an aura of positivity and indicative mood-ishness to the scenario of Rosen qua would-be-composer-or-conductor that it by no means deserves in the light of our epistemological limitations), Rosen did not want to be thought of by the world at large as a pianist (or pianist-scholar) having a go at conducting or composing, and I submit that he did not want to be thought of as such a person preeminently not for all the obvious psychobabbleogical reasons but because unlike Gould he did not reverence music highly enough to want to risk making a fool of himself over it.   “Alternatively, one might equally plausibly—and, moreover, in more to-the-chase-cutting terms, conjecture that he made no public moves in the direction of becoming a composer or conductor because he did not feel that he had enough to say, as they say, from either the composer’s escritoire or behind the podium.”  Indeed one might, but in so conjecturing, one must take care not to make a fetish of the subjective sense that one has something to say and thereby be seen to imply that one believes that because Gould managed to compose and to own up to having composed a string quartet, he possessed a larger quantum of what Arnold Schoenberg might have called the breath of the string quartet composer than Rosen, or that, having conducted a recorded performance of the Siegfried Idyll, he possessed comparably super-Rosenian gifts as a conductor.  Of Gould the conductor we have too scant a record to form the most tentative, bet-shop-worthy odds of his future excellence or abysmality at that métier; of Gould the composer we have scarcely a more extensive  record, but of a composer as against a conductor, as of a chess player as against a poker player, it is much easier to form an appraisal because the proportion of the polishedness of the finished product that is by default upchalkable to agents beyond the so-called artist’s control is perforce (i.e., not merely contingently) much smaller.  Gilbert Kaplan’s recordings of Mahler’s Second Symphony comprise the obvious case in illustration of the difficulty of sizing up a conductor in this so-called day-cum-age.  Not one of them is an embarrassment or travesty, not one of them deserves to be kept out of the hands of a would-be first-time listener to (or of) the Resurrection, and at least one of them has garnered, as they say, considerable critical acclaim, but even taken in the aggregate they would not suffice (and perhaps even have not sufficed) to secure Mr. (i.e., by no means “Maestro”) Kaplan the music directorship of a third-tier North American symphony orchestra, because Mahler’s Second Symphony is the only piece he has ever conducted, and it is a widely performed and recorded piece written well over a century ago, and the orchestras with which he recorded it were (and are) world-class ensembles that had all already played it from beginning to end in public performances scores of times, and piecemeal in recording sessions gosh knows what specific number of what specific quantity-class of times.  So Mr. Kaplan’s DG Vienna version of Mahler’s Second outranks Abbado’s DG Chicago version in a certain critic’s judgment.  Does this mean Kaplan is a superior conductor to Abbado?  Very probably not, but the possibility, for all its high improbability, cannot be ruled out, as they say.  When a conductor has led numerous polished performances of numerous newly composed works in numerously technically involved and unfamiliar veins—works, in other words that make great demands even on world-class orchestras because they do not allow them to play on virtual autopilot—one is compelled to regard him or her as a great conductor.  By this criterion I am compelled to regard, for example, Esa-Pekka Salonen as a great conductor.  When a conductor has led historically mediocre orchestras in numerous polished performances of old but relatively marginal repertoire—as Georg Tintner did in his stunning Bruckner cycle—one is likewise compelled to regard him or her as a great conductor.  But outside of these atypical contexts it is quite difficult to separate the conductorial wheat (or corn-ears) from the conductorial chaff (or tares), and in the case of one-offers like Kaplan and Gould such separation is essentially impossible.  The upshot of all this metadirigential to-ing and fro-ing is that I don’t think Gould’s foray into conducting should be regarded as anything like an extra merit badge in his posthumous competition with Rosen for Eagle Renaissance Man Scoutdom; that I regard it in essentially the same light as I would, say, in the event that we were comparing the two of them in point of athletic audaciousness-cum-prowess, the revelation that Gould (but not Rosen) had once survived a five-minute ride on a mechanical bull on its lowest setting.  As for Gould the composer, while again we have only one work, or in juridical terms, one exhibit—viz. his op. 1 string quartet--we may at least infer from it that Gould was professionally competent at writing a string quartet in the style of the very late romantic subperiod, and therefrom further infer—inasmuch as the late romantic subperiod has always been the preferred period flavor in Hollywood—that if by some disastrous and well-nigh-unimaginable fluke of fate his pianizing career had tanked, Gould could have made a living as a film composer (granted: to become a full-fledged rival to John Williams he would have had to learn how to write for the symphony orchestra, but because, as Rosen has pointed out, the symphony is a much cruder and clunkier genre than the string quartet, such tutelage would not have required any honing of his skills as a composer qua composer).  I should emphasize here that the ascription of competence in this setting should by no means be taken as a kind of damning with faint praise—at least not in juxtaposition with the standard of competence applicable to a conductor.  To be competent as a conductor, regardless of the historical provenance of the piece you are conducting, all you really need is to be able to read music well enough to know which part of a score is being played at a given moment.  To be competent as a composer of music in the late late romantic style, on the other hand, requires mastery of every technical facet of every mode of composition in place-cum-in play from the early eighteenth century through the early twentieth.  So, inasmuch as Rosen, for all his capaciously encyclopedic-cum-profoundly philosophic knowledge of every one of those mode-facets as an analyst of them, never demonstrated his mastery of them at the composer’s escritoire, Gould’s sole string quartet, in contrast to his sole recording as a conductor, really ought to count as a merit badge lacked by Rosen.  But there are obviously other criteria for judging a composition than its demonstration of mastery of a set of techniques, even a set so formidable as that comprised by the entire western chamber-music tradition.  Among these, and for Rosen perhaps the most important of them, is the criterion of historical infungibility.  When poured into the syntactical mould of a rhetorical question-cum-answer, this criterion looks something like, “Is there any necessity for this piece or this mode of composition?  Is there anything it is doing that was not already essentially being done by some other piece or mode of composition that antedated it?  No? Why then, as Davy Hume would say, commit it to the flames.”  In one of his last public appearances as not only a pianist but also a speaker (or perhaps the last such appearance), Rosen mercilessly turned this criterial flame-thrower on the entire compositional corpora of Shostakovich and Dvorak.  When a questioner from the audience quoted him as having described Shostakovich’s music as “Mahler with wrong notes,” he did not demur and went on to disparage the work of Shostakovich and all other popular and would-be-popular modern composers as orgies of triads—conventional major and minor chords.  As for Dvorak, according to Rosen on that day, he was simply a less difficult Brahms, who was now paying the price for his indistinguishability-cum-comparative facility by being essentially known for only one work, his Ninth or “New World” Symphony.  I think that if Rosen was ever asked for his opinion of Gould’s op. 1 string quartet he must have replied with something comparably acerbic, e.g., “This is a thoroughly accomplished and even ingratiating composition, but I don’t see what need there is for it in the light of the pre-existence of the early chamber works of the so-called Second Viennese School.  Indeed, Gould’s op. 1 seems to occupy quite a precise imaginary spot in that corpus—a spot sited exactly midway between Webern’s Langsamer Satz and Schoenberg’s Second Quartet, a spot as gratuitous as would be, say, an extra stop between Oakwood and Cockfosters on the Piccadilly line of the London Underground.” Gould himself may have held a comparably disparaging view of the quartet--i.e., an opinion that depreciated it for a similar reason.  Certainly he took full notice of the historical anomalousness of the piece’s sound-world and openly confessed to being bemused by its anachronisticness.  Admittedly he never disowned it or professed to despise it.  Famously or notoriously, Gould never managed to compose an op. 2, or indeed to do anything further in the compositorial vein but make a few admittedly brilliant transcriptions—for example, his version of Wagner’s Meistersinger prelude for piano four hands, and, his magnification of Ravel’s piano score of La Valse into a true virtuoso keyboard showpiece.  Received opinion among Gouldians alternately holds that (as the one alternative) GG was unblessed with the requisite inspiration, the requisite hook-offringing frequency of blower-bells from the old previously mentioned unnamed muse of instrumental music, and that (as the other alternative) being essentially an interpreter-cum-analyst of music who was hard-bittenly inured to anatomizing compositions with a ruthlessly clinically thorough penetrativeness as if by the aid of x-ray goggles (a.k.a., knickers-offwhisking specs), he lacked a true creative artist’s drunken Jacuzzi-enthusiast-like eagerness to immerse himself with belly-flopping immediacy in his material (whatever that could ever be).  Nattering knitting needles to say, neither of these explanations is Bikini Atoll (equivocal acronymic Cockney slang for ‘bare arsedly’ [cf. “Fanny Adams” below]) satisfactory.  To dispatch the first explanation: a person—yes, any old (or young) person, not just a would-be, is-being, could-be being, or could-have-been composer, poet, novelist, or any other sort of so-called would-be, etc. artist—may be perpetually artistically inspired, meaning spontaneously visited by any number of ideas readily expressible in any number of so-called artistic media, but that does not by Fanny Adams’s stretch of the imagination automatically make him or her a born artist; nor, more to the point, does his or her dismissal or willful forgetting of these ideas necessarily impart to him or her any super-Neronian entitlement to exclaim, “Oh, what an artist the world is losing in me!” The truth or fact of the matter of “inspiration” is that the tenuity or fecundity of it eo ipso has precious little bearing on a would-be, is-being, could be-being, or could-have-been so-called artist’s productivity; this because before he or she elects to develop a given inspiration-idea into a full(y)-fledged (or full(y)-blown) work, any would-be artist worth his or her salt (and indeed even any artist worth a good deal less than his salt) must subject it to some version or degree of the Gouldian x-ray inspection.  He or she must, in other words, apply his or her faculty of judgment to each and every inspired idea and determine whether it is any damn good or not according to such lights as that faculty affords him or her.  There are numerous historically variable planes on which an inspired would-be artist’s judgment can fail him or her before the execution of an allegedly proper Kunstwerk; in our own age (in which I include the entirety of Gould’s life history), the foremost of these planes is perhaps the one comprising or encompassing the aforementioned criterion of historical infungibility.  Our age is positively infested with people, with practising so-called artists, inspired by so-called artistic ideas that should never have been allowed by the faculty of judgment outside the starting gate because they add nothing to the existing collective Weltansicht, because, in other words, they are in effect the aesthetic analogues (or perhaps even extra-aesthetic confreres) of hypersuperfluous multistory additions to myriad superfluous stations between Oakwood and Cockfosters along the Piccadilly line.  Such being (and having long since been) the case, it may very well not have been for lack of inspiration that a sometime-cum-could have been-full-time composer with such a well-developed and well-informed faculty of judgment as Gould possessed did not go on to pen opp. 2. ff. [that’s ff for “and subsequent opus numbers,” not for “fortissimo”].  “So, in other words you are simply asserting (or at least conjecturing) that Gould was too much of a perfectionist to pen opp. 2ff.” No: perfectionism is an entirely different, and to my mind much inferior, stratum of the faculty of judgment, to the one that I am conjecturing inhibited Gould.  Ein lauter Perfektionist, a perfectionist plain and simple, for whom perfectionism can be trumped by no other aim or virtue, may indeed fail ever to finish his chef d’oeuvre, or even commit thousands of drafts of it to the above-mentioned Humean flames, but this is always because what he has produced falls short of a given model; if the perfectionist’s model happens not to correspond in any salient way to anything already in public existence, then his perfectionism is incidentally laudable, but if that model is already instantiated in sufficient abundance in the world, and hence unworthy of imitation, then the perfectionist’s perfectionism is a pernicious perfectionism, a perfectionism that if consummately gratified would only propagate evil.  The entire hipster-sanctified canon of pop music in the post-naive rock and post-rock idioms, from the Beatles to the Fountains of Wayne, from Parliament-Funkadelic to LCD Soundsystem, from Johnny Cash to Bonnie Prince Billie, is a veritable mausoleum to this kind of gratuitous, futile, and, yes, ultimately pernicious perfectionism.
“Fair enough, but I still think perfectionism can be redeemed as a conceptual lasso for the judgment faculteme that kept Gould from churning out dozens of pre-atonal Schoenberg school-idiom’d string quartets.  Why not call it a higher-order perfectionism, a perfectionism that insists that the idea itself should be perfect before one even begins to attempt its realization, that refuses to busy itself with (pardonnez mon Anglais, s’il vous plait) polishing t**ds?”
I have no problem calling it a higher-order perfectionism as long as perfect is defined as true-cum-historically necessary rather than as beautiful, symmetrical, or any of the other adjectives bespeaking adherence to (in words approximating those of Dr. Johnson) “narrower principles than those of general nature.”
“It’s a deal.  Nevertheless I confess I have trouble reconciling the idea—the mere (let us not forget) conjecture--of a Glenn Gould who was too finicky to compose in the manner of the early second Viennese school with the idea—the full-blooded, documented (let us once again not forget) certainty—of the Glenn Gould who was content, nay, enthusiastically geared up to perform certain bits of false-cum-historically superfluous repertoire—notably certain works of Hindemith, the piano sonatinas of Sibelius, and Richard Strauss’s Ophelialieder.”
I admit it’s a bit of a poser, but only a bit of one.  For from a fondness for performing and recording the works you mentioned it is quite a long stretch to composing soup-to-nuts pastiches of their composers’ respective idioms.  At bottom I don’t think we need assume Gould’s pianistic championship of the likes of Hindemith, Strauss, and Sibelius emanated from any closer sense of affinity with (or for) their works than Rosen enjoyed with (or for) the frothy J. Strauss et al. arrangements on his Virtuouso! album.
“But then, as Rosen regarded piano playing as more of a sport than an expressive art, he presumably had an easier conscience about playing froth than Gould did.”
Presumably, and perhaps this malaise of conscience accounts in part (but only in part: cf. “Gould versus Rosen” for at least one other plausible contributor thereunto) for the much-remarked-upon foppish tone of so much of Gould’s music journalism.  His paeans (or panegyrics) to Hindemith and Richard Strauss are remarkably similar in tone to his panegyrics (or paeans) to Barbara Streisand and Petula Clark, instinct as they are with a suggestion that these are not proper subjects (or objects) of interest to a man of such worldly-wisdom and discrimination as Glenn Gould.
“Agreed.  But is it not possible that even if Gould the composer manqué had been inspired by an idea that did pass muster according to his own faculty of higher perfectionism and seemed worthy of his own worldly wisdom and discrimination, the resulting composition(s) would have been pooh-poohed as heartily as the oeuvres of Shostakovich and Dvorak by Rosen?”
How so?
“Well, because, as you pointed out in ‘Gould versus Rosen,’ GG didn’t seem to have much interest in the compositions of the only two composers who, according to Rosen’s lights, had managed to produce anything genuinely historically infungible since the death of Schoenberg, namely Elliott Carter and Pierre Boulez.  Granted: it is possible that this lack of interest did not arise from a lack of understanding.  But in the absence of any Rosen-worthy demonstration of such an understanding (in other words, in the presence of the nonexistence of any piece of Gould-penned-cum-Boulez or Carter-centered writing comparable in length and seriousness to GG’s slim but at least nominally book-length essay on Schoenberg), it is certainly eminently possible that it did arise from such a lack.”
Yes, it certainly is.  On the other hand, there is some evidence—admittedly highly indirect (or, if you insist, circumstantial) evidence—that Gould did understand and admire at least what Carter was up to—evidence that if accepted to that effect further suggests why Gould never expressed even the most guarded or qualified admiration of Carter’s music and yet refrained from subjecting him to a deflationary anti-puff piece along the lines of his article on Boulez.
“I don’t know to what you could possibly be referring, unless it be an acetate of Gould playing Carter’s Piano Sonata, a recording kept vigilantly under lock and key by Gould during his life and released therefom by his discographical executors only years or even decades after his death.”
It’s nothing like that.  I am referring to what is perhaps Gould’s most celebrated (that is to say, inter alia, his least opinion-dividing) extra-pianistic achievement, his so-called Solitude Trilogy, his triptych of Canada-centered radio documentaries, The Idea of North, The Latecomers, and The Quiet in the Land--
“--In none of which, as near as I can recall, does the voice of Elliott Carter or a single bar of any of his compositions figure.”
And as near as I can recall, your recollection is correct.  I did say the evidence was indirect, and it is indeed about as indirect as a shortcut from Toronto to New York City via St. Johns or even Churchill.  And even to spell it out will require great heaping dollops of indirection, viz.-cum-as-follows: The solitude trilogy has historically been seen as Gould’s attempt to replicate Bach’s contrapuntal achievements in a vocal-linguistic register, and GG himself termed the documentaries instances of “contrapuntal radio.”  And in the most general sense, the sense according which any deliberate simultaneous sounding (or deliberate delineation of such simultaneous sounding) of two or more separately intelligible strands of sound—i.e. two or more melodies or linguistic utterances– is an instance of counterpoint, The Solitude Trilogy is indeed prevailingly contrapuntal: each of its three constituents is dominated by passages in which two or more people are heard not merely intoning non-explicitly significative sounds (à la, e.g., the oohs and badabaps, etc. employed by the Swingle Singers in the version of Bach’s Art of the Fugue much admired by Gould), but actually speaking—generally in delivering monologues explaining why they have elected to adopt this or that characteristically Canadian habitus or course of action.  But counterpoint, not merely at its best (as Gould put it in the 1981 Goldberg Variations interview) but also at its strictest, possesses, in addition to its above-delineated ever-dynamic horizontal dimension, a vertical, intermittently static harmonic dimension.     
