CBC Digital Archives

Glenn Gould as a radio composer

He adored Arrowroot cookies, Barbra Streisand and animals. He abhorred sunlight, the stage and airplanes. Eccentric, genius, solitary, head-strong, hypochondriac, virtuoso… all describe Glenn Herbert Gould, one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century. Gould was born on Sept. 25, 1932 in Toronto. His sudden death in 1982 at age 50 stunned the world, but his music and his legacy continue to inspire, delight and fascinate. We would like to thank the Glenn Gould Foundation for its assistance in this archival project.

Glenn Gould is a man of many talents and interests. Gould never thinks of himself primarily as a pianist. He is equally committed to writing, broadcasting, composing, conducting and experimenting with technology.
In the 1960s and 70s he produces a series of innovative radio and TV documentaries for the CBC on a wide range of topics including Mennonites, Leopold Stokowski and British pop star Petula Clark.

His most famous documentary The Idea of North is first broadcast on CBC Radio in 1967. It is the first installment of the Solitude Trilogy and part of the Canada's Centennial Year celebrations.
The trilogy deals with people outside the mainstream in remote circumstances such as the North. Gould focuses on how northerners' spiritual strength helps them cope with solitude and isolation.

The second documentary, The Latecomers , looks at Newfoundland society and the third installment, The Quiet in the Land, is about Canadian Mennonites.
The musical structure of the fugue influences Gould's radio documentary work. He would mix two or three voices as well as music on top of each other, using the human voice like different melodies in a piece of music. He calls this method "contrapuntal style."

In this clip, which includes an excerpt from The Latecomers, you hear Gould's innovative documentary style.
• Gould loved the solitude of the North. The landscape suited his reclusive, nocturnal lifestyle. "I don't much care for the sunlight or bright colours of any kind," he said in a documentary called Cities: Glenn Gould's Toronto.
• Gould took a train to Churchill, Man. in the 1960s and recorded many of the sounds he heard during his journey for The Idea of North.

• Gould joked that his private motto was: "Behind every silver lining, there's a cloud."
• Gould's favorite part of Toronto was the suburb of North York, where he kept a studio. He said he loved the tensionless atmosphere, the anonymity of its suburban setting.
• Gould's first network broadcast was on Christmas Eve in 1950 when he was just 18. It was his first time in a studio. He later said that this was when his fascination with the microphone began.
Medium: Radio
Program: IDEAS
Broadcast Date: Oct. 21, 1971
Announcer: Rex Loring
Host: Glenn Gould, Jim Robertson
Duration: 12:15

Last updated: January 23, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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