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The lives of Glenn Gould : the limits of musical auto/biography

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Title:The lives of Glenn Gould : the limits of musical auto/biography
Authors:Bell, Alana Jean
Keywords:Glenn Gould
Date Issued:May 2012
Publisher:[Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [May 2012]
Abstract:This dissertation examines the large body of life writing in various genres by and about Canadian pianist, recording artist, and broadcaster Glenn Gould to consider reasons for his continuing international popularity, and to explore the implications his auto/biography has for life writing as a genre. Gould is a musical auto/biography "limit-case," in that the texts about him enact the many fascinating and often bizarre possibilities for life writing. Despite the conservative history of musical biography as a genre, many biographers, filmmakers, and even novelists have come to the unlikely conclusion that Gould is an elusive subject who must be constructed rather than re-presented. Such conclusions arise from Gould's own auto/biographical interventions which have profoundly influenced subsequent representations of his life. A man obsessed with privacy and with control over his own image, Gould created auto/biographical representations that turned him into something of an empty signifier, both confounding biographers, and allowing them to invest their own meanings into him.
Each chapter explores a key theme in representations of Gould. Chapter one examines portrayals of Gould as genius and eccentric. Two notions of genius prevail. It is a mysterious force, beyond the understanding even of the possessor himself; alternately, the genius is a god-like figure, transforming the lives of the listener through art. Eccentricity--manifested in Gould through his unusual performance practice, his illnesses and drug use, and his apparent lack of traditional relationships--is often portrayed by Gould's biographers as the terrible downside of his genius that paradoxically serves to normalize Gould and allows life writing to wrest biographical control from him. Chapter two explores representations of Gould as a Canadian icon, largely in response to his own self-constructed links with the Canadian North. While Gould himself, many Canadian institutions, and some of his biographical representations have presented him as an exemplary Canadian, other texts dispute Gould's appropriateness as icon for an increasingly diverse nation, and at times even question the biographical enterprise itself. Chapter three considers Gould as a performer of music and of his own complex constructions of self, examining the ways in which Gould's music, self-interviews, and radio documentaries test the suppleness of auto/biographical forms. Gould's textual lives ultimately demonstrate that music can be effectively deployed as life writing, and shatter the myth of a unified, coherent biographical self.
Description:Ph.D. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2012.
Includes bibliographical references.
Appears in Collections: Ph.D. - English

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