Before I tread or drive any further along this path, I must take another prima vista (but only prima vista) digressive turn and point out that the term counterpoint and certain associated musicological terms (e.g., or perhaps i.e., fugue) have of late (i.e., say, in the past 30 to 90 years) been applied with scarcely tolerable intemperateness to the description and analysis of essays and artifacts in non-musical media (most notably media grounded in natural human language); the abuse is to be accounted for not so much by a lack of musical training (for some of the most egregious abusers are scholars of music) as by a lack of the philosophical nous requisite to handling a metaphor responsibly.  A locus classicus-worthy example of this licentiousness is the very popular metaphorization of Thomas Bernhard’s Glenn Gould-centered or driven short novel Der Untergeher/The Loser as a verbal fugue or a kind of fugue, a metaphorization encouraged by three empirically demonstrable facts of the text: first, that the single unparagraphed strand of discourse of which the text is composed is attributively apportioned among a small number (i.e., 3) of named persons (the narrative “I,” Wertheimer, and Glenn Gould); second, that the only one of the three persons that we hear (or read) speaking (or writing) directly is the narrator, who reports to us the utterances of the other two as best (or, rather, more likely, as indifferently) as he can recollect them; and third, that the all three named persons are reported as commenting on one another (the narrator, to be sure, is commented on by Gould and Wertheimer within the epistemological confines of the narrator’s own recollections, and hence never qua narrator).  Each of these three empirically demonstrable facts of the text is evocative of some aspect of fugue-orient(at)ed composition: the multiple named characters suggest a multiplicity of (musical) voices, the nesting of voices suggests both a fugue-like simultaneity and a fugue-like hierarchy established by temporal precedence, with the narrator’s voice being that of the first subject, because it is the one we hear both first and last, and the reciprocal commenting suggests the note-for-note echoing that we perforce hear each time an already-stated subject (or extra-subjective melodic strand) of a fugue is taken up by a voice that has not yet hosted it.  So, what’s not to love about the notion of Bernhard’s Untergeher/Loser as a verbal or textual fugue?  Well, at the risk of sounding like a churlish old philistine, or philistine old churl, I would say that what is not to love about it is its synthetic irreconcilability with the phenomenal experience of either listening to or studying a fugue, an experience that necessarily always involves an immediate material simultaneity of melodic strands, an immediate simultaneity that Bernhard’s text does not even attempt to supply.  “But surely you appreciate that all this indisputably ingenious talk of contrapuntal voices is merely (albeit spectacularly ingeniously) metaphorical?”  No, I appreciate that it is merely metaphorical in intent, that intent being preempted or short-circuited by the literal synonymy of the two pseudo-senses of voice that serves as the linchpin of the trio of metaphors in point.  Granted, a voice in a fugue and a voice in a written text do not typically, or possibly even ever, function in precisely the same manner, but they are both indices or manifestations of something that is to be heard as a self-contained temporally unfolding unit; hence they must be regarded at their most connotatively divergent as two species of a genus rather than as two mutually unrelated classes of entity that by pure accident happen to bear the same name.  And having taken cognizance of this generic affiliation one must acknowledge there is really only one voice strictly so called in Der Untergeher/The Loser, namely the voice of the narrator: the reader is never being asked to take in and make sense of two strands of signified sound simultaneously, as he or she would be in listening to or studying a fugue.  The recursive discursive attributions (“he said, I thought,” etc.) that are such a striking stylistic feature of DU/TL are in fact immediately and literally evocative of a feature of much and perhaps even most music in the post-ca. 1760 Western classical canon, but it is not a contrapuntal feature (and hence axiomatically not a fugal feature).  I am thinking here of those moments when a passage is repeated in a sufficiently different setting from that of its initial appearance for the repetition to count as an allusion to that initial appearance, those moments when the piece seems to say something to the effect of, “You remember this dude, don’t you?”  One thinks especially (although in point of technical fact, every bar of a sonata-form recapitulation dominated by previously introduced material counts as such a moment) of episodes in the finale of a symphony (e.g., of Haydn’s , No. 4th, Mahler’s Seventh, and Ives’s First) in which a theme not heard since the first or second movement reappears.  And even more striking (and topically pertinent) examples are to be found in the vocal genres, e.g. (and most strikingly of all, to the present writer’s knowledge of the vocal repertoire), in Act IV, Scene I of Mussorgsky’s opera Khovanshchina, when immediately after murdering Prince Khovansky, the Boyar Shaklovity repeats verbatim (and with patently discrepant intent) the formula of praise that the prince’s servants were singing only seconds earlier.  If the fugal metaphor (or, rather botched conceit) must be applied to DU/TL, then it must likewise (and equally absurdly) be applied to these manifestly non-fugal, unifilamental cases hailing from the realm of music strictly so-called.   A true, proper, genuine verbal fugue would have to mimic point by point all the features of a genuine musical fugue, with strands of discourse that are intended to be heard or read simultaneously and that echo and anticipate each other at obligatory moments.  “In other words, it would have to be usable as the libretto for a fugal vocal ensemble piece—for example, the final number of Verdi’s Falstaff.”  Indeed, and for an even better example, present-purposes-wise, Glenn Gould’s “So You Want to Write a Fugue?”  GG’s radio documentaries do not come anywhere near to being verbal fugues in this genuine sense.  For one (prosaic and obvious but nonetheless decisive and therefore mentionworthy) thing, they feature long internal stretches (as against the already-touched-upon brief preliminary stretch of monophony that comprises the initial statement of the first subject of a fugue) in which only one person is talking.  Second(ly), the voices very seldom literally directly echo one another, and at the moment I can think of only one example of such direct echoing—in The Idea of North, when the word “nature” is uttered by two speakers in immediate succession.  To be sure, not infrequently, during certain non-monophonic passages, the careful listener notices that the speakers are talking simultaneously about a single topic —e.g., the demographic future of the Canadian north, or the endurability of Newfoundland’s lack of cultural amenities—and expressing either substantially identical or diametrically opposed opinions on it.  Such moments are undoubtedly evocative of certain contrapuntal practices and attendant fugal moments–fleeting unisons in the cases when the speakers are agreeing with each other, the playing of a subject against its own inversion in the cases when they are disagreeing–but these moments are evocative only by analogy, or even more trivially, by a kind of illustrative punning: “Hark, DGL (dear gentle listener),” such moments seem to say, “to how the one speaker is in accord with or echoing the sentiments of the other/how the one speaker is expressing an opinion that is the inverse or opposite of the opinion expressed by the other.  Isn’t that cute?”  In other words, they work as pseudocounterpoint or quasi counterpoint only in virtue of an accident of language, of the fact that in English accord, echo, inverse/inversion, &c. have both broadly conceptual and more narrowly music(ologic)al senses.  A Frenchman (or, indeed, a French Canadian!) could make comparably rich capital of the distinction between grave and aigu, which, although they are renderable in other contexts by a host of other English adjectives (serious, heavy, etc. / acute, keen, etc.), in a music(ologic)al context translate unequivocally and univocally as our low and high qua describers of pitch.  So our counterfactual Frenchie or Canuck (or Martiniquian, Ivory Coaster, aut al.) radio documentarian could feature, for example, two speakers speaking in succession, a soprano piccolo-voiced woman talking about death (the gravest of subjects) and a bass tuba-voiced man talking about his bout with an acute case of appendicitis, and a sufficiently licentious interpreter could present this diptych as a remarkable transposition of the music(alogic)al element of melody into a verbal register—with the woman’s utterance, despite the highness of her vocal range, representing a low note, and the man’s, despite the lowness of his vocal range, a succeeding high one.  In any case, the quasi or pseudo-contrapuntal sallies in Gould’s radio documentaries are generally only intelligible, even to the careful ear, when there are exactly two voices playing.  When three or more voices are heard at once, the result is a confused gabble (or babble) out of which it is extremely difficult to extract even one intelligible strand of discourse at a time, and while the listener is straining to keep hold of that strand, the others must wait and rest content to remain gabble-emes (or babble-emes) for the nonce—i.e., until the listener’s next audition of the passage of the documentary in question-stroke-at ear.  “But isn’t the same restriction in effect vis-à-vis one’s attention to the multiple melodic strands of a fugue?  Mustn’t one’s attention to the other two or three autc. subjects (or voices) of a fugue be momentarily suspended while one traces the progress of a given subject from voice to voice (or the progress of subject after subject within a given voice)?”  In a certain sense or to a certain degree, yes: insofar as one is interested only in understanding (or analyzing, to put it slightly more or less pretentiously) a given fugue voice or subject, one does indeed have to renounce or at least postpone one’s effort to understand the fugue as a whole.  But an analysis of all of a fugue’s contrapuntally salient constituents is by no means a requisite propaedeutic to understanding the fugue as a whole in a certain sense or on a certain level, as they say.  After all, not even the musically completely untutored listener [interpolate obligatory sop to the ten non-institutionalized people in the world who in virtue of literally living in solitude in a cave or a hole in the ground are genuinely ignorant of the conventions of tonal Western music] hears even the most complicated, the most plenivocal and contrapuntally implex, of old Sebastian Bach’s fugues as a mere babble that differs from its verbal analogue only in encompassing a broader range of pitches.  Indeed, at a certain level or in a certain sense, such a fugue makes perfect sense to such a listener.  Specifically it makes perfect sense at the level of (or in the sense of) rhythm and harmony. At the level of rhythm he or she perceives that the notes are conforming to a single pulse—that they are either moving (i.e., yielding place to successor notes) in synchrony with other notes at a certain speed (as in synchronous sequences of notes of the same length) or waiting for a certain determinate number of their faster brethren to move by before moving themselves (as in sequences of quarter notes, half notes, autc. that coincide with sequences of sixteenth notes, eighth notes, autc.).  He or she (the untutored listener) does not expect, for example, to find a long note waiting for three short notes, followed by a longer note waiting for two shorter short notes, followed by a slightly shorter long note waiting for five slightly longer short notes.  In short, the untutored listener perceives and expects to continue perceiving the entire fugue fitting together rhythmically.  Likewise, he or she expects it to fit together harmonically, expects that with every downbeat all the notes that are sounding at that moment, no matter how apparently mutually dissimilar the melodic strings in which they are participating may be, will combine to produce a familiar chord—e.g. (bordering on i.e.), a common chord (somewhat loosely known {by Charles Rosen, among others} as a triad {Rosen et al. think of triads exclusively as chords that in root position describe a fifth divided by a major-cum-minor third, but technically the class of triads includes all chords composed of exactly three pitch-classes}), a dominant seventh, or a diminished seventh; and further expects that the sequence of chords thus originating should somehow not seem to be going all over the place—expects, for example, not to find them moving upwards stepwise in that pattern that reminds him or her of a rocket gearing up for takeoff.  And this expectation of a well-fitted-together [wohlzusammengelegt] fugue on the part of the untutored listener puts one in mind of the inadequacy of Gould’s definition of counterpoint (from the 1981 Goldbergs interview) as “at its best, the simultaneous proliferation of ideas.”  To be sure, at its best counterpoint strictly so-called always involves a simultaneous proliferation of ideas, but it is never exhausted by, never entirely amounts to, in short, never is, that simultaneous proliferation because it also always involves the articulation of a single idea, or to put it less tendentiously, a single event, the event constituted by its rhythmic-cum-harmonic well-fitted-togetherness (Rhythmische- und harmonishewohlzusammengelegtheit [or perhaps …gelegtkeit]), or to put it more tendentiously, its rhythmic-cum-harmonic predictability or (to put it even more tendentiously) relative inanity.  And Gould’s radio documentaries most assuredly do not each articulate a single event; rather, each of them articulates a material, if not exactly causal, interdependency of many (not just a pair-to-several, as in a fugue, but many) mutually distinct, separate events.  “So in your view, Gould the contrapuntal documentarian manqué is a royal washout, a Niet, a fu**u*.”  No: in my view Gould the CDM is a genius, a grand maître, and a great artist who happens not to be a contrapuntalist, not because he has failed to master the art of counterpoint, but because to the contrary the conceptual p***me*ers of counterpoint are too narrow to account for the greatness, the grandeur, the maîtrise of his accomplishment, an accomplishment that viewed as a form of music outstrips anything he ever (as far as we know) dreamed about in music officially so-called and that was in fact completely up-to-date with the most advanced officially so-called music being written in its day.
“In other words, I take it, with the music of Elliott Carter?”
Even so.  Like Gould’s documentaries, Carter’s music deals with multiple strands of sound in ways that do not merely exhaust but even transcend the resources of counterpoint.  In listening to Carter’s music it is impossible to anticipate when the next moment of coincidence will occur, the next moment when two or more voices (e.g., in one of his string quartets, two or more of four string parts) will be playing with shared emphasis, because there is no stable downbeat, and hence no uniform pulse.
“In other words, Carter’s music is polyrhythmic.”
No, because in polyrhythmic music while there is no standard meter applying to all the voices there is as it were a fixed second-hand speed (one expressed by the metronome marking) to which all the rhythms must conform, such that while it initially (meaning perhaps not for the first few measures or even the first few hundred measures but for the first few-dozen listens-through) is quite difficult to anticipate the downbeat, the diversity of time signatures is at least in principle capable of being resolved into a single admittedly often unprecedented master time signature, (e.g. 19/32 or 15/128).  In Carter’s music—at least in all his music from the 1948 Cello Sonata onwards—such resolution is impossible, because the pulse of each individual voice is constantly changing and changing at a different rate from that of the other ones; in other words, because in each voice the next beat never appears exactly as soon as the last one did, or, in still other words, because everything is constantly speeding up and slowing down, and never speeding up or slowing down exactly as quickly or as slowly as anything else.  In a Carter composition one is never dealing with anything that can be conceived at a certain resolution, in fugue-like fashion, as a single event or process, and one is always dealing with something that must be conceived of as a synthesis of events—
“—In other words, as a completely chimerical state of affairs, one corresponding to none ever phenomenally experienced by any human being.”
To the contrary, it is a state of affairs that is undoubtedly phenomenally experienced by many human beings and very probably by almost all of them.  It seems to me that there are exactly two classes of very probably pandemic experiential phenomena to which Carter’s musical modus operandi corresponds—or better (if more contentiously) yet, embodies, replicates, exemplifies, instantiates.  The first is that of empirically simultaneous yet rationally incompatible time streams (which I believe Rosen remarks as a facet of Carter’s style somewhere; I have not yet located the passage).  My favorite example of such an experience, one which I am recycling, with minor additions and modifications of emphasis, from an earlier essay, is that of a passenger in a car moving along a motorway or interstate highway at a steady, non-rush-hour intercity clip.  If the passenger concentrates on those phenomenemes of this ride that most immediately impinge on him or her, he or she will feel as though everything is happening very quickly and semi-chaotically—the car is jerking this way and that as the driver accelerates, decelerates, shifts from one lane to another, etc; and if he or she sticks his or head out the window and looks down, he or she will witness an incredible number of very quickly changing irregularities in the surfaces of the road and the immediately adjacent terrain, the so-called shoulder.  It will all be enough to make him or her dizzy, panicked, nauseated, or all three.  If, on the other hand, he or she directs his or her gaze farther afield (or acar), say, to the line of telephone poles running parallel to the highway at several hundred feet’s (or even meters’) distance from it, he will get a sense that everything is moving much more slowly, calmly, and orderedly, because of course the telephone poles are giving place to one another much more slowly, calmly, and predictably than the cracks in the road to one another, the bits of dirt and grass on the shoulder to one another, or indeed the car to the road and to the other cars using the road.  Of course, there are a number of natural-scientific laws (chiefly those of inertia and parallax) ready to hand to account for your wildly unsynthesizable experience of motion in this setting, but none of them is satisfactory in point of dispelling the sense of phenomenal multiplicity, because there is a deeper mystery in point, a more basal question to be answered, here, namely why should the universe be organized in such a way as to make motion experiencable in such a wildly unsynthesizable fashion? Occasionally, very occasionally—namely, at moments in which some element of one time stream matches up with an element of another one—there are intimations of an answer to this question, but they vanish long before they can even be properly registered let alone understood.  The second sort of experience Carter’s music replicates, embodies, instantiates, and exemplifies, is that of empirically divergent yet rationally compatible time streams, a more transparently subjective (or inwardly-oriented) experience than the first sort.  It is more difficult to think of a sufficiently precise and capacious example of this second experience, so perhaps I had better leave it fairly abstract and describe it as the experience of being able to concentrate on something calming in circumstances that, were they fully attended to in their own right, would occasion nothing but agitation and distraction.  Typically the calmative phenomeneme is something that in one way or other hails from a place and a time far from the locale and moment in which the experiencer of it is materially sited—so this phenomenoneme may be a reminiscence, but it may also be a passage from a novel or diary.  And I should add here that the master-phenomenon in point here is not merely, or at any rate, not exclusively one of tuning or zoning out, of momentarily simply becoming oblivious of what is going on in one’s immediate personal environment, because at certain moments the quale of that environment are after a fashion absorbed into the calmative imported phenomenoneme; in other words, they seem to accommodate themselves to the stranger from an alien time stream, to treat it as a kind of guest, such that the busy, hyper-agitated immediately empirical world, a world that in its habitual habitus demands to be attended to at once with all the apoplectic bumptiousness of the ugly American guest in the Fawlty Towers episode (i.e., a guest who arrogates the privileges of a host), comes to seem less busy, less agitated, and above all less importunate because somehow in some inscrutable fashion affiliated with this more easygoing, sombrero-doffing world of the sometimes but by no means necessarily distant past.  In short, the assuaging guest phenomenon comes at least provisionally to redeem the irritating host phenomenon.  There is typically one such moment in every Carter composition—or at least in every post-1950 Carter composition of extended length (in his case circa fifteen or more minutes): one thinks, for example, of the adagio section of the second movement of the First Quartet, or of the onstage interlude in the opera What Next?, when the five extremely gabby adult constituents of the dramatis personae have momentarily exited, leaving the relatively taciturn youngster known as the Kid to check his pocket watch in the moonlight without saying a word.  (If this entire sub-sub-subroutine on the second facet of Carter’s modus componendi sounds familiar to a reader of my earlier essays, this is no accident, and not merely an accident occasioned by my common authorship, for in this second facet Carter does indeed manage to revive the strategic reposefulness of the Haydn adagio that I have made mention of at least twice, and he does so, it seems to me, in the hope of making the same point as it seemed (and still seems) to me Haydn was trying to make through his slow movements, namely, “that things do not simply and automatically happen in time, or perhaps that time exists for some purpose other than happening.”  The difference in Carter is that the reposeful moment is no longer sectioned off from the busy moments, but rather flows without interruption out of them; and that it is quite transparently made of the same stuff (generally, in Carter’s case, the same pitch-classes) as the busy episodes, so that one can never convince oneself that the busy episodes have their own dedicated and perhaps equally valid purpose, or that the oasis of tranquility is going to be of any great duration.     
In the light of all that I have already said about their non-contrapuntal, or rather super-contrapuntal features, it would be otiose for me to specify in any detail the respects in which or moment-classes at which Gould’s radio documentaries mimic or second Carter’s modus componendi.  But because Carter’s bifurcation of time-streams is an element that I have introduced since I last left off talking about the documentaries, it would probably be worthwhile to point out an instance of each one of the two fork-tines in them.  The first fork-tine, the one in which the listener freely shuttles between sensations of fastness and slowness, is exemplified by all those moments in the Gould documentaries in which more than one speaker is foregrounded, in which it is simply impossible to ignore all but one of them.  At these moments, there always seems to be a pronounced disparity between or among the rhythms and tempos of the individual voices such as one finds in the busiest and most intricate passages of Carter’s compositions.  As for the second time, it is at no place better exemplified than in the concluding minutes of The Idea of North, when the surveyor, at once the master of ceremonies and a humble primus tempo sub Gouldo inter pares, calmly, measuredly delivers his final two Canadian cents’ worth on the Canadian North against the aural background of the finale of Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony, which starts out as an exhilarating, land speed record-breaking Allegro molto (during this part I if nobody else cannot help picturing a sun-drenched sheet of tundra(l) ice racing by below as if seen from an airplane flying at a very low altitude) that presently yields to a slow, majestically expansive un pochinetto larghamente.
