Glenn Gould: Hereafter


Glenn Gould: Hereafter documentary. This is a motion picture film, directed by Bruno Monsaingeon, about the legendary Gould. According to the release announcement, it "synthesizes an incredible wealth of archival material" and is made "as if narrated by Gould himself." Released in 2009, it has 5.0 dts-HD sound. This was the first HDVD documentary about a fine-art subject. Grade: B+

Gould was obsessed with his concept of musical performing. The word "Hereafter" in this title refers to the impact Gould still has on his obsessed fans all over the world. Gould lives, and his church grows. Monsaingeon collaborated with Gould for years. This highly original film is probably as historically accurate and as creative as any documentary about Gould can get.

The thoughts and words of Gould in the narration of the film are rendered by three different actors in English, French, and German. Gould speaks from the archival material in English. Actor Rory Bremmer speaking in English convinced me that I was listening to the Gould ghost. If you watch this in French or German, there will be subtitles in your language to spook you when the real Gould speaks English from archive. All this wonderful narration is accessed thru the soundtrack and subtitle buttons on your remote control. In this way Monsaingeon starts to fulfill the Gouldian prophecy of the "participant listener" (see below). (There is no menu for this movie; nor does the booklet with the keep case  say a thing about how to access the three versions of the narration. Start pushing buttons, participant listener! You can't break anything.)

The basic framework of this movie is shot in HD and looks fine except for some motion artifacts. Much of the content comes from old motion pictures and tapes of TV shows. This is quite crude looking, but it's rendered as well as possible. The dts-HD sound is completely satisfying.

Now let's move on to the content of subject title. We knew about the eccentricities of Gould's playing style. What we didn't know about was Gould's wicked sense of humor, galactic intellect, and orator-level speaking ability. Gould worked in television in Canada for years. Because he worked from conviction, he comes across (speaking from archives) stronger than most television journalists working today.

Here's Gould's pitch: professional musicians have nailed down the traditional way of playing classical music. So performing to a live audience is now at a dead end. The future of classical music is to work on new interpretations of the canon in studios where the performers can experiment and everything can be recorded. Thus the performer becomes a kind of junior composer. What the performer seeks from the historical scores are new renditions of preternatural intensity and spirituality. This will not be achieved all that often, but when it is, it's been recorded and can be shared. And the person with whom the new rendition will be shared is the "participant listener" in his home or study.

On this website, we take the position that a seeing and hearing a decent live performance will be more satisfying  than any recording can be. Although we are crazy about HDVDs for many reasons, we don't think recording technology  can  better or replace live performance. Gould apparently thought differently: he believed that an recording of an superb performance would be more valuable than a typical or normal live performance of the same work.

The idea of the participant listener seemed ridiculous in the era of long-playing vinyl recordings. But do you see now where this is going? With HDVD in your home theater, the era of the participant listener has in fact arrived: on this film we can decide if we want to "be" Gould in English, French, or German! If we can do that, why can't we get an HDVD with multiple interpretations of each of the Chopin etudes and then use bookmarks to put together the line-up that I like best? Why can't we pick from a ballet disc the full version or an abridged version? Why can't we buy a La Bohème and set it up to let us sing duets with Netrebko? Why not record operas with every protagonist carrying a hidden camera, make multiple shots, and let the viewer direct his own opera? Why can't there be a website tied to home theaters where lovers of piano music can vote on videos of piano performances submitted by anyone with the guts to upload something?

We also have a review for an earlier Gould HDVD documentary called Glenn Gould: Genius Within.

There are many old and confusing YouTube clips out about Gould, but we couldn't find one that does any justice to this documentary.