Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Glenn Gould's Obsession with Petula Clark (1967)

As Canadians we are told that Glenn Gould is a cultural icon. For years I had no problem with this. Then a couple days ago I saw a posting on Gould's December 11, 1967 radio documentary The Search for Petula Clark and thought, What a drip!

Of "today's pop music," Gould describes it as "relentlessly diatonic." I laughed when I heard this. But then I thought about it, and it occurred to me that pop music at the time of Gould's writing was in fact more pentatonic than diatonic.

As an example of "today's pop music," Gould gives us the Beatles' "Strawberry Fields" (1967), which he likens to "a mountain wedding between Claudio Monteverdi and a jug band." Again, I laughed, but then I thought about it, and it occurred to me that "Strawberry Fields" is in fact closer to collage (montage?) than the 12-bar blues-based songs that dominated pop music at that time.

On that note, isn't Gould's subsequent The Idea of North (1967) documentary a collage, and as a collage, doesn't "Strawberry Fields" belong as much to its producer, George Martin, who assembled it from fragments (and scored it) than the band it is attributed to? And if that's the case, wouldn't that make Martin the minister who married Monteverdi and that jug band -- in Appalachia?

Or maybe I have this wrong? Maybe Gould has his tongue in his cheek and is putting us on. Or maybe he has a crush on "Pet" Clark and this is his creepy way of saying so. Or maybe, like that other media maven Marshall McLuhan, he is on the autism spectrum and all people saw was his genius.

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