“By and large I am buying your comparison of Gould’s modus documentandi to Carter’s post- or meta- or hyper-contrapuntal modus componendi.  But there is one register or aspect in which the comparison evidently falls short, and short in a way that is already familiar to us from your depreciative discussion of Bernhard’s Untergeher as literary fugue: the examples you have given of Carter’s procedures have been drawn from instrumental works, or at any rate instrumental passages in non-instrumental works, and Gould’s documentaries, although employing techniques that work equally well in an instrumental-musical setting, cannot be even superficially understood and appreciated in the absence of at least an intermittent understanding of the words that are being spoken in them.  And so I pine to be pointed to a passage in Carter’s oeuvre in which these post- or meta- or hyper-contrapuntal maneuvers in the instrumental lines are complemented or reinforced by the text that is being sung, when something generically identical to the moments of Gould-style topical divergence or coincidence (e.g., two speakers boosting the North simultaneously or one speaker boosting the North while the other one bashes it) takes place.”
And I am all too able and happy to supply you with such a passage, and indeed several such passages, for the opera What Next? is chock-full of them (such that Carter’s magisterial librettist, Paul Griffiths, is really much more of a co-composer than even the most accomplished of his predecessors—e.g. or perhaps i.e., Lorenzo da Ponte and Arrigo Boito—could ever dream of or dread being).  In What Next?, as in a Gould documentary, we are presented at the outset with several human individuals—five, or perhaps six, in this case—all confronted willy-nilly by a single topic or phenomenon: in this case it is the fact that they have all been involved in a single traffic accident.  And as in a Gould documentary, the catalytic phenomenon occasions varying reflections in each of the affected individuals, reflections that are inflected by the personal histories and ambitions and the socially assigned (or arrogated) functions of these individuals.  For example, the character named Stella, an unmarried female astronomer, initially contrives to ignore the catastrophe by placing it in a trivializing cosmic context, only to discover eventually that the vastness of the universe cannot even dwarf human aspiration because it is simply incommensurable with it, and that in any case her immediate corporeal and social cravings trump any residual interest in any sort of larger world of whatever extent.  The character called Mama, on the other hand, tries to convince herself (and the others) that all the cars involved in the accident were en route to a wedding, that the characters called Rose and Harry-or-Larry were the bride and groom, and that the character called Zen is her husband and the father of Harry-or-Larry.  This effort affords her plenty of singing-time, and effectively establishes her as the opera’s central character, a position she maintains as long as the other figures resist assimilation into her schema, but no sooner do Harry-or-Larry and Rose yield to her suasion (or perhaps to each others’ or even their own fortuitously coincident whims) and begin to behave like an engaged couple, than she is vocally marginalized, because the quasi-bride and groom appear to have no interest in her one way or the other, seemingly because in turn their coupledom is of fresh fabrication and has no need or memory of any sort of parental presence.  Rose, an opera singer, divides her energies between savoring the sound of her own roulades, appoggiaturas, trills, and melismas, and trying to get the remainder of the dramatis personae interested in them, to no effect (“Where did they all go?  There has to be an audience,” she gripes, when left alone on stage after her supposed audience has literally walked out on her)—a failure that may contribute to her eventual abovementioned decision to treat Harry-or-Larry as a genuine fiancé.  Zen, a perfect foil and complement to Mama in the initial comprehensiveness of his ambitions, starts out a would-be guru or cult leader trying to woo the others into the fold by spewing the usual distilled Jesuitical bilge of ostensibly far-Eastern provenance, but settles for trying to seduce Rose, the only one of his female fellow survivors with whom he is not alleged to have been previously involved.  Harry or Larry is just along for the ride, or after-ride, and happy to have a go at being or doing anything—but only fleetingly, which is to say a minute or two at a time in this work spanning barely three-quarters of an hour.  Kid is an elusive figure because, at least in the Tanglewood production of the opera, the only one with which I am familiar, he is shown not to have been involved in the accident, to wander onstage for the first time only after the wreckage of the cars is already in place.  The role that literary critics typically assign by default to any character in a drama who is left over once all the others have fallen into place–viz. that of the so-called Greek chorus commenting on the action with epistemological impeccability—does not suit him particularly well, because although he does on one occasion offer a piece of shrewd insight, namely that it “was only for that brief moment” when the arrival of a pair of highway workers seemed to offer the hope of their extrication from the accident scene (and hence from the compulsion to try to make sense of the accident), “that [they] could agree”—on the whole he is every bit as much preoccupied with his or her own hobby-horse (in his case food [his first words are I’m starving, his third through fifth ones a Big Mac]) as the other characters are with theirs.  Moreover, in a certain respect he is the least Greek chorus-like of all the characters, for he is the only one to engage with the rest of them—albeit only mutely, via nods, head-shakes, shrugs, and arm-crossings—in the comfortably intersubjective manner that they all fail to adopt towards one another.
“A fascinating scenario.  I really must check out this La Bohème for our age the next time our opera dinner theater here in Poughkeepsie or Blue Ash is staging it.  But in the matter of the salient respect(s) in which Carter’s opera more closely resembles a Gould documentary than La Bohème does, your synopsis leaves me still quite mystified.  Surely it is a decisive difference between a documentary of the Gouldian sort (as against a documentary in the tradition of American Family, wherein the microphone’s [or microphone’s plus camera’s] attentions are confined to a not un-opera stage-like setting such as a particular household) and any opera that the opera deals with an intrinsically dramatic situation, a situation in which people are forced to deal immediately with other people as subjects, whereas in the Gouldian documentary the speakers, for all their points of agreement and dissent with their fellow interviewees, are never confronted with their counterfactual allies and opponents and indeed are speaking in perfect oblivion of their existence.”
I don’t know if I would go so far as to presume that they are (or were) oblivious of one another’s existence.  After all, Canada was (and compared to the U.S. still is, despite its steady demographic expansion since Gould’s day) remarkably thinly populated.
“All right, then, suppose every single one of them knew of the existence of every single other one of them—nay, suppose every man Jack and woman Jill of them to have been kissing cousins or intimate friends of one another; why then, that mutual (in the strict and proper sense, not the popular idiomatic one) acquaintance is of no relevance to the structural p*******rs of the Gouldian documentary, in which each participant holds forth at least as if his experience is [or be or were] completely uninformed by that of the other participants.”
Agreed, but I submit that this as if is just as much in force-cum-play—albeit partially in negative--in Carter and Griffiths’s What Next: its characters may or may not know one another, and the viewer-listener does not know if they know one another, and each of them is perpetually speaking and behaving as if he or she either intimately knew the others or he or she did not know them from Adam or Eve.  Both What Next? and Gould’s documentaries teach us that we should not place too much faith in empirical mutual propinquity as an engine of dramatic interest, that what may matter most is not how people relate to one another directly (and phenomenally) as subjects but how they relate to one another indirectly (yet materially) through some supervening entity or phenomenon.  Under such a dispensation, one does not expect dialogue in a conventional dramaturgical sense even in the most conventional of dramaturgical mises en scène, and one certainly does not get such dialogue in What Next?.  The preponderance of the opera’s vocal linage consists of monologues, which are as impermeable by the interventions of a second party as any of the monologues in Gould’s documentaries—whether this is because they are interior monologues or because the characters simply cannot be ***ed to pay attention to  one another is no less pointless than impossible to determine.  Occasionally, in the aforementioned manner of Carter’s instrumental compositions, one does get literal echoes or convergences in the libretto, but as in such moments of convergence in the Gould documentaries, these moments have nothing in common with their counterparts in conventional dialogue (i.e., exchanges of the pattern CHARACTER A (resolutely): I’ve decided to get a Brazilian.  CHARACTER B (appalledly): A Brazilian?).  So at one point Mama, apparently addressing Rose, asks How long do you expect your wedding to wait for you? and Rose immediately thereafter asks the same question, but it turns out not to be not a derisive repetition uttered in her own character but rather a straightforward query posed by the mother of a princess in a story Rose is telling to Kid (a story in which, incidentally, the princess has a preoccupation with the acoustic situation of her own voice much more befitting a professional opera singer than the heroine of a fairy tale).  And slightly later, when Mama’s pseudo-machinations have reached their climax, Harry-or-Larry and Zen pull off a real comic tour de force by asking her the question Are you sure you know who we are? not in unison, as in a conventional opera, but in alternation, one syllable at a time, thereby signifying not the dramaturgically conventional unanimity of resolution arrived at after careful deliberation, but rather an anti-dramaturgical convergence of sentiment effected by happenstance.  Most of the time, as in Gould’s documentaries, the monologues simply pursue their own distinct courses, such that one is forced to concentrate on one of them to the detriment of one’s attention to the others.  Most of the time, too, in Gould-like fashion, one’s choice of which voice to concentrate on seems to have been dictated by the composer through a combination of dynamics and rhythm, although of course in performance (and I know the opera only through a single performance) who ends up singing the loudest and with the most distinctive rhythmic contour ultimately depends on the conductor and even more ultimately on the singers.
Naturally, under the auspices of such a non-dramaturgical dispensation there can be no resolution of the drama in the conventional sense or as effected by the conventional means—namely, the bettering of one character or set of characters by another character or set of character(s) qua agent(s), a.k.a. intriguants (cf. my remarks on the classic drama in my notes on Thomas Bernhard’s plays); at best or at most under such auspices the curtain can be forced down by the intervention of some superhuman force—a version of the so-called deus ex machina of the second-tier ancient tragedies.  Carter and Griffiths teasingly provide a prospective or meta(-) deus ex machina in their two road workers, who in virtue of their governmentally appointed station might as well be superhuman as far as the five accident survivors are concerned.  But the workers—who are after all road workers and not paramedics—fail to oblige them and indeed do not even appear to be aware of the survivors’ presence; having completed their survey of the wreckage and shared a cup of coffee, they exit stage right, leaving the survivors stranded, now apparently permanently, in their monological ineffectuality.  At this point the drama, such as it is, has run its course, for by the time of the road workers’ arrival each of the survivors had already reviewed every conceivable habitus—every conceivable stance towards the world-cum-so-called role to be played in it—and found every one of them either undesirable or infeasible.  And so the survivors resume the stage-positions they occupied at the very beginning of the opera, leaving the last proper word, viz. a spoken What? to Kid, although Rose, immediately after Kid’s query, gets the last vocal sound, a drawn-out, tremolo-wracked high-note Ah! (as I lack perfect pitch and have not seen the score, I regrettably cannot specify the note). In this denouement, oscillating ad infinitum between a question mark and a dead end, What Next? again recalls the Gould documentaries, and not merely in a formal register.  For its characters, no less than Gould’s interviewees, are transparently interpretable as exemplars or bearers of certain facets of the Weltgeist, which is to say the tendency of history on the least provincial scale; each of them exemplifies a sector of the total compass of possible (i.e. feasible though unsatisfactory) responses to the grand historical car wreck of which we (i.e., at the youngest, people Carter’s age and younger) are all genuine or quasi- or pseudo-survivors.  One can respond to the crisis, as Mama does, by trying to transform one’s immediate lifeworld into a kind of hyper-Biedermeier domestic idyll (as most present-day people in fact do, whence perhaps the disproportionately large amount of linage given to this character).  One can half-embrace and peddle ninth-generation bargain-basement mysticism, like Zen.  One can be a semi-professional buffoon like Harry-or-Larry.  One can marvel with Saganesque (or, in the present microepoch, Coxesque) false naivety at the helpfully unhelpful infinitude of the cosmos.  Or one can retreat into the virtual cloister of a craft or profession involving the cultivation of a hermetic, completely self-contained technique, like Rose (whose superficially besetting sin of vanity or narcissism is merely a cat’s paw for her more basal preoccupation with the technical exigencies of her métier as a singer).  Each of these makeshift solutions is doomed to failure because it does not cohere or converge with any of the others and never can or will cohere or converge with them because the single historical master-impetus that gave rise to each of them is no longer recoverable (i.e. either rememberable or reconstitutable).  And so, of course, the opera’s eponymous question is addressed to all of us qua de facto-cum-counterfactual subjects of history.
Gould’s documentaries deliver a correspondingly pessimistic verdict on the Weltgeist
“—wait-wait-wait/hang on: didn’t you recently term the Weltgeist ‘the tendency of history on the least provincial scale’?”
Indeed I did.
“Well then: while I can see how a placeless scenario populated entirely by local color-less personages like What Next? invites reading as the Weltgeist’s jury (or, in some jurisdictions, judge), Gould’s documentaries strike me as furnishing no judgment of any kind on the Weltgeist, strike me indeed as positively willful repudiators of the entire notion of a Weltgeist, for is not each of them provocatively centered on a defiantly marginal, provincial phenomenon participated in by a defiantly marginal, provincial, positively locally Technicolor’d bunch of persons or individuals—viz., respectively, the Canadian Northerners, the Newfoundlanders, and the Mennonites of Manitoba?”
I concede your minor, viz. everything you have just said from ‘for’ onwards, but your major I wholeheartedly and categorically reject.
“Why of course you reject it—on grounds exactly consubstantial with those adduced by the modestly commercially successful author in The Latecomers in defense of his modus fabulandi, viz. that universal truths are paradoxically most readily arrived at (á la Faulkner) via the writer’s deliberate self-confinement to subject matter derived from his pokey little s**thole of a native locale, which grounds strike me, in virtue of their mere reflexive inversion of the old funhouse mirror of mimesis, as but a used coffee filter-ful of old cobblers.”
As they do me, but those are not my grounds.  My grounds are that in contrast to the professional local colorist, Gould does not treat any of the marginal, provincial subjects of his documentaries as positive, self-contained essences.  His documentaries are not aural travelogues in which the listener is soothed from beginning to end with mind-numbingly circumstantial descriptions of the natives’ manner of building a house, or hunting the region’s official game animal, or propitiating the local gods.  Rather, they are documents of displacement, evisceration, and disaggregation: they deal, respectively, with a gigantic superlocale (the North) in which local folkways have never been present because there has never been a folk to practice them, such that this superlocale can only ever be another department of the spiritually extraterritorial world of the present; a subregion (Newfoundland) in which the folkways for the most part can only be remembered, and in which what survives of them is felt by the inhabitants merely as an absence of luxuries become necessities; and a religious quasi-community (the Manitoban Mennonites) that is already so geographically dispersed and doctrinally heterogeneous that it can scarcely be said to exist at all any longer.  Gould’s interviewees are as assuredly survivors of an accident as Carter and Griffiths’s personages; moreover, once one has stripped away the allegorical machinery from the opera and the anthropological machinery from the documentaries, one can see that they are all of them—personages and interviewees alike—victims of a single accident, that they are all coping with their survival of this accident under the auspices of a single strategy of factitious continuity, that the implementation of this strategy ultimately leaves them all not only deeply dissatisfied but utterly baffled—i.e., asking the eponymous question of the opera.  The wreck is always perceived by all the interviewees of all three of Gould’s documentaries as a sort of well-nigh (but possibly not utterly) ineluctable Torontoization of the world.  Toronto, the subjects are agreed across the board, is already irrevocably lost, already completely secular, completely materialistic, and completely hidebound by administration.  (There is an SCTV sketch from the very early 1980s about a pair of maritimers who relocate to Toronto that compendiously encapsulates every Gould interviewee’s de facto hyper-paranoid attitude to the metropolis of Anglophone Canada; knowledge of the extent to which this sketch was inspired by Gould’s trilogy will probably have to wait until the present writer’s very probably never-to-exist opportunity to have a chinwag with some surviving member of the so-called production team involved in the making of it.) If only we could get away from Toronto, say the would-be Northerners, everything would be just swell; if only if we could keep the Torontonian modus vivendi from making it up here and out here, say the Newfoundlanders and Manitoban Mennonites, respectively, everything will be just swell.      
To be sure, the Weltbild of the three documentaries is not uniformly or statically bleak.  The Idea of North is undoubtedly the least downbeat of the three: the very identity of its nonverbal aural mainstay, a train chugging steadily and imperturbably if slowly northward, seems to betoken a hopeful outlook, and in the surveyor’s concluding conjecture that the North might just turn out to afford humanity the “moral equivalent to war” dreamt of by William James, one may even descry a downright whiggish attitude to the future.  But then one cannot help wondering how much hope has been artificially, adscititiously infused into this peroration by the exuberance of its soundtrack-sharer, the Sibelius finale, and especially by that finale’s almost bumptiously affirmative final cadence (its near bumptioiusness comes from its staccato iteration of its penultimate chord).
“But isn’t the Sibelius as integral a part of the documentary’s conclusion as the surveyor’s utterances, such that to speak of it as adding something to that conclusion is to put a cart before a horse from which it cannot even be unyoked, as it is fused with it in die-cast lead figurine-esque fashion?”
Not quite.  For while there can be little or possibly even no doubt (one incidentally hopes that the pop cultural statute of limitations on the criminality of  sequentially juxtaposing “no” and “doubt” is in effect by now, some fifteen years after the idiom’s namesake last had a hit record) that the Sibelius is supposed (or dare I even say it, i*****ed) to impart an affirmative tone to the conclusion of TIoN, there can be some or even much doubt as to whether the notional gist of TIoN justifies such an impartment—whether, in short, the Sibelius is not performing a role consubstantial with that of the road workers in What Next?, only in earnest and therefore unjustifiably.  It is essentially the same problem that confronts earnestly would-be admirers of Shostakovich—that is to say, certain listeners who, unlike Charles Rosen, are not irretrievably put off at the outset by Shosty’s predilection for common chords—when they consider the majority of the finales of his symphonies: the preceding three or four movements have all plotted a prevailingly tragic cursus that is defiantly trending towards a tragic ending, and then along comes this positively Sousa-esquely triumphal major-key-coda’d show-closer that spoils the effect of the whole piece.  By and large, these earnestly would-be Shostakovians, partly at the encouragement of the purported memoirs of Shosty himself, recuperate these transparently upbeat denouements as inverted expressions of the utmost extremity of misery, as ironic renderings unto Stalin of the unqualified jubilation that is Stalin’s (at least according to Stalin), and hence, as far as they are concerned, as even more devastatingly eloquent manifestations of a tragic worldview than a twenty-minute-long largo-tempo’d dirge of a finale could ever be.  But to this apologia the non would-be admirer of Shostakovich (who himself is not necessarily put off at the outset by Shosty’s predilection for common chords) must retort that if Stalinism is (or was) really an evil of tragic dimensions it deserves (or deserved) to be received in an attitude of greater gravitas than that of mere mock-celebration, because, in the words of the perhaps only once half-famous American novelist and short-story writer Padget Powell, “irony can never survive the truly hard bite.”  “But,” the earnest would-be admirer of Shostakovich counter-retorts, “If Shostakovich had directly represented Stalinism as the evil that it was, he would have been sent to the Gulag.”  To which I counter-counter-retort, “Well, then, he should have resigned himself to being sent to the Gulag or given up composing altogether.  In the words of Dr. Johnson, ‘Martyrdom is the test’ of the firmness of one’s adherence to a given conviction.”  In Gould’s case, of course, there was no threat of being sent to the Gulag; nevertheless, in his capacity as an expender of the Canadian taxpayers’ dollars (for all three of his documentaries were commissioned and debuted by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), or a patriotic Canadian citizen, or even more broadly an artist with a so-called social conscience, he may have felt compelled to put at least a slightly positive spin, as they say, on a mass of material—i.e., his accumulated stock of interview replies—of a prevailingly pessimistic cast.  Whence (perhaps) the upbeat Sibeliusian denouement of TIoN.  The Latecomers wisely forestalls any would-be triumphalist readings by confining its extra-verbal intervention to the single, apparently continuously looping sound of ordinary, un-tempest-toss’d sea waves alternately withdrawing from and cascading against a shoreline; these waves are heard from the beginning to the end of the documentary—i.e., not only during each of the speakers’ utterances but before the first speaker opens his mouth and after the last speaker falls silent—and thereby impart the sense of an impassive natural world utterly, implacably indifferent to all human striving.  While such indifference need not dictate an attitude of defeatism to the human subject, who may after all plausibly conceive of his divorcedness from nature as an heroic schism and his struggle against nature as a(n) heroic struggle, in the The Latecomers the indifference of nature seems to function merely as a cipher or countersymbol for or of the indifference of human beings to one another as manifested in the inexorability of socio-techno-administrative progress.  The electrified, mini-skirted, stop sign-ridden modus vivendi of the Ontarians is on its way, and to attempt to reject it (so collectively implieth the eponymous Latecomers) is as pointless as to resist the incoming tide (yes, yes, yes, like Kings Xerxes and Canute).  To be sure, about a third of the way through the documentary, one begins to hear from a dissenting voice (diehard fetishists of the Gould documentaries as supposed old-fashioned fugues would term this voice either a countersubject or, more pedantically, the principal subject of a stretto), a proper Newfoundlandian old salt who defiantly or gormlessly maintains that there is something ineffably and dependably life-sustaining about the very air of Newfoundland, and that after only a few days’ sojourn in California he began to find its mild climate and regular sunsets physically unendurable.  But the plausibility of the man’s geographical chauvinism is undermined by the ludicrousness of his idiolect—a gusto-laden mélange of Piratese, Irish, and English West Country so stridently divergent from the dispassionate mainstream Canadian English of all the other interviewees (themselves native Newfoundlanders) that one cannot for a moment take it for anything but an affectation; here, one consequently feels, is a man who revels in playing the organic maritimer but who would throw his life’s savings into a down-payment on a condo in Malibu if he ever suspected that nobody was impressed by his act (cf. What Next?’s Rose’s need for an audience).  There is, moreover, something a tad suspicious about a self-styled yokel’s yokel who asserts, as this old salt does, that if Newfoundland is “a year behind Toronto, then Toronto is a new year behind New York, which is two years behind Paris, in terms of fashion”; proleptically smacking as it does of the so-called retro crazes that bedeviled the Modesgeist of the last decade or so of the twentieth century.  A person who knows—and can be bothered to know—that he is exactly five years behind the cutting edge in fashion would seem to be speculating on the moment when his retarditaire (e.g.) tartan mackintosh and wide-waled corduroys will circle back round to being the cutting edge.  At bottom, the Newfoundlandian old salt merely underscores the ineluctable seemingly int******l irony of the title of The Latecomers, which at first blush may simply seem to allude to the Newfoundlanders’ residually pre-post industrial way of life, but on reflection highlights their impossible, hyper-Jetsonian ahead-of-the-curveness; yes, implieth the title, materially in a mechanical sense the Newfoundlanders may be living a life that is a throwback to or holdover from the pioneering days of the nineteenth century, but epistemologically speaking they are far ahead of the most trend-setting and far-sighted of the rest of us.  The Quiet in the Land, by far the bleakest of the three documentaries, is free of even equivocal signs of residual collective authenticity: from its very beginning, in the words of its very first speaker, we are told of the Albertan Mennonites’ addiction to the most expensive and technically advanced consumer goods, and the cravenness and unshakeability of the addiction are emphasized by a repeated sample of the first two lines of Janis Joplin’s recording of the song “Mercedes Benz.”  The listener who has never before heard of the Mennonites would be hard-pressed indeed to glean the faintest ghost of a sense of their creed, so rarely and sketchily do any of its representative adherents refer directly and positively to any of its articles.  That a certain degree of temperance is or once was expected of the sect’s members one may gather from one speaker’s account of an all-night bender after which he says he and his fellow Mennonite tipplers felt a smidge contrite—but apparently only just a smidge, to judge by the jolly, almost fratboyishly self-congratulatory tone in which the anecdote is related.   Mention must also be made in this connection of the nonverbal aural mainstay of The Quiet in the Land, viz. a church bell that tolls at ominously widely spaced intervals.  The function of this bell in or vis-à-vis the Mennonite liturgy is inscrutable from its wildly acontextual appearances in the documentary; one by default rosily conjectures that it is or was meant to summon the faithful to the church on the morning of an ordinary Sunday service.  But in the mind of the average non-Mennonite inhabitant of what used to be called Christendom this bell, like any other recurrently sounding church bell, is bound to evoke ideas and images of death; he or she is bound, in other words, to think of this bell as the bell that is said by Messrs. Donne and Hemingway to toll lugubriously for those who have just died.
Basically, vis-à-vis a comparative appraisal of the CCaEAC and Gould’s CBS-ian corpus, all (of) the above may be likened to J.L. Borges’s famous fake essay (or pastiche of an essay of a certain type) comparing one Pierre Menard’s Don Quixote with the novel of the same name (and verbatim textual composition) by Miguel de Cervantes.  What I mean to intimate via this meta-comparison is no less audacious an intimation that on the whole, which is to say eight or nine opus-length disc-slices out of ten, the versions comprising the CCaEAC are indistinguishable from the ones I imagine Gould would have committed to wax during the same decade-and-a-half as the one spanned by the CCaEAC if he had then seen fit to devote himself to the sectors of the repertoire covered thereby.  The two Bach works other than the Goldbergs—viz., The Art of Fugue and selections from A Musical Offering—are cases not so much in point as in epicenter, inasmuch as Bach is of course the signature composer of Gould’s discography.  As I mentioned in Gould vs. Rosen, Rosen’s Goldbergs, although on the whole a fairly Gould-like recording, did take the decidedly un-Gouldian liberty of differentiating certain passages from each other dynamically, of playing certain passages louder or softer than others even though the score does not (or should that be did not?) indicate how loudly or softly any of its passages should be played.   Rosen’s Art of Fugue and Musical Offering, in contrast, do not take any interpretative liberties with dynamics—at least no audible such liberties, perforce the only ones that count in an audio recording–meaning that in them the only change in volume is the one provided by the score-mandated augmentation and diminution of sonority, i.e., by the addition or subtraction of voices, none of which is ever playing either more loudly or more softly than any of the others.  In this ruthlessly impartial leveling of dynamics Rosen may be said to have out-Goulded Gould in his renditions of these two works.  For although Gould was implacably opposed to the application of tactical ad hoc dynamics to Bach’s keyboard works, he did both countenance and routinely effectuate one strategic interpretative intervention in the dynamic register: namely a playing of the downbeat or perhaps even the entire first measure of a previously unheard voice noticeably louder than the concurrent lines of the other, already-established voices.  In doing this, GG was adhering to a settled practice among interpreters of Bach on the piano, and it would seem that Rosen in for his part refraining from emphasizing new voices was deferring to what he presumed to be the usual performance practice in Bach’s day—the hedging inherent in “it would seem” deriving from my inference’s source in a remark by Rosen that made no mention of his own performance practice, viz. to the effect that a performer of a fugue in Bach’s day even on an instrument graced with dynamic capabilities (e.g.-verging-on-i.e., a clavichord) would not have bothered playing an entering voice any louder than an established voice because he would perforce have been playing the piece in private, with himself and (perhaps) a seatmate comprising the entire audience, who in having the score immediately before him, her, or them would simply have observed when a new voice was entering.  It, the typical early- eighteenth century keyboard-fingering session as imagined by Rosen, must have been a phenomenon more or less smoothly consubstantial with the sort of aloud-reading of a play in which each aloud-reader has before him his own copy of the Penguin autc. edition of The Crucible, The Cherry Orchard, or indeed, as at the Shakespeare evenings of the young Gould and his Toronto friends, Richard II.  Because each of them has the complete text of the play ready to eye, all of them can see its speech-prefixes, stage directions—in short, all its silent cues, and consequently none of them has any need or reason to draw anybody’s attention to these cues.  If one of the aloud-readers is directed by the text to pull a gun out of his pocket and point it at Mr. X and then to say the line I think you’ll find that this changes everything, not only he but also all his fellow aloud-readers will immediately know that it is specifically a gun that has changed everything, and consequently know that Mr. X’s next spoken lines, I agree that it does, will be spoken specifically out of a fear of being shot.  To any eavesdropper on the read-through unsupplied with a Penguin autc., on the other hand, it will by no means be at all clear that it is a gun that has changed everything, and in point of fact, such an eavesdropper may very well have something quite specific and very un-gun-like in mind as an everything-changer—a sheaf of banknotes, for example, or a sheet of paper with the word WARRANT or SUPBOENA prominently printed on it.  And while such an eavesdropper may seem to be too statistically marginal a figure to merit any sort of attention from anybody apart from his pal(s) or paramour(s) in the circle of aloud-readers, he is in fact a figure whose epistemological limitations must be taken into account whenever a stage play is presented in a certain format or setting—viz. in audio-only format; e.g., as a radio play.  And the only way of taking these limitations into account is by modifying the text of the play in some fashion or to some degree—e.g., most obviously and radically, by adding dialogue—“I think you’ll find that this gun changes everything”; or by adding a narrator-like voiceover (spoken either by the play’s chorus or chorus-like personage, if the playwright has already provided one, or by an entirely newly invented character if he has not) [Mr. W pulled out a gun.
MR. W: I think you’ll find that this changes everything]; or perhaps by adding some sound effects [MR W: I think you’ll find that this {splice in Sound Effect No. 54321—cocking of revolver hammer}] changes everything.].  In any case, being a teetotallingly pure purist, sticking to every last jot and tittle of the text and not adding a jotlet or tittlelet of one’s own thereunto, is not an option, as they say, in such a presentation—unless, that is, one presupposes that one’s audience is already well enough acquainted with the play to remember that the this of “this changes everything” is a gun, and to remember every other non-audibly communicable element of the text.  “But any listener who does remember every non-audibly communicable element of the text is presumably equally thoroughly acquainted with all the audibly communicable elements of the text, and therefore will (or ought to) regard an audition of the play-performance for which he is the ideal (and only qualified) listener as largely or possibly even entirely gratuitous.”  I am pretty sure that he will regard it as such, on more or less the same grounds that Hugo von Hofmannsthal gave for his lack of interest in seeing Shakespeare performed, viz. that he had already cast and directed performances of each of the plays in his own head, and that any empirical performance of one of them would inevitably strike him as a “falling off” from his ideal one.  But I am not nearly as certain about the ought to.  Mind you, on the whole, I am with Haitch von Haitch on this one; on the whole I do regard most actors’ oral-stroke-aural contributions to a play’s dialogue as phenomena no less superficial and at the same time no less innocuous than the contributions of the make-up applier.  The pertinence of the idiom laying it on thick to both métiers admirably points up their participation in both qualities (i.e. superficiality and innocuousness): just as an overly generous application of make-up can cause an actor’s physiognomical embodiment of a character to lapse into caricature yet cannot destroy or otherwise transform our sense of what that character is supposed to look like, so an overly emphatic declamation of a character’s lines by an actor may cause his oral embodiment of that character to lapse into caricature yet cannot destroy or otherwise transform our sense of what the character is supposed to sound like.  And on this account, neither deserves to be taken seriously as an object of either praise or disparagement: one simply ignores both contributions and looks and listens through to one’s original conception of the character.  Still, it is just possible that the text, over and above the expressive indications supplied by the stage directions, will allow for a nuance of articulation that one has overlooked, and accordingly the soundtrack of even the hammiest, the most deadpan or otherwise wayward performance of a play may have something to offer even to its most practiced inner-director.  So it is, I submit, mutatis mutandis, with performances like Rosen’s of Art of the Fugue and the two fugues from A Musical Offering.  They do not even attempt to make available a fraction of the information (an admittedly banausic word to use when discussing so [and in this case very much rightly]-called high art, but here it really does come down to that) available to the performer and hence can be but of limited use to the listener who is ignorant of the score—and by “ignorant of the score” I do not mean that the ignoramus is unable to read music but simply that he or she is unacquainted with the particular score in question-stroke-play.  Again I am brought back to the epistemological limitations of the fully professionally trained musician, but this time vis-à-vis not the decoding side of the score, the activity of a reader of music trying to glean from the score a sense of how it should sound, but rather the opposite or encoding end of the score, the activity of a listener to music trying to glean from the soundstream a sense of the notated, out-written piece of sight music behind it.  If the composition of a fugue qua contrapuntal exercise merely involved the assignment of parts—say, to each of the four members of a vocal or chamber quartet—as in a canon, and the entry of each new subject corresponded to the entry of an as-yet unheard singer or player–then it would indeed be proverbially pie-esquely easy to reconstruct the score of a fugue in its entirety (expressive indications aside, naturally), provided the composer hadn’t pulled any froward tricks like having the second violin enter before the first.  But because the introduction and transformation of fugue subjects occur not only across part-lines but also within them, the listener, if he concentrates on a specific voice, will be often hard-pressed to distinguish between a new subject and the continuation of an old one; and complementarily, if he keeps his ears peeled for new subjects, when he hears one he will often be hard-pressed to tell which voice is articulating it.  Whence the quasi-necessity of the sort of non-composer-dictated dynamic interventions habitually employed by Gould in his recordings of Bach fugues, interventions that in an only slightly different context (e.g., a less contrapuntally involved piece by Bach such as The Goldberg Variations) he would have heartily eschewed and disparaged as “piano playing”—meaning any sort of performative intervention intended to make the listener “take note” of the specific character of the moment immediately at ear.  This is all by way of making the essentially Rosenian point that even in a Bach performance one cannot aurally present “an x-ray of the music” (as Tim Page characterized Gould’s modus interpretendi in GG’s silently approving presence) without adding something of one’s own to it; that the preparation of any such x-ray must perforce involve at least a smattering of pre-developmental highlighting.  Such at any rate was the judgment of the mature Rosen, Rosen the scholar and critic, the post- Classical Style Rosen, and above all else as far as this essay is concerned, the post-CBS Rosen.  During his CBS years Rosen seemingly adhered to and demonstrably experimented with a range of credos regarding interpretative license.  In his recordings of The Art of Fugue and the Musical Offering fugues he permitted himself no such license whatsoever—or, at any rate whatever degree of it he did permit himself was imperceptible by a non-instrumentalist such as the present writer.  In his version of the Goldbergs he allowed himself a discreet use of terraced dynamics (as I mentioned in Gould versus Rosen), mainly—so it now seems to me—because unlike Gould he observed all the repeats and therefore was in greater danger of occasioning a feeling of monotony and consequently had a greater incentive to emphasize the contrasts between double dot-terminating episodes; but otherwise, i.e. at a subsectional resolution, he was every bit as near-note-perfectly faithful to the score as Gould—his Variation 25, for example, was as rubato-light as GG’s 1981 version of it and consequently sounded just as little “like a Chopin nocturne.”  But in his recording of Haydn’s Piano Sonata in C minor, Hob. XVI: 20, Rosen permitted himself liberties that exceeded anything countenanced either by his own established practice or the performing tradition.  Specifically, in his repeat of the exposition of the first movement of this piece he permitted himself to play a fair number of passages that were apparently of his own invention and that whatever their origin most certainly do not appear in the score of the sonata.  These passages do not sound like conventional ornaments, relying as they do on successions of chords rather than on successions of monophonically articulated notes after the manner of turns, appoggiature, trills and the like.  What they in fact remind one most strongly (and incidentally highly disagreeably) of are the sallies of a jazz instrumental soloist or scat singer in one of his or her later presentations of his assigned tune.  The reader presumably knows the kind of sallies I’m talking about; say the set tune is “The Star Spangled Banner”: the first time round the singer will sing, for example, the phrase “gave proof through the night” as written, with one note per syllable, but the second or some other subsequent time he or she will elect to sing, say, “gave proof through the nimity-nimity-noo-na-na-night,” and thereby greatly complicate the vocal line both rhythmically and melodically.  In the setting of a jazz performance, such sallies, are, well, to be quite frank, insufferable, but at least they are expected and indeed taken for granted in this setting and do not sound out of place in it, whereas they sound both insufferable and completely out of place in the performance of a Haydn keyboard sonata—they make it sound as though the performer is playing some kind of wry Schnittkean joke, like throwing a tango into the middle of a concerto grosso, on the listener.  What ever could have possessed Rosen to interject such shenanigans into the performance of a piano sonata by Haydn, a composer for whom he had the utmost regard and whom he certainly never could have dreamt of sending up in such a broad, indeed, well-nigh Benny Hill or Rip Taylor-worthy fashion?  The answer to this question can only be that some 1960s scholar, some musicologist or other of some repute, had for some seemingly eminently plausible reason or other concluded that repeats in Haydn’s day were never taken note for note, that indeed to the contrary they invariably exacted some pretty elaborate embellishment from the performer; and that this scholar’s inference precipitated a fad for jazzing up the repeats of expositions in performances of Haydn’s (and perhaps Mozart’s and the early Beethoven’s) works.  The fad could have been of only the very briefest duration, for as far as I have ever been led to believe by my admittedly desultory but also possibly nearly exhaustive reading on the subject, modern (i.e., post-1950) scholarly opinion has been unanimous in concluding and affirming that there is no evidence of any kind on how repeats were handled in the late eighteenth century—that we do not know whether they were generally played through in full with no changes (as they generally are now), or played through with some modifications by the performer (as in Rosen’s version of Hob. XVI: 20), or simply ignored as they definitely tended to be no later than the time of Brahms and continued not infrequently to be until well into the era of so-called high-fidelity stereophonic recording.  “So then Rosen was perfectly within his rights to improvise in the repeat of that sonata.  After all, if we don’t know what they did back then, then presumably anything goes.”  I beg to presume otherwise, and so, I beg to conjecture, would Rosen, who in his writings was generally against the entire what is not forbidden is permitted-school of thinking.  One thinks here, for example, of his attitude to the practice of including a complete and highly audible continuo harpsichord part in performances of Haydn’s symphonies—a practice that incidentally is now all but universal among chamber-sized ensembles—solely on the grounds that in contemporary accounts of his concerts Haydn is reported to have “conducted from the keyboard.”  Rosen had no objection to latter-day Haydn conductors playing along on a fortepiano or harpsichord, so long as their tinkling or jangling accompaniment was so soft as to be inaudible by the intended audience.  To play it loudly enough to be heard by that audience was to risk “messing up Haydn’s delicately austere, dry moments of two-part counterpoint” (Critical Entertainments, p. 214).  Here we see Rosen using his cardinal rule about interpretative license (as epitomized in GvR) as a red card: only deviations from the composer’s instructions that make a piece of music more complex and interesting than it would seem without it are worth serious consideration, and the audible fortepiano or harpsichord continuo is no such deviation, because it prevents us from attending to the complexity that is already there.  I would argue that Rosen’s deviations from the score of Hob. XVI: 20 are consubstantially unwarrantable, in that they “mess up Haydn’s delicately austere” apportionment of the pulse between a single held protracted initial downbeat and a much shorter postpositive upbeat—which is why I cannot but imagine that they were sanctioned by some momentarily authoritative scholarship—or perhaps even by an apocryphal alternative score momentarily regarded as authentic; that or that Rosen did a complete about-face on the matter of such interpretative interpolations.  (The passage from Critical Entertainments quoted immediately above dates from 1990, but I am almost sure I have found Rosen inveighing against audible adscititious continuos at a much earlier date.)
In any case, Rosen’s Haydn recordings, and even his Bach recordings, ultimately cannot serve as load-bearing supports of my thesis that Rosen plays the repertoire on the CC&EAC essentially as Gould would have played it, for even if apart from the Goldbergs there is no discographical overlap in their Bach and Haydn recordings, B&H are at least composers whom Gould liked and performed, whereas the bulk of the CC&EAC consists of works by composers whom Gould professed to dislike and rarely or never performed—viz. Bartók, Chopin, Debussy, Liszt, Ravel, Stravinsky, Schubert, and Schumann.  My case is based more or less entirely on one of those numerous posthumous Sony discs that pull together the audio portions of certain of Gould’s recordings for Canadian television—on this one there are versions of Berg’s only piano sonata, Krenek’s third piano sonata, Webern’s op. 27 variations and op. 24 concerto (a chamber work involving several instruments other than the piano), Debussy’s Rhapsody for Clarinet and Piano, and Gould ‘s own arrangement of Ravel’s “La Valse.”  The last item is really central to the illustration of my thesis, because it is both conceived and performed with a degree of single-minded gusto, élan, and fervor that simply trump anything attainable in any rendition of the familiar orchestral version—in a word it is what all the performances of that version merely aspire to, such that one gets the sense that to produce an ideal orchestral La Valse, one would have to travel back in time, hand Ravel Gould’s piano arrangement and peremptorily bark at him, “Commencez ici!” And yet, and yet, for all its appropriately uninhibited frenzy GG’s arrangement is not wanting (in) any of the signature Gouldian pianistic virtues—every note and chord can always be heard, and there is never any sense that one is being unceremoniously inundated with a pedal-induced, keyboard-oblivious sonic wash.  I read Gould’s arrangement of La Valse as a manifesto, a manifesto stating that to whatever extent the post-Beethovenian piano repertoire can be redeemed, it must be redeemed by the same virtues as signalize the keyboard repertoire up to and including Beethoven—namely, distinctly intelligible melodic lines and good voice leading.  Gould seems to have been making the same polemical point less obtrusively, but in a way more eloquently, in the performance of the Debussy Clarinet Rhapsody with James Campbell.  Less obtrusively because of course this is a piece in which the piano is very much required to play second fiddle (an admittedly cheesy metaphor that takes on a less obnoxious odor when one remembers Bach’s exploitation of the violin’s polyphonic capabilities in his solo suites and partitas), but quasi-more eloquently because Debussy is after all the impressionist composer par excellence (or par mauvaisence depending on your attitude), the composer whom everybody expects to sacrifice precision and discreteness of utterance to a hazy general ambient effect.  The Debussy presented in Gould and Campbell’s recording of the Rhapsody could not be less of that sort of composer.  And yet one does not get the sense, as one does from Gould’s recordings of the Mozart piano sonatas, that Gould (or Campbell) is taking the mickey out of the composer, flouting him, trying as hard as he can to make him look ridiculous by deliberately ignoring his instructions.  “This Debussy may not be your father’s Debussy,” the Gould-Campbell performance seems to proclaim, “but it is no less the real Debussy, and a Debussy that even a dyed-in-the-wool counterpoint-worshiper can play without shame.”  Admittedly, the choice of repertoire facilitates the presentation: Gould could have chosen a much more programmatically impressionistic work like La cathédrale engloutie, in which case he would have had to make a stark choice between fidelity to the score at the cost of engaging in a manner of playing that he found abhorrent and fidelity to his favored manner of playing at the cost of sending up the work à la the Gould of the Mozart sonata recordings.  But by this (or that or the) same token, the unabashed Debussy fan and champion Charles Rosen omitted La cathédrale engloutie from his anthology of Debussy solo piano pieces (the other Debussy disc in the CC&EAC is a recording of the complete Preludes, none of which is stereotypically impressionistic), and he included in that anthology the downright spiky, proto-neoclassical Hommage à Haydn.  Speaking of Haydn, the reader may recall that in GvR I asserted that Gould played the presto finale of Haydn’s D major piano sonata Hob. XVI:51  in such a way—namely, much more slowly than presto—as to make it sound exactly like one of Schumann’s piano miniatures.  Well, it might equally accurately (or at least no more inaccurately) be said that in his versions of Carnaval and the Davidsbündlertänze Rosen makes Schumann sound exactly like Gould’s Haydn, though by means that are more nearly akin to those evident in Gould’s recording of Hob. XVI:50 (and that I also commented on in GvR)—viz. the deemphasizing of the sustain pedal.  Admittedly I am somewhat out my depth—or even more abysmally out of my depth than usual—here, being only spottily acquainted with Schumann’s corpus and even more spottily acquainted with that corpus’s discography, but I can at least say that Rosen’s versions of the above-mentioned cycles sound a good deal drier, a good deal less heavily pedaled, than the one or two other recordings of them that I am familiar with.  Any sense of the extent to which Rosen is leaning too lightly on the sustain pedal and these other pianists are leaning too heavily on it is quite beyond me, as I know neither precisely when Schumann instructed the pedal to be used nor how much nuance of sustenance the pedal is capable of expressing, nor how much or how little of this nuance Schumann managed unequivocally to express in his scores.  But my epistemologically multifacetedly blindfolded impression, for what it is worth, is that Rosen did not use the sustain pedal at all in playing Schumann.  Now this obviously cannot be true (because I know from Rosen’s Romantic Generation that Schumann did set great expressive and indeed discursive store by the sustain pedal), but it may be true that Rosen used the sustain pedal with such subtlety or restraint that this use imparted a negligible or indeed non-existent effect to the overall Tonbild.
But without for an instant discounting the possibility of Rosen’s exertion of just such a kind and degree of pedular subtlety or restraint, I must confess that I can descry another and no-less possible all-trumping efficient cause for the apparent Gouldishness of Rosen’s Schumann recordings, a cause that may also just as efficiently account for the apparent Gouldishness of Rosen’s Debussy recordings to the extent that it was not determined by choice of repertoire, namely a technique of recording engineering that was too primitive or undiscriminating even to register the difference between a subtle and restrained sustain-pedaling technique and a coarse and abandoned one.  What I mean to say is that the overall ambience of the recordings in the CC&EAC is essentially identical to that of Gould’s exactly contemporaneous CBS recordings—most notably among them his entire Beethoven three-quarter cycle and all his Bach interpretations up to and including those of the French Suites; the only signal difference in ambience between the two discography-segments being that Rosen’s tracks tend to have significantly more tape hiss, but as a solidly post-millennial Gouldian who has heard GG’s CBS recordings almost exclusively in ostentatiously long-in-the-making and painstaking Sony re-re-remastered re-re-issued versions, I am probably in no position to make much of this distinction, for for all I know GG’s CBS discs may have sounded every bit as hissy as Rosen’s in their original public incarnations, for the sheer ratio of turnaround-time to number-of-discs chez the CC&EAC suggests to the verge of certainty that they could not have benefited as extensively from up-cleaning and refurbishing of their source tapes (or, rather, the digital copies thereof) as GG’s had done.  (While to a layman—including me before I heard some BBC Radio 4 [or perhaps 4 Extra] documentary about digital remastering—noise reduction may seem apodictically to involve nothing more complicated than switching on some sort of fully automated and uninterruptible electronic muffler, it is apparently rather time-consuming and labor-intensive, as one [apparently] cannot undiscriminatingly reduce the hiss without cutting out a good bit of the treble end of the sound produced by the instrument, and so one has to go through the whole tape microsecond by microsecond and pick out—and then leave in—the bits of hiss that will not be noticed qua hiss by the ear.  Yeah, I know, DGR: as Casey Kasem would have exclaimed, “Ponderous, man, f***in’ ponderous!”) Anyway, as I was saying, degree of hiss aside the ambience in the two sub-discographies is identical—its signal characteristic is a certain extreme aridity together with an extreme matteness, which together may just possibly be conceptually reduced to an almost total lack of resonance:  the notes fade away almost as soon as they are played.  Beyond this, there is really no sense of a space, a room (neither a department store auditorium, as favored by Gould, nor a defrocked church, as favored by Rosen, nor a conventional studio of the far above-described sort as favored by neither Gould nor Rosen but resorted to by both) in which the piano is being played, or even, truth be told, of a piano casing, a soundboard, etc. within which the notes are being struck.  Now it must be admitted that a pianist can greatly reduce resonance by his or her style of playing, such that all other things being equal, a detaché style of playing such as Gould’s will produce less resonance than a more legato-friendly style of playing such as, say, that of Murray Perahia (whom I have chosen in place of, say, Mitsuko Uchida, because I know him as a Bachian, whereas I know Uchida only as a performer of such intrinsically relatively wet composers as ’Bert and ’Mann).  But all other things are not equal in the Gouldian discography: beginning with his recording of The Well-Tempered Clavier or perhaps The Two and Three Part Inventions, although Gould’s piano technique remains every bit as detaché as before, there is always a sense of the space within which the notes are being struck; there is always, as it were a faint miasmic halo of tonic saffron or pollen that ever-so-evanescently hovers above even the most rapid-fire, the most quickly sounded and succeeded, staccato.  Moreover, these recordings inaugurally witness the supervening of a sense of space, a sense best appreciated by playing them over a set of speakers (i.e., not over a pair of headphones) in a quiet room late at night (perhaps the time of day doesn’t really matter eo ipso, but in my dwelling-place even relative quiet can only ever be enjoyed between midnight and four a.m.), when one will be unable to help feeling that the piano is in the room with one, that indeed one is sharing a single space with the piano.  Such a sense of sonic cohabitation with the performance is never attainable vis-à-vis either any of Gould’s pre-ca. 1973 recordings or any of Rosen’s CC&EAC-included discs, the latest of which was recorded pre-ca. 1973.   And such being the case—why, then, scandalous to the point of blasphemy though it might seem, the adequacy of both Gould’s and Rosen’s early discographies as aural (or is sonic not the more appropriate word?) documents of the works (purportedly) documented by them is at the very least questionable.  But before I proceed to question (at the very least) that adequacy, I would like to mull over for a minute or ten the matter of the timing of this great leap forward into full aural (or sonic) presence.  Officially—i.e., essentially, as far as Gramophone and Penguin are concerned—there are only four great milestones in the history of the recording of music—the transitions from acoustic to electric recording in the early 1920s, from the 78 RPM shellac record to the 33 RPM vinyl record in the late 1940s (which corresponded with such tidy synchrony to the transition from shellac masters to magnetic tape masters that the two are regarded as a single milestone), from monophonic recording to stereophonic recording in the late 1950s, and from analogue recording to digital recording in the very late 1970s.  The irrigation-cum resonance-ification-cum-spatialization of Gould’s discography does not line up with any of these milestones.  His early stereo recordings are every bit as dry, matte, and spaceless as his late mono recordings, and his early digital recordings are no wetter, more resonant, or more spacious than his late analogue recordings.  Of course, if I were advancing a mere counter-Whiggish argument about Gould’s discography I could just as readily call on the official party line of the two big record guides, who to this day (or at least the last time I glanced at one of them, which admittedly may have been more than two years ago) are known to rate a 1960s stereophonic analogue recording of a given work, or even, occasionally, a 1950s monophonic recording thereof more highly than the leading digital-era competitor—this not merely on the grounds that the interpretation enshrined therein is superior but also on the grounds that in point of fidelity of sonic reproduction the earlier version more than holds its own against the later one.  According to this segment of the party line, the digital so-called revolution did not effect any intrinsic improvement in the fidelity of sound recording: to be sure, so this line-segment runs, digital remastering allowed the listener at home to hear certain beauties in the old recordings that he had previously been deaf to owing to certain limitations in the playback medium—notably surface noise, hiss and pop, and wow and flutter—but from a control-room engineer’s point of hearing digital did not add anything new or better to the mix (literally or quasi-literally, depending on whether mix in the audio technician’s sense is itself a metaphor), such that purely in high-fidelital terms a CD reissue of a Bernstein Mahler disc from his 60s analog cycle might very well trump or trounce its counterpart in Bernstein’s 80s digital Mahler cycle.  For my first 15 years or so as a purchaser of classical-music CDs—you see, before acquiring my first CD player in 1987 I never paid much mind to the analog/digital distinction—I swallowed this immediately above-delineated party-line segment not only line but also hook and sinker—a somewhat inapposite or even flagrantly inappropriate metaphor at least in the short run, as in a tidy if not quite overwhelming majority of cases during those 15 years I came off feeling more like a fisherman than a fish—feeling, in other words, that I’d chosen wisely in opting for the more highly ranked analog alternative; and even today I am fully satisfied with not only a tidy but a veritable overwhelming majority of those choices.  But for at least the past decade I have been cognizant of a certain longstanding fact or semblance of my recorded-music-listening preference-scape, namely that most (and indeed perhaps even the notorious [chez English usage mavens] overwhelming majority) of my favorite recordings originating in the analogue epoch seem to be recordings of orchestral or operatic repertoire, and that my favorite recordings of chamber music, solo piano music, and piano-accompanied songs and lieder seem largely (and perhaps even [and somehow less offensively to the nostrils of English usage mavens] overwhelmingly) to hail ultimately from the digital epoch.  So, whereas chez the core standard orchestral repertoire—the symphonies, concertos, and overtures of Beethoven, Schubert [yes: I know Schubert didn’t write any concertos, or at least not any that are in the CSOR], Mendelssohn, Schumann, Liszt, Brahms, and Tchaikovsky—there is scarcely a single work that I have not found adequately represented by the record of a pre-digital performance—and, indeed, if I were constrained to confine my auditions of this repertoire to a single conductor-and-orchestra combo, I would unhesitatingly choose George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra, a combo whose very last recording cannot date from any more recent year than 1970 (the year of Szell’s death), nearly a decade before the earliest digital releases; chez the chamber music, solo piano music, and lieder (and non-German-lyrick’d accompanied song) repertoire there is scarcely a single work of which I have not sought out a post-digital-advent version, however tenaciously attached I have been to a predigitally recorded performance qua performance.  And from this fact or semblance, I cannot forbear, in all mandatory mortifying and macerating flagellation of my own mite-sized and unquestionably non-authoritative listening subjectivity, from inferring that the piano, the chamber ensemble, and the piano-accompanied voice are a durn sight harder to record adequately than the symphony orchestra, and that in the past 35 or so years the electro-mechanical-cum-electronic enregistrement of the piano, the chamber ensemble, and the piano-accompanied voice has attained an adequacy that it lacked in the preceding twenty-five or thirty.  I cannot deny that this inference is more than a mite counterintuitive, given that a symphony orchestra is an atfirstblushially much more complicated audiophonic beastie than a string quartet or a piano, but what can I say?  To my ears, in purely high-fidelital terms, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony as played by Szell and his Cleveland band sounds sublime, whereas Beethoven’s First Piano Sonata in a Glenn Gould recording dating from within the same fashion season as Szell’s Ninth sounds serviceable at best, and there’s an end on’t.  And yet again, the improvement in the recording of these smaller instrumental forces cannot be ascribable to the transition from analog to digital, because Gould’s later analog recordings sound quite serviceable, and indeed his early (and late because only) digital recordings sound slightly inferior to their analog predecessors—a short-falling of which CBS’s engineers must have been aware even at the time and of which they apparently have become more sensible since, because at the sessions for Gould’s 1981 re-enregistrement of the Goldberg Variations they recorded analogue and digital masters simultaneously, and when, at some point in the late 1990s, the ’81 Goldbergs was (or were) reissued in that non-Gould-specific series of Masterworks CDs whose booklet covers reproduced the pre-Sony jacket, the master used was not the digital one that had served as the basis of the LPs of the original release, but its analog alternative.  I have not heard the digital version of the ’81 Goldbergs, but I have heard most and possibly even all of Gould’s other digital recordings, and have found the sound of them ever slightly too brittle.  My prevailingly suasive hunch, founded on little more than and perhaps even nothing but my very spotty experience as an attender of live concerts at a handful-and-a-half of venues, is that the seemingly unsurpassable brilliance of certain orchestral recordings from the analog era owed far less to the state of recording technology proper at the time of their making than to the state of acoustic architecture from the mid-nineteenth through the early twentieth century—i.e., the period of construction of the halls that served as the site of these recordings.  Carnegie Hall, the Vienna Musikverein, Severance Hall in Cleveland &c. were all designed preeminently as sites for performances by the big late-Romantic symphony orchestras in an epoch or mini-age when the audience for such orchestras was vast yet prevailingly neither  impoverished nor undiscriminating.  These halls were very large (at least compared with earlier orchestral halls if not with football stadia), but they could not get away with confining their delivery of adequate sound to the inner dress circle and the front rows of the stalls (known at least nowadays in the States as orchestra level); chez eux even the listener in the rightmost side of the backmost row of the stalls or the gallery could not be expected to sit out the pianissimo passages in virtual silence (barring the more than occasional cough, of course), or to be afforded only the vaguest sense of the melodic cursus of piccolo, glockenspiel, bassoon, or double-bass obbligatos.  Such that basically no matter where you sat you got a decent (if not always outstanding) audition of the performance.  And I am brazen enough to conjecture that this advantage was no less enjoyable by recording microphones than by living human ears, that even the most wayward and haphazard placement of microphones in these halls by a recording engineer was bound to yield at the other end a collection of decent, excellent, and superlative aural perspectives that would be automatically down-mixible to one automatically pretty-damned good aural overperspective.  To such an extent (so I conjecture) was the mid-to-early late twentieth century recorder of orchestral music abetted by the genius loci of the mid-nineteenth-to-early twentieth century concert hall.  When it came to committing to wax, vinyl, ferrous oxide, etc., the chamber, lieder, and solo piano repertoire, the recording engineer had no such helpmeets—at least, so I conjecture, having never heard of any listening facility constructed with performances of such repertoire solely or even preeminently in mind, and never having been fully satisfied with the sound of performances of such repertoire in virtually any other sort of facility.  Naturally, when one hears of women swooning in the hundreds at Liszt’s solo piano recitals, and of the saloons and billiard parlors of sizeable American cities being universally deserted on the day Jenny Lind was in town, one realizes that there was once a mass commercial market for live performances of sub-orchestrally scaled compositions, and is tempted to infer that the world has long been teeming with venues as accommodating to (or of) the fan of such compositions as Carnegie Hall et al. are to (or of) the fan of orchestral music.  But the sad yet empirically unfalsifiable fact would seem to be that the mass commercial market for sub-orchestrally scaled compositions died out or at least dwindled into commercially effective nullity before the generation of architects that would have been capable of accommodating it came to professional maturity (perhaps, indeed, before some of them even were born).  I write it would seem to be simply because although I have been electrified as they say (and for all the ineluctable cheesiness of the word electrified a more phenomenally exact describer of the experience has yet to be coined–at an outstanding performance of serious instrumental music one really does feel as though one’s frame is being racked by an electric current) by a fair number of orchestral performances in a fair number of halls, of the no less numerous and diversely sited performances of chamber music that I have attended, only one has been even satisfactory in acoustic terms.  To be sure, I have beheld plenty of chamber performances that gave the impression of being electrifying to their performers, that have caused me to yearn to be a human-eared fly on the first violinist’s lapel or the cellist’s bodice, but on none of these occasions, no matter how close I was to the stage (and I was generally in one of the first few rows) was the electricity conveyed directly to me as a listener; as a listener I was very much an aural analogue to someone watching a thunderstorm whose nearer periphery is many miles off and whose trajectory is parallel to rather than athwart the observer’s own location—one relishes the lightning flashes, but one never hears thunder and consequently is never awed; one never experiences the storm as a vehicle or manifestation of the sublime.  And when I consider that such acoustically unelectrifying environs (i.e., as I probably should have specified before, halls that were by and large roughly the same age as the orchestral auditoria mentioned above, but much smaller [although probably designed for performances principally of plays rather than of chamber music]) were what the sound engineers had to work with by default—why, then, it is no wonder (to me) that their recordings of sub-orchestrally scaled compositions generally sound so sub-par.  Not that I am imagining they actually recorded in these environs—no: presumably they discovered very early on that at least taken as they stood these venues would not have done, that they would have yielded an aural picture perhaps not much or indeed any better than one that I have already described in these pages (albeit not in this post)—viz. the sound-registering component of videotape-vectored cameras when used outdoors.  They presumably discovered that the sound of the instruments simply would have bled or wafted away up into the rafters, leaving behind a faint and tinny residue that could have been rendered intelligible as the trace of a musical performance only if the gain (i.e., input volume control) on the microphones were turned up so high that every adventitious background sound (e.g., the discreetest of throat-clearings or the buzzing of fluorescent lights or the humming of air conditioning vents) would end up vying for aural pride of place with the fruits of the performers’ efforts.  (A very few of Rosen’s CC&EAC recordings, for example, his Chopin Recital, really do sound tinny enough to have been recorded in such a setting—perhaps their masters were made in the defrocked Manhattan church whose acoustic properties he so highly prized [and probably rightly so qua performer at the moment of performance but undoubtedly wrongly so qua prospective listener to the resulting LP].) And so they set about custom-building sites, i.e., studios, for the recording of sub-orchestral forces, sites in which divers sorts of acoustic buffering (all already mentioned in the present essay) were employed successfully to keep the sound from escaping—but at the cost of obliterating all sense of spatial ambience, and of producing, inter alia, the acoustically doornail-dead and bone-dry recordings of Gould’s and Rosen’s most glorious years as interpreters of the solo keyboard repertoire.  But meanwhile, one supposes, they, the sound engineers, were working on microphones that would compensate for the acoustic deficiencies of the smaller halls by applying far greater sensitivity of pickup–microphones that really could give the at-home listener a fly on the lapel or bodice’s aural perspective while at the same time capturing the reverberation of the instrumental sound from surfaces as far as dozens of feet away.  And when (if only when) such microphones had been semi-perfected, such record label executive-flouting gambits as Gould’s electing to record at the auditorium of Eaton’s department store in downtown Toronto rather than at one of CBS’s New York studios finally yielded high-fiduciary dividends.  To be sure, even then there was still plenty of room for improvement, and it was not really until the very early 1990s—more than a decade after the advent of digital recording, incidentally—that first-rate, three-dimensional, feeling of you are there-inducing recordings of string quartets and other small string-including chamber ensembles were both reliably attainable by engineers and readily obtainable by the purchasers (or thieves) of commercial recordings.  One has only to compare a top-flight chamber ensemble’s pre- and post-1990 recordings to realize this.  The Alban Berg Quartet’s late-1970s cycle of late Mozart quartets sounds as though it has been taken from the audio strip of a ninth-generation print of a 16mm mono television film when one listens to it alongside their not only interpretatively but sonically luminous early-to-mid-90s versions of their eponym’s Lyric Suite and sole quartet, and of Beethoven’s op. 130 quartet.  Naturally, as the present writer has no experience whatsoever as a recorder of classical music on any scale, his ascription of this only fairly recent perfection of the recording of small-sale classical music is purely speculative, or rather, to be more specific, it is grounded solely in the law of parsimony, otherwise known as Occam’s razor; to be sure, considered on its own, the initial improvement, the great leap forward in the quality of recordings of small-scale repertoire in the mid-1970s, is no less plausibly ascribable to some improvement in the quality of analogue tape recording machines or magnetic analogue tape stock, but this does not account for the continuity of the improvement into the digital epoch, and although one can without too much effort concoct some two-stranded genealogy according to which the rising digital sampling technology overtook the declining analogue one by mere coincident synchrony, one finds it more satisfying to suppose that this glacially slow change for the better was effected by the development of a single implement in continuous use across both epochs, namely, the microphone.  (To give these alternative genealogies a pair of mutually pinpointable family tree members: one might consider Sony’s decision to base their early oughties reissue of Gould’s 1981 version of the Goldberg Variations on the analog rather than the digital masters as arising from the intrinsic inferiority of state-of-the-early-’80’s- art digital to state-of-the-early-’80s art analog recording; alternatively, one could view the decision as arising from the lesser ability of state-of-the-early-’80s-art  digital recording to capture all the sonic nuances made newly available by state-of-the early-’80s art microphones, such that if the ’81 engineers had been confined to using state-of-the-late-’60s-art microphones they would have seen no reason to record a parallel analog master, and have been content to immortalize the sessions in a single digital master.)  But whatever the cause of the change, my ears attest to me that it happened, and the mere fact of its having happened happens rather to vitiate both Gould’s and Rosen’s ethoses as recording artists to a rather embarrassingly serious degree.  “That is certainly rather surprising in the light of the stridently mutually divergent character of those two ethoses.  I feel now rather as I would upon reading a local newspaper item asserting that ‘the recent spell of cloudy weather has harshed the mellows of sun worshipers and scotophiles alike.’”  You mean, I take it, because Gould took such a hyperpunctilious, hyperfastidious approach to recording, with his intricately heterogeneous tape-masters composed of ‘eight takes or ten takes or how ever many takes it takes’ (so Margaret Pacsu during her appearance on Gould’s Silver Jubilee mock interview); whereas Rosen was downright insouciant, devil-may-care, and caution-to-the-wind-throwing in the studio (or defrocked church), with his two run-throughs-and-there’s–an-end-on-it attitude, his slam, bam, and thank-you-ma’am approach, therein.  “Exactly.”  Well, I admit that at first blush it might seem paradoxical, but on further (say five additional minutes’) reflection upon these two ethoses you must admit that while Gould and Rosen had radically different attitudes to the editing of recordings, they were essentially of one mind in their indifference to the back end, the so-called nuts and bolts, and more aptly called magnet-and-wire, side, of recording, and the design and engineering of microphones is about as magnet-and-wire-saturated as one can get.  “Of course it might very well be the case that the sound engineers themselves were indifferent to the actual construction of microphones (as against their selection and placement).”  Of course that might have been and probably was very likely the case, although it is not likely that the sound engineers had a merely nonexistent or even merely negligible influence on that construction, as they were probably constantly testing the microphones and were presumably not shy about apprising the constructors of their excellences and deficiencies.  In any event, or at all events, the upshot of all this is that neither Gould nor Rosen had the slightest thing to do with, had the merest scintilla of influence on, the single greatest transformation in the recording of their instrument that took place in the courses of their recording careers, and that consequently to the present-day listener a late-’60s Gould track sounds more like a late-’60s Rosen track than a like a late-’70s Gould track, and that a late-’60s Gould track and a late-’60s Rosen track fall equally abysmally short of a present-day listener’s minimum standards of high-fiduciary quality.  To be sure, not all sectors of the repertoire are vitiated as heavily as others by the crummy sound reproduction, and in some sectors the damage is negligible enough not to knock specific recordings thereof out of contention for first (or near-first) place standing.  I am thinking here mainly and quasi-exclusively about Gould’s and Rosen’s 60s (J.S.) Bach tracks—e.g., the partitas in Gould’s case and the Goldbergs in Rosen’s.  To be sure, I heartily dig both Christophe Rousset’s 90s version of the partitas on the harpsichord and Murray Pariah’s oughties piano version thereof, but both these versions seem to be rather wide of the mark of the mean for these works, which I find instantiated in Gould’s piano version, in which Gould’s crisply detaché articulation is abetted rather than undermined by the master-tape’s secchissimo acoustics.  Complementarily—albeit prima vista paradoxically—much as I admire Gould’s 1981 version of the Goldbergs, I have come to prefer Rosen’s 1967 version thereto despite its undoubted sonic inferiority to the later (and Gouldian) recording; this because Rosen’s version imparts a certain salutary sense of diurnality to the collection that is lacking in all other versions of which I am aware.  “What?-- including the 1981 Gould version, with its almost uniformly slow tempi and  numerous repeat-takings?”  Yes, indeed, including that version; for Rosen observes all the repeats and is wholly uniformly slow—at least by comparison with Gould at his fastest.  In both of Gould’s versions, one has the sense that one is listening to music that is meant to be listened to as legend has it this music was meant to be listened to—viz. in the weest, small hours of the night, and as a soporific.  Rosen’s version, in contrast, is indisputably a daytime Goldbergs, specifically a Goldbergs that evokes a lazy, seemingly endless sunny summer day of the sort one proverbially ceases to experience at around the beginning of adolescence.  Admittedly there is no specific technical feature of his performance that necessarily signifies sunniness or estivality; admittedly a slow-tempo’d repeat-rich piano Goldbergs could in principle be no less eloquently evocative of the indolence of a late-night lounger, but somehow when listening to Rosen’s version one feels as though each variation is a kind of “high-builded” cumulus cloud, and each time one passes from the end of one of his variations to the beginning of its successor one somehow feels that one is trampolining effortlessly from one cloud-top to another like some kind of sublunar astronaut.  The cumulative effect, and indeed the cumulo-cumulative effect, over the course of some eighty glorious minutes, is simply unparalleled not only in any other version of the Goldbergs with which I am familiar, but also in any recorded version of any other piece of serious music with which I am familiar—or at any rate, with which I can at the moment recall being familiar.  (The distinction is worth making, because while I can fairly readily call to mind the Plattesgeist of every version of the Goldbergs I have heard, I cannot readily call to mind the Plattesgeister of all the serious-music recordings I have ever heard; such that while I can say in good faith that Rosen’s version of the Goldbergs is unparalleled in my gesamtgoldbergersplattische experience, I cannot say that it is unparalleled in my plattische experience tout court [a.k.a. my Gesamtplattischerfahrung].)  Such being the case, I am more than willing and able to overlook the fairly tatty late-’60s sound and to set Rosen’s Goldbergs at the very top of my list of recorded Goldbergs.  To be sure, Gould’s ’81 version remains my favorite nocturnal version of the Goldbergs, but for now at least it must content itself with being stationed at second place in my list of recorded Goldbergs across the Plattesgeister, inasmuch as all versions of the Goldbergs with which I am now acquainted besides Rosen’s are nocturnal versions.  Now, should I ever make the acquaintance of a recording of the Goldbergs that reproduces or enhances the sunny cloud-trampolining effect of Rosen’s version and is enregistered in the amply moist and resonant piano sound established by the late 1970s, why, then, Rosen’s version will have to suffer a demotion—very probably to ninth or tenth place, just above Gould’s 1955 version.  “And must Gould’s 1955 version—that version instinct with ‘imagination, intelligence, and fire’ (so Tim Page) be relegated to a spot so far beneath his 1981 version?”  I’m afraid it must, and not merely or even because it is “too fast for comfort” (so Gould himself).  For the sad but inescapable truth is that when one goes that far back, back into the single-digit nonage of so-called high fidelity recording, one invariably finds that the dryness that can be an asset to the rendition of Bach is accompanied by a mushiness that is positively anathema to the x ray-like presentation that Gould strove for in his recordings of the Boss’s keyboard oeuvre.  “And I take it you believe that even the dryness on its own is a liability for composers other than Bach?”  Not for all composers other than Bach, but certainly for all the big-name composers after Bach, beginning with Haydn.  “Why beginning with FJH in particular?”  Because it seems to me that in Haydn silence for the first time becomes an important element in the temporal unfolding (or, perhaps more precisely [though with Jacques Barzun I blanch at the notion of ‘music as melted architecture’] self-building) of a composition.  I realize that this is bound to seem a rather contentious if not immediately falsifiable quasi-assertion, inasmuch as the only way to indicate silence in conventional musical notation is by means of that perhaps exact handful of symbols known as rests, and the works of Bach probably abound in rests as richly as the works of Haydn do; such that in purely empirical terms it is probably impossible (not an oxymoron inasmuch as I am not certain that it is impossible) to put forward a rational case that silence is less important in Bach than in Haydn.  Still, I believe that every listener, and for that matter, every performer, will concede that phenomenally speaking, the experience of silence in Haydn is quite different from that of silence in Bach.  In Bach, one never experiences the silence as a full(y)-fledged interruption; one finds oneself continuing to hear the pulse inside one’s head, as it were,  even though no notes are being sounded.  In Haydn and his successors, the rest seems to signal that the music has actually stopped and that it will not commence again until it deserves to continue; in Haydn et post al., silence seems to be repeatedly tried out as a full(ly) fledged and fully entertainable alternative to music—or rather, perhaps (for the equation of music with sound is perhaps too philistine), musical silence always seems to be being tried out as an alternative to musical noise.  At such rest-ful moments, it is essential, at least to present-day ears, for the silence not to be mere so (and rightly)-called dead air or the absence of noise; essential for it to be palpable, and hence to seem to be filling a determinate space and place.  And it is precisely such a sense of space and place that pre-mid 1970s recordings of keyboard works invariably fail to provide.  And such being the case, for recorded versions of the Haydnian and post-Haydnian keyboard repertoire that do even minimum justice to these works, one must almost invariably turn to pianists other than Rosen and Gould, inasmuch as with the exception of Gould’s 1981 versions of the last five Haydn sonatas, Rosen’s Elektra-released versions of certain middle-period Beethoven piano sonatas (which, as they have not been reissued on CD, I have not heard, except via the egregiously unfaithful medium of Y**-T**e), and Rosen’s Bridge CD of the complete Carter piano oeuvre, the entire Rosenian-cum-Gouldian Haydnian-cum-post-Haydnian discography was committed to tape well before the mid-1970s high-fiduciary watershed.   And so while Rosen  and Gould are my favorite interpreters of Bach, my favorite Haydnian is Ax, my favorite Schubertian and Schumannian is Uchida, and my favorite Chopinian is Pollini (inasmuch as I have been spared all his early Chopin recordings and am able to judge him solely on the evidence of his post-1975 ones).  I am aware that this total aesthetic nullification of performer and performance by recording is bound to seem rather philistine if not downright barbaric and loutish, to seem a crass abdication of due obeisance to an interpretative artist’s unique sensitivity to the nuances of a score in favor of a wanton wallowing in mere infinitely fungible atmosphere, and to the demurrer I concede that if one makes a requirement for adequately resonant silence paramount, one will end up making some bad choices—for instance, in coming to prefer Perahia’s Debussyized recording of Bach’s partitas to Gould’s version of those works.  But for the biggest part of the keyboard repertoire (along with, let us not forget, the virtual entirety of the ensemble chamber repertoire [i.e., insofar as this repertoire may legitimately be said to begin with Haydn’s string quartets]), adequately resonant silence is part and parcel of an adequate realization of the work, and those who pretend to be able to turn a deaf ear to this silence’s absence in a recording, or even more preposterously, to be able to “hear through” the absence to the performance as a Ding an sich as though they had been sitting at the pianist’s elbow back in 1955 or 1935  or  1915, are as deluded as those first-generation enthusiasts of so-called historically informed performance (HIP), whom Rosen rightly ridiculed for preferring horrifyingly out-of-tune versions of Bach concerti on authentic 18th-century instruments to well-intoned versions on their 20th-century successors.  I am also aware that—or at any rate, I further suspect that—my near-blanket dissatisfaction with the pre-late 1970s non-symphonic discography and general satisfaction with the post-late 1970s non-symphonic discography on this point may be both macro- and micro-historically conditioned, inasmuch as, however ill-considered their indifference to microphone design may have been, both Gould and Rosen presumably had a sufficiently keen appreciation of the structural significance of adequately resonant silence in the post-Bachian keyboard repertoire to be pained by its absence, and yet neither of them ever complained about this absence in any of their own recordings, or indeed in any recordings made by their contemporaries or predecessors.  Perhaps having acquired the better part of their listening experience from live in-person performances, they really were able to “hear through” the dull, sepulchrally resonanceless silences in the piano recordings of their own and earlier days and were consequently untroubled by them.  “And presumably somewhere in the world some reader-cum-listener ten or twenty years your junior who has never heard a live in-person piano performance and who regards Ax’s 1980s  and ’90s Haydn discs as vintage recordings is wondering how you can manage to ‘hear through’ those recordings’ to-him-or-her manifest shortcomings in resonant sound registration.”  Ah, how tempting it is to succumb to such reflexive whiggish extrapolations!  But before succumbing to that temptation to succumb to those extrapolations, one would do well to recall that one’s (i.e., mine or my sympathetic exact contemporary’s) personal aural history is ultimately superstructed on a so (and probably rightly)-called black box whose operations are by no means axiomatically vectored towards ever-superior sound quality.  One deduces that solo pianos, string quartets, etc. sounded better in the late 1970s than in the early 1970s because microphones were better at recording solo pianos, string quartets, etc. in the late 1970s than in the early 1970s, but one’s deductions may be founded on insufficient premis(s)es; and even if they are not, one has no rational grounds for assuming that microphones’ capacity for recording sound can be improved ad infinitum, or even for assuming that engineers have all along been doing Fanny Adams (let alone their utmost) towards the improvement of that capacity.  Indeed, there are signs that whatever the precise nature of the insights into the technique of recording pianos, string quartets, etc. that were acquired in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s, they have been at least partially forgotten since.  For instance, on hearing Simone Dinnerstein’s late-oughties debut disc, A Strange Beauty, for the first time, my delight in the masterliness of her performances was almost completely negated by my appallment at the appalling drabness of the recording ambience.  The whole thing had a miserably anti-resonant waterlogged sound vividly redolent of (in the approximate words of a reviewer of Rozhdestvensky’s version of Shostakovich’s Fifteenth Symphony in the first dedicated guide to CD recordings I ever saw) ‘the bad old days of the Soviet recording industry.’  If this disc had borne the imprint of a certain budget label—OK, there’s no point in being cagey: I mean Naxos—I would have been, if not exactly unsurprised by such antediluvianly poor sound, at least not thrown for a very sizeable loop by it.  But A Strange Beauty had been issued by Sony Classics, the label CBS Masterworks turned into, the label that Glenn Gould would have recorded for by default had he lived another year or so, the label that had issued (or would soon issue) the CC&EAC.  Surely they could have done better—or so I thought back whenever I first heard ASB.  But now I wonder if they could have done better after all, or can do better now, or indeed ever will be able to do better.  After all, by now the great recording engineers of CBS Masterworks’ mid-’60s-through-early-’80s glory days—Kevin Doyle, Lauren Whatshisnüsse, et al.—are presumably all dead or heavily retired, and they very well may have taken their list of infungibly ace microphone manufacturers with them to the grave or the Bumf**k, Saskatchewan old people’s home.  It may very well be that the art of resonantly recording pianos, string quartets, etc. is one of those vital late-twentieth century technes, like the maintenance of a nuclear arsenal, that out of mere wanton for-granted-taking we have allowed to pass into oblivion and that we can but hope against hope to relearn from scratch at the end of many years if not decades of trial and (shed loads of) error.  Sehr ironisch, n’est-ce pas?—that at a moment in history (or at least pseudo-history) when both the technical virtuosity and interpretative understanding of performers of serious music are very probably at an unprecedented peak—for it really does seem to me that Lewis, Dinnerstein, Hahn, Weilerstein et (multissima) alia, have absorbed and in many cases surpassed everything that was to be learned from Gould, Rosen, Perelman, du Pré, et (paucissima) alia—the technical fidelity of these performers’ recordings should seem to be plunging toward a nadir of abysmality not heard since the days of Schnabel, Haskil, Kreisler, Casals, et (paucissima) alia?  “Indeed, and if such a lamentable, bunker-dweller-worthy audiophilic SOA is the actual one, it would seem to be worthwhile to hold on to even the dustiest and muddiest items in Gould’s CBS discography and the CC&EAC.”  You mean, I suppose that one should do this in case one’s copy of what may turn out to be the sole first-rate recording of a certain work—Pollini’s of the Chopin nocturnes, say, or Lewis’s of Beethoven’s first piano sonata—goes tetons up, and the only in-print competition turns out to be some 2018 version that sounds as though it was recorded acoustically on an Edison wax cylinder, and beside which even the dustiest or muddiest Gould or Rosen version will sound ideal?  “Exactly.”  Why, then, I am all for turning your would seem into a resounding is—as a prospective pragmatic pis aller.  But insofar as we are judging the Gouldian and Rosenian discographies against what we know by precedent to be achievable in the way of recorded piano sound—“—We must commit the best (meaning also the worst) part of each of these two discographies to the flames, or to whatever form of energy consumes CDs most expeditiously and nearly utterly.”  Well, that might be a bit harsh.  Using the CDs comprising the best-cum-worst parts as coasters, with the non-music bearing sides of the discs face-up, might evince sufficiently condign disregard of (or for) them.  But essentially you are right: at least those of us who are too young ever to have seen Gould and Rosen live in their overlapping heydays as concertizing pianists must get used to judging Gould and Rosen principally on the evidence of the non-pianistic sides, zones, segments, spheres, or what have you, of their ethoses, habituses, and outputs.  In Rosen’s case these sides, etc. are pretty much all to be found in his scholarly-critical writings, and in Gould’s they are to be pretty much all to be found in his scholarly-critical writings, his televisual expositions of great works and forms of music, his slender corpus of composed music, his interviews of significant figures in the arts for both radio and television, his comedic radio sketches, and his radio documentaries.  In brute catalog(u)ic terms, Gould would immediately seem to win hands-down, as they say, at least in further terms of breadth of achievement.  If we are refined or at least unbrutish enough to boil the extra items in Gould’s catalogue down to one essential distinct quality—to a quality that trumps such very probably bullshittic distinctions as the one between work for television and work for radio [yes, they are very different media; but any disinterested student of both of them must admit that anybody with anything truly worthwhile to say would excel in either of them (cf. certain actors and directors, e.g. W.C. Fields and Alfred Hitchcock, who effortlessly finessed the transition from silent to sound film)], it would have to be artistry or perhaps more precisely artist-hood, in the narrowest and most pedantic, pretentious, and up-to-date sense.  Unlike Gould, Rosen never tried to get his point across by apportioning his Weltansicht among a half-dozen colorful personas with distinctive costumes, accents, and idiolects; or by interviewing himself; or by interviewing other people and then afterwards wryly commenting on the circumstances of the interview, or by making multilayered oral audiographs centered on a common topic of discourse–in short by any of the oblique and intricate sorts of procedures that are tightly associated with the calling and practice of an artist of the sort about whom self-styled ordinary people tend however fatuously to say “They’re different from us,” an artist of a sort as which a mere pianist or essay writer qua pianist or essay writer eo ipso is never going to be described.  And yet we should not allow this strongly artistic side of Gould to void the field out of hand in the contest with Rosen–not even if caeteris paribus we happen to regard art in the strong sense as a superior sort of activity or entity-class to criticism and pianism.  For it is not mere competence at a given activity or entity that ultimately determines the worthwhileness of the oeuvre, but rather, but whether or not it possesses a quality that I have already more than once touched on in connection with Gould’s op. 1 string quartet, namely, infungibility, the quality of being both essential and irreplaceable.  We have already (at least so one hopes) seen that Gould’s sole string quartet lacks this quality qua would-be (willy-nilly) state-of-the-art chamber composition, and I see no reason for not appraising Gould’s other achievements in other modes and media as exactingly in the setting of the contemporaneous state of the art in those respective modes and media.  I enjoy the lumpen-proletarian bohemianism of Theodore Slutz, the pedantic snootiness of Nigel Twit-Thornwaite, the lazily brazen incompetence of Duncan Haig-Guinness, the Teutonic hyper-earnestness of Karlheinz Klopweisser, much more heartily than the next man can probably even imagine, but I would be hesitant to assert that any one of these personages was more seminal in the history of comedy even than such one-or-two-off sketch show characters as the show-crashing British army officer in Monty Python’s Flying Circus, or the chicken lady in The Kids in the Hall, let alone such titanically exemplary figures from the twentieth-century coemediae personae as Basil Fawlty and George Costanza.  And concurrently, my conscience will scarcely allow me to sell short a certain intermittent but pronounced comic strain in Rosen’s writings, a strain whose salience I have come appreciably to appreciate only since the penning of Gould vs. Rosen, wherein I consigned Rosen’s hair- down-letting side to a certain facet of his otherwise almost completely unknown private life—namely, his fandom of a certain notoriously schlocky movie director (Ken Russell) and certain famously popular sitcoms (Taxi and Absolutely Fabulous).  This strain is not a million miles away, as they say, from the foppish strain that some journalist of the 1950s or ’60s (according, I believe, to Bazzana’s biography) perceptively observed in Gould’s magazine articles, although, to be sure, it is not itself a manifestation of foppishness, for foppishness in a writer preeminently evinces a sense that one’s reader(ship) is already physically attracted to one or would be physically attracted to one if he (or she or it) ever met one; evinces, in three other words [for, in staunch adherence to my policy of eschewing the N- Word (i.e., n********m), I cannot boil my sense down to one word] a cocksure vanity, and Rosen is never vain, let alone cocksurely so, and indeed seems perpetually indifferent to the reader’s aesthetic appraisal of his person.  But especially in his later years, Rosen either was prone to or deliberately cultivated a kind of catty [which is somehow not quite the same attributive as the B-word-derivative--i.e., b****y] cantankerousness that produced or emitted an epiphenomenon that was consubstantial in many registers (principally the epistemological one) with Gould’s foppishness, namely a certain recklessness or cavalierness in giving verbal vent to his faculty of judgment.  This quality is signally in evidence in, for example, the conclusion of his 2002 essay on Theodor W. Adorno, wherein, after engaging in an almost stroboscopic tour de force of alternate (and straightforward) damnations and praise-singings of Adorno’s Minima Moralia (which I do think he is right in calling TWA’s “best-written work”), he goes on to aver that there is a moment in MM when Adorno’s prose “rises to a truly poetic evocation of the Golden Age, a world whose disappearance is a cause of poignant regret,” then to query “What was this world whose disappearance could inspire in Adorno such profound and ironic nostalgia?”, and finally to answer this question and round out the essay by quoting a fairly lengthy passage in MM in which Adorno unfavorably compares the phenomenology of late-1940s travel by train with the experience of the “the faded splendor of the train bleu,” a formula which, in the light of the history of Adorno’s whereabouts, I take to be a synecdoche for pre-World War II first-class European rail travel tout court; the gist of the polemic is that in the old days of train travel things were slower and less efficient but more comfortable and civilized.  Rosen evidently regards this passage as a veritably thigh slap-inducing deflator of Adorno’s pretensions to the title of most highly accredited champion of European high culture: “Get a load of this,” he seems to exclaim through paroxysms of laughter, “this po-faced continental toff execrates us Yanks for preferring Guy Lombardo to Arnold Schoenberg, and yet his idea of civilization—‘elegant people promenading along the platforms,’ ‘the solicitude of amiable accepters of tips’—is unworthy of the most loutish Guy Lombardo fan, say, some small-town Midwestern accountant reveling in his once-a-year opportunity to be king for a day.  And check out this whinge-fest about retracting steps on railroad cars, which, he would have us believe, make him feel ‘like a prisoner.’  What a prima donna!  I swear, I’m simultaneously throwing up and reaching for my clone of the world’s smallest violin.”  And yet in truth there is not all that much to laugh at in Adorno’s comparative phenomenology.  Yes, in TWA’s fault-finding with latter-day rail travel there is more than a hearty dash of the spoiled little rich kid, and perhaps even more blameworthily a dash of a kind of historical parochialism that admittedly is all too easy for us to detect more than sixty years later—surely the 20th Century Limited of 1948 could not have been dramatically less civilized than it or any other rail service in Europe or North America had been in 1928.  But even these bêtises can be redeemed as instances of Adorno’s indicated heuristic practice of “using blinders as spectacles,” (or, as rephrased declaratively in MM itself, “The beam in your own eye is the best telescope”), which is to say using one’s own pet peeves and prejudices as a means of apprehending some actuality that impinges on the larger human world.  In Adorno’s gripe about the trains of his middle years one has in nuce an illustration of the famous Hungarian-American historian John Lukacs’s aperçue that culture (meaning the Mona Lisa, the late Beethoven quartets, Hamlet, the Iliad, etc.) is worthless in the absence of civilization (meaning the aggregate of embodied means by which human beings address themselves to one another in a more or less humane manner).  Yes, Adorno acknowledges, train travel is ultimately just a means of getting from the proverbial Point A to the equally proverbial Point B, but the more ruthlessly all its incidental appurtenances are subordinated to that ultimate aim, the more dispiriting and degrading the experience of traveling by train becomes—for the overnight train trip, for all its comparative brevity, is still long enough to exact a considerable amount of mutual civility from everybody involved.  If (Adorno implies), people uncomplainingly acquiesce in being unceremoniously hauled along like inanimate luggage for fifteen hours at a stretch for mere naked expedition’s sake, then there is something inherently mendacious in their fandom of the great works of Western art, all of which, however obliquely (e.g., through the depiction of a good person’s defeat), champion a non-instrumental view of human life.  Even Adorno’s likening of the rail traveler’s experience to that of a prisoner has proved far from an hysterical exaggeration, albeit perhaps only in the fairly long run.  A case in point: during my most recent return Amtrak trip from my annual Christmas visit to Florida, the train collided with a car, and was subsequently (albeit perhaps not necessarily entirely consequently) detained at the site of the collision, detained for seven obviously subjectively very long hours.  Round about Hour Number Three, a few of my fellow passengers were bold enough to ask if it might not be possible to detrain for some fresh air, exercise, and perhaps even a quick dash to the Mexican restaurant at the strip shopping center tantalizingly separated from us by four puny non-interstate highway lanes—but in vain, for the conductors would not allow it.  And none of us (save the perhaps two or three gun-toters on board [for, when last I heard, it was legal for passengers to carry firearms aboard Amtrak trains]) was in any material position to oppose them, for they alone held the key or lever activating the train’s retracting and retracted steps, in the absence of whose protraction one could alight only by tearing open one of the emergency windows and jumping on to the steep and pebble-strewn embankment 15 feet below, and thereafter counting oneself lucky if one had broken only one leg.  In short, throughout this seven-hour interval we passengers were the conductors’ prisoners in a literal and material, and not merely figurative and fanciful, sense, and they effectively were our wardens.  So smoke on your pipe and put that in, Mr.—excuse me, Dr.—Charles Rosen of 2002!  Or consider the conclusion of a slightly later (2004) Rosen essay/article/chapter, “Felix Mendelssohn, at 200: Prodigy without Peer,” the umpteenth-to-the-umpteenth power classic Rosen pat-down of a well-known cultural-cum-historical figure masquerading as a review of some very recently published monograph on that figure.  The monograph, and specifically, biography, in question, is by R. Larry Todd, about whom Rosen has his penultimate material word in his second paragraph when he perhaps fulsomely describes him as “our most distinguished authority on Mendelssohn” (the “perhaps” is pure hedging occasioned by my total ignorance of the dedicated literature on Mendelssohn, apart from the fictional frozen-in-progress study by the narrator of Thomas Bernhard’s Concrete).   The virtual remainder of the essay consists of five pages of ever-polite and often-qualified but nevertheless quite decisively brutal dedicated Mendelssohn-bashing, which perforce also amounts to a perhaps no less brutal five pages of dedicated Todd-snubbing.  Only in the essay’s final paragraph, its last eighty words or so, does Rosen find occasion to mention Todd again, and although the last sentence of all, “Mendelssohn is a splendid and deeply satisfactory achievement,” cannot but be read as a so-called ringing endorsement, it is preceded by seventy or so words of unalloyed fault-finding, beginning as follows: “There is the occasional awkward heaviness in Larry Todd’s biography.  He uses the word ‘eschews’…”.  There is certainly a worse than awkward high-handedness in placing an author’s use of eschew (presumably Rosen objects to all forms of this verb and not merely its third-person singular present-tense inflection) at the top of his list of faults; for after all, eschew is well established in the dictionaries as a legitimate, respectable English word—it is certainly no plebian interloper à la center (a)round, sat for sitting, alright, different to, etc.; and from my flagrant multiple non-eschewal of it in this essay the reader will have correctly gathered by now that I have no beef (let alone a bone to pick) with it, that indeed I am indeed quite partial to it.  Nevertheless, I acknowledge that there is a case to be made against the use of eschew, a case historically founded on the semi-eminently reasonable assertion that it is just a so-called inkhorn or fifty-cent word for avoid.  I call the case merely semi-eminently reasonable because while it is true that everybody will no less readily grasp your meaning if you say, “I avoid cigarettes/alcohol/caffeine/steroids autc.” , it is certainly not true that avoid can be used in every place in which one might otherwise use eschew.  Eschewal is a specific kind of avoidance: it is not the same as shunning, which is the avoidance of even the mere presence of a person or object on account of one’s attitude or intentions towards it, or evasion which is the avoidance of even the mere presence of a person or object on account of its attitude or potential effect on one.  And then of course one must remember that one can avoid something without one’s will entering into the avoidance at all; one can say, for example, I avoided getting laid off when the cause of one’s avoidance was simply one’s employer’s impersonal decision not to lay anybody off in one’s division, pay grade, etc.  To eschew is specifically to avoid consuming something, i.e., ingesting it or otherwise taking it into one’s body; or using that something as a means or instrument (to be sure, there are cases in which the two senses overlap: one may, for example eschew the ingestion of a pill that would have served one as a means of getting to sleep).  If at a party one declines the offer of a glass of wine, or a hit of marijuana, one may be said in the fullest sense to evince an eschewal of alcohol or cannabis, but such a refusal may only metaphorically be said to manifest one’s shunning of the drug, and to term the refusal an evasion would be tantamount to melodramatically breast-beating or bragging about the shakiness of one’s willpower.  In short, eschew and its oblique forms are damn(ed) useful words whose eschewal is certainly nothing to crow about and whose non-eschewal is equally certainly nothing to pour scorn on.  In all candor, frankness, and fairness, though, I should point out (or remind or concede) that eschew is not the sole alternative to avoid that both denotes voluntary non-utilization or consumption and forestalls confusion with shun, evade and the like; to point out, namely, that abstain from no less tidily performs both functions.  But abstain from contains three syllables as against eschew’s two, and it is composed of two lexical units as against eschew’s one.  To my mind, these two attributes suffice to make eschew preferable to abstain from in most settings (straight-away a line of rhymed or metrical verse obtrudes as a plausible, most-exacting counter-example, and I presume there are at least several others).  In (not “to”) my mind, comparative brute prosodic brevity will always tip the scales in favor of any exact synonym, as will non-phrasality—though not necessarily in that order of diminishing heft.  “Such that either a non-phrasal verb of more syllables, or a phrasal verb of fewer syllables, might just win out?”  Exactly, although both in and to my mind, phrasality is a greater or worse liability than prosodic longueur.  Not that I have any objection to phrasal verbs qua ostensible meaning-bearers—to and in my mind put up with gets the so-called point across as pithily as tolerate, endure, or (for we must include a token Saxon example by way of humoring the Orwell-worshipers) weather.  But from the point of view of the lover of tidy English syntax (e.g., perhaps signally so, the present writer), they are a real eyesore in not being immediately recognizable as verbs, in being partly composed of such non-verbal, and hence potentially confusing ingredients, as prepositions and adverbs.  Particularly vexatious to the tidy-syntax-lover are separable phrasal verbs, ones vis-à-vis which the prepositional or adverbial part of the verb can be separated from its more transparently verbal mate by a potentially infinitely long string of grammatical object-hood, as in, for example, the following construction: I picked the pomegranates, which had been bequeathed to me by the sultan of Brunei, who had discovered them during his peregrination of the duchy of Luxembourg, which borders on Switzerland, up at the airport.  This is exactly the sort of linguistic enforced sneeze-holding for which Mark Twain quite justly rebuked the German language, but we Anglo-Saxons are in no position to look down our noses at the Austro-Bavaro-Franconio-Baden-Wüttembergian-Saxons if we cannot manage to corral our phrasal verbs into behaving at least half as tamely as their non-phrasal brethren.  But even non-separable phrasal verbs tend to be unsightly and cacophonous, especially at the ends of clauses, as in the not-so-remotely above sentence reading “In short…crow about…pour scorn on.”  To and in my mind’s eye and ear, that sentence would be much improved if crow about and pour scorn on were replaced by celebrate and execrate.  But I understand that “there is much to be said on both sides,” as Sir Roger de Coverley would say or would have said.  And I cannot but assume that as punctilious a prose stylist as Rosen would have understood the same, which is why his spotlighted tsk-tsking of Mr. Todd’s use of eschews is so cavalierly catty: one really shouldn’t chastise someone without qualification for doing something unless there is nothing, or at any rate almost next to nothing, to be said on its side.  But of course Rosen very probably didn’t really find eschew & co. all that objectionable; very probably an eschew non-eschewal by a music-scholar whom he respected (e.g., Donald Francis Tovey) never would have provoked any fiercer or more lasting sign of his disapproval than a five-second arch of a single eyebrow.  Of course, Rosen’s upbraiding of Todd for his non-eschewal of eschews is very probably merely a kind of rhetorical shorthand for “Todd is a dull fellow.”  By means of this upbraiding, Rosen seems to want to say that merely in devoting a vocational lifetime to a composer as intrinsically superfluous as Mendelssohn, a kind of musical-compositional analogue of (or to) a trained chimp that in virtue of its precocious mastery of human sign language at the age of three is suffered to go on a twenty year-long poo-flinging spree (so implicitly Rosen, during the main body of the nominal review now nominally in point), one has shown oneself to be “at best a second-rate mind” (K. Amis’s words on the unabashed Shakespeare-basher).  And Rosen may in fact have been completely right about this, completely justified in his contempt for Mr. (excuse me: presumably Dr.) Todd.  But even supposing that he was, he could have kept his contempt to himself; he could have simply confined his appraisal of Todd’s biography to the above-quoted single sentence: “Mendelssohn is a splendid and deeply satisfactory achievement.”  After all, could his native-Manhattanean nose, a veritable Washington-schnozz in the Mount Rushmore of comprehensive scholars-cum-critics of music (Burney, Tovey, and Fred Einstein indisputably being the other three [I shall set aside the apportionment of their respective presidential analogemes as an exercise for the reader]) be depilated of a single skin cell by a mere specialist’s diligent (albeit highly public) ploughing of his humble Mendelssohnian furrow?  Presumably not, and yet Rosen went on to go out of his way to make a Barnum-and-Baileyian, non-Shakespearean clown of this humble musicological farmhand, and in so doing proved himself (here at last I bring my point to a period) capable of holding his own qua gratuitous, out-of-line ad hominem-inal p*s*-taker with the Glenn Gould who had not flinched at or balked from uttering the flagrantly uncharitable pronouncement that Mozart had died too late rather than too soon.  Suffice it if not needless to say, in considering them as self-contained gestures I do not whole- or even half-heartedly approve of such instances of reckless uncharitability in either Rosen or Gould: a dedicated Mendelssohn scholar is not necessarily a ninny, and there’s an end on’t.   Nevertheless, when I consider such gestures en masse, I am grateful for them.  “As you bally well should be, for don’t they humanize both Gould and Rosen, in knocking them off their respective high horses of—” –I’m going to stop you right there, for your own safety as well as mine.  For the truth is that I don’t give a tossed fig about Gould’s or Rosen’s humanization or humanness as a thing-in-itself.  I am aware that in averring as much I am going against the grain of received opinion amongst at least Gouldolators (while I do not doubt that I am not alone in being a Rosenolator, I have yet to come across the writings of any of my fellows), as exemplified by Kevin Bazzana’s assertion(s) that “[E]ven when [Gould’s] play-acting was at its most awful—and sometimes especially then—there is something charming and refreshing and satisfying about the spectacle of one of the world’s premier classical musicians lost in comic reverie in public…He takes some of the stuffing out of a pretentious and poker-faced field, without undercutting his eminent qualification in that field” (Wondrous Strange, p. 397).  Chez moi, there is no need for such stuffing-out taking: I have always assumed that the poker-facedness of classical musicians arises solely from the concentration required by the exercise of their métier, and that a round-the-clock mirthless pianist is no less anomalous a figure than a round-the-clock mirthless tightrope-walker or glass-blower.  Chez moi, Gould’s play-acting is—as I have already explicitly stated—quite straightforwardly a worthy if not indispensable contribution to the 20th-century performative comic tradition contributed by a man who also happened to be a great and indeed indispensable (and ever-unsmiling) interpreter-cum-performer of classical music.  Gould’s cavalier high-hatting of Mozart et al. and Rosen’s cavalier high-hatting of Todd et al. fall into a different ethical-cum-epistemological category than Gould’s play-acting, in that they redound to the immediate and global discredit of their respective exponents while in the long run serving the cause of truth—i.e., in this case, adequately comprehensive knowledge—more efficiently and efficaciously than a more creditable appraisal of the subject or object in question would have done.  To specify even while generalizing: truth is (in the long run) better served by the treatment of something that falls short of being perfect as if it were the worst thing in the world—as if it were infinitely or unexceedably bad—than by a precise gauging or appraisal of the length of its shortfall from (should that be “shortfalling of”?) perfection.  “But who is to determine what entity or quality exemplifies or constitutes perfection?”  My oma, or your nan or abuelita, perhaps.  Who knows or cares?  I am not interested here in the standard of perfection itself but rather in the manner of approach to it.  If, like Gould, one posits motivic development as the highest good in music (barring counterpoint of course) and thereupon excludes Mozart from the pantheon of great composers because he was less concerned with motivic development than with certain other min(e)able element-veins of music (counterpoint obviously not figuring among them), one is affording far more and far better grist to the truth-mill than the music-scholar who clubbishly tries to prove to us that Mozart was more concerned with motivic development than we have hitherto supposed—to be sure, not as intensively as Haydn or Beethoven, but intensively enough not to debar him(self) from pedestal-ial parity with the other two when one factors in his achievements as a miner of those aforementioned other veins.  Similarly, the truth-lover doesn’t want to hear Rosen’s trashing of Mendelssohn countered by some Mendelssohn buff’s milquetoast remonstration that unlike Rosen’s early-Romantic favorite, Chopin, FM-B at least attempted to master such non virtuoso-showcasing large-scale forms as the symphony and string quartet; no, the TL wants to hear Rosen being laid into by some fire and brimstone-fuming Mendelssohn fiend who tries to convince him that Mendelssohn was undoubtedly the greatest composer of his time if not of all time.  For somehow and surely, the TL thinks, one of the two judgments in and on each case must be true; Mozart or Mendelssohn must be a complete hack or an indispensable genius; somehow and surely (the TL thinks) if the Sir Roger de Coverley-ian pronouncement is the right, meaning the only true, pronouncement to be made in and on every or possibly even any matter requiring arbitration, the world (i.e. the phenomenal and numinal sub-worlds in aggregation) must needs amount to nothing more redeemable than an infinitely large bowl of at best lukewarm porridge—vis-à-vis which there is simply no point in sitting in judgment even as blasély as Sir Roger de Coverley.  Hence he finds Rosen’s unreasonable Mendelssohn-bashing by proxy not only refreshing but exigent, because on the whole, simply in virtue of the breadth and variety of the composers for whom Rosen harbors unreserved admiration—in virtue of being an unabashed fan of Bach, Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart, Chopin, Schumann, Liszt, Schoenberg, Stravinsky, and Carter—Rosen comes across as a bit of a Sir Roger de Coverley figure himself (I have already stigmatized this bent for eclecticism chez Rosen under the name of pluralism in “Gould versus Rosen”.).  Gould, in or by contrast, is nothing of a Sir Roger de Coverley figure, at least qua listener, consumer, appreciator, critic, aesthete or what have you: when confronted by or with the productions of others he always plumps solidly for one camp, and refuses to concede that there is anything to be said on the other side.  To be sure, the sides themselves are not always in line with those of received musical-historical opinion: for example, it is unsurprising that Gould as a Schoenberg-worshiper should be a Stravinsky-despiser, but his unabashed contempt for Bartók and guarded admiration of Hindemith are more characteristic of those with diametrically inverse attitudes towards the two great Ess-men of modern music.  Nevertheless, each of Gould’s remorselessly categorical pronouncements on this composer or that adds something to the old truth mill in compelling one to reappraise one’s assessment (or reassess one’s appraisal) of the big picture (see “Gould versus Rosen”), a.k.a. the abovementioned puzzle of culture.  But Gould’s consumer-side salutary categoricalism must be weighed against his ethos-cum-praxis as a producer, wherein at least in his work as a composer in the strict sense (as distinguished from his work as a documentarian, i.e., a composer in a loose sense) he evinces a decidedly unsalutary, nay a downright insalubrious Sir Roger de Coverley-ism.  When one composes in an anachronistic style, as Gould did in his sole string quartet, one is effectively declaring, like the operator in the horror story about the overcrowded elevator, that the musical Kunstsammlung always has “room for one more” work in a given style.  And such a declaration is inconsistent with Gould’s Adorno-like championing of Arnold Schoenberg as an arch-modernist, for if there is always room for one more work in the late-Romantic, pre-atonal vein, then there perforce was never any need for Schoenberg to make the break with tonality in the first place, and he should have simply gone on composing in the vein of Verklärte Nacht, Pélleas and Mélisande (his own not Debussy’s), and the Gurrelieder until the cowbell-sporting musical cows came home—indeed, every composer should have gone on composing ad infinitum in a late-Romantic pre-atonal vein, a compositorial state of affairs that a hundred-plus years on would have left us sitting plumb in the middle of an aesthetic analogue (or complement) to or of the above-mentioned giant bowl of at-best lukewarm porridge (wherein indeed most of today’s partakers of sometimes rightly-called serious music, to say nothing of their pop-gourmandizing contemporaries, would be quite content to reside).  Hence, the mere existence of Gould’s string quartet in its present (and by now inalterable) form is proof of an epistemological blind spot (I apologize for the conceivable if not quite demonstrable pleonasm [for a plausible if not watertight case may be made that all blind spots, even literal ones, are epistemological in character], but I must make it clear that I am still discoursing on an epistemological plane, on a plane devoted to knowledge) far graver than the one he identified in his own lack of aesthetic affinity for, with, or to music written between the Grosse Fugue and Tristan (for more on this see Gould vs. Rosen), not to mention than any detectable in the most obtuse pronouncements in Rosen’s scholarly-critical corpus.  To be sure, I think that Rosen was wrong in regarding Mozart as a greater (and specifically a more complex and difficult) composer than Haydn, and in regarding Stravinsky’s neoclassicism as no less modern and legitimate a successor to late-Romantic tonality than Schoenberg’s atonalism, but Rosen’s wrongness on these points is of a different and finer epistemological grain than Gould’s blind spot about composing in the late-Romantic style; it gives his opponent more disputational wiggle room.  One can imagine oneself reasoning in the Shakespearean and Gallicistic sense [cf. Fr. raisonnant] with Rosen on these points, imagining oneself asking him to explain via a bar-by-bar comparative analysis of a post-1925 Schoenberg composition and a post-1925 Stravinsky one (e.g., the Serenade and the Dumbarton Oaks concerto, respectively) precisely how the Stravinskyian notion of “tonality in quotation marks (a.k.a. inverted commas)” is effectively interchangeable with the Schoenbergian notion of “composition with twelve tones related only to one another,” or precisely how, by means whose present elusiveness confounds all my striving for parallelism, the complexity of the tonal fabric of a Mozart opera can more than compensate for the comparative simplicity of its motivic fabric as measured against that of a Haydn string quartet.  Perhaps, the opponent thinks, if Rosen’s argument were phrased in a slightly different way, or if it referred to more fundamental elements of music, elements contained within the phenomena denoted by its terminology, it would be more compelling.  Gould’s meta-compositional epistemological blind-spot, on the other hand, is something one becomes aware of en bloc, on first listening to his op. 1, and “there’s an end on’t.”  “Does that really mark ‘an end on’t’?  For might you not in the course of subsequent listenings to Gould’s op. 1 discover that the piece is not so impeccable a specimen of the late-Romantic style, or that if it is such an impeccable a specimen it nevertheless redeems itself by exploiting hitherto untapped resources of that style?”  I think not.  For one’s epistemological relation to a piece of music in a familiar style is not on an equal footing with one’s epistemological relation to a non-metaphorically discursive argument in any style.  To be sure, one’s epistemological relation to a piece of music in an unfamiliar style is on a comparative or perhaps even superior footing to one’s epistemological relation to an initially impenetrable non-metaphorically discursive argument and stands equally probably to benefit from closer acquaintance: on one’s first listening to such a piece one thinks This is mere noise, but because one has had experience with compositions that also struck one as mere noise but subsequently turned out to be quite rationally governed metaphorical discursive arguments (or metaphorical discursive narratives or dramas), one is game enough to listen again, and maybe even again and again.  Perhaps it will turn out to be mere noise after all, but perhaps it will turn out to be yet another metaphorical discursive narrative or drama governed by rational principles that are only temporarily inscrutable to you.  But with a piece in a familiar style, you know not only what you’re getting but what you’re going to get straight-away.  You are familiar with the style’s whole bag or book of tricks, and you know better than ever either to git fooled agin by them or to expect the style to essay the execution of tricks peculiar to a different style; you know better than, for instance, to listen to all umpteen-hundred of Johann Christian Bach’s compositions—works composed in the prevailingly homophonic so-called gallant style—in the hope of encountering an eight-subject fugue worthy of his father Johann Sebastian.  (The idiom of a certain self [but also aptly]-styled polystylistic composer, Alfred Schnittke, may seem to defy these strictures, but in his case the defiance is indeed only apparent.  For here stylistic variation itself has been transformed into an element of style, and hence into an element whose recurrence is reliably predictable; if at the beginning of a Schnittke composition, one encounters a Lassus-worthy plagal cadence or a measure of a Bach-worthy sarabande, one can bet eighteenth-century lire to euros [or perhaps vice-versa] that eight measures hence at the longest one is going to experience the supervention of something of post-1918 provenance—be it an eight-bar blues riff or a twelve-tone mini-fugue.) As Dr. Johnson says, when one takes up the end of a web (I suppose he meant a large piece of any kind of fabric) and finds it packthread (I suppose he meant something like burlap), one does not expect by looking further to find embroidery.  “And is Gould’s Opus One nothing but a hunk o’-hunk o’ boring burlap?” Harsh but truthful to say, yes.  But thankfully, as I have already shown, we are not obliged to confine our Gouldian embroidery-search to Gould’s one opus-long official catalogue of compositions, and have indeed and accordingly discovered three goodly swatches of embroidery of an exquisitely delicate make.  “Meaning, of course, the three radio documentaries.”  Exactly.  “Whereas Charles Rosen’s fabric shop can’t even boast of a single burlap handkerchief—i.e., a single musical composition of any sort, even a poor and inessential one.”  Evidently not.  But we must not forget that not only is beauty truth but truth is also beauty, such that Rosen’s shop, for all its bareness, may be praised for its impeccable tidiness and its tastefully Spartan decor, and Gould’s for all its possession of a few exquisite specimens of cloth, may be reprehended for its occasional patch of dust or garish wallpaper.  “So effectively we are brought back to where we were at the end of ‘Gould vs. Rosen,’ with neither Gould nor Rosen proving a wholly satisfactory example of the ideal pianizing man of culture.”  Not quite, because in ‘G. vs. R’ I did not give any consideration to Gould’s achievements as an artist in the narrowest sense, as a so-called creative artist, and consequently failed to see how certain of his achievements in that domain epistemologically compensated for his lack of interest in post-Schoenbergian modernism , i.e., in that via his documentaries he echoed or even anticipated the achievements of Elliott Carter that were so eloquently elucidated and championed in Rosen’s writings.  “So, then, we are left with something different but ultimately no more satisfactory, viz. Gould and Rosen as two adequate halves of a kind of mythical Aristophanean four-legged ideal pianizing critic-cum-artist.”  Yes.  “And from this mightn’t we conclude that there is something intrinsically unattainable in the combination of a critic and a so-called creative artist, that as one’s ability to judge great works of art increases, one’s ability to produce them diminishes?”  No, we mightn’t.  Your meta-conclusion deserves the same retort mutatis mutandis that Tristram Shandy delivered to Agalastes’s assertion that “wit and judgment in this world never go together” because “they are two operations differing from each other as wide as east from west,” namely, “so are farting and hicckuping”—by which he meant that the wideness of their difference from each other by no means and to no degree precluded their cohabitation, that the difference in question was not at all of the same character as the difference between positive and negative magnetic polarity or acidity and alkalinity.  Both the critic and the so-called creative artist are, or ought to be, preoccupied with the ascertainment and dissemination of truth, and while there is certainly no guarantee that even the shrewdest and most penetrating of critics will produce a great work of art (often not, I hasten to reiterate for the umpteenth nauseating but probably indispensable time, because he is less talented but because the historical niche he fills is not an auspicious one for the production of masterpieces), every great artist ought to be a shrewd and penetrating enough critic to avoid producing shoddy or pointless artworks.  While Rosen’s extra-pianistic corpus may excite a tad less Gouldian wonder than Gould’s, it at least possesses the singular not-to-be-sneezed-at virtue of occasioning no embarrassment, and the embarrassment occasioned by certain sectors of Gould’s extra-pianistic corpus, while certainly not fatal to our wonderment at that corpus, is also most certainly more than trivially detrimental to that wonderment.