Saturday, April 14, 2007

Technocracies and Music

In today's Wall Street Journal, Terry Teachout discusses a new (to me, at least) technology: Zenph's Disklavier. This is a variation on the player pianos of the days of yore, and it seems to be a modern analog to the Welte-Mignon machine, which managed to capture Gustav Mahler interpreting his own works. Here's the worrying bit,

Sony Classical is about to release a CD of Zenph's "reperformance" of Glenn Gould's celebrated 1955 recording of Bach's "Goldberg Variations," played back in a Toronto studio on a 9-foot Yamaha grand and rerecorded in glistening digital sound.

Mein Gott in Himmel. That idea is as profoundly idiotic as thinking that you can program a computer to reproduce a Giotto or a David. No one, apparently not even Glenn Gould (viz. 1955 v. 1959 v. 1981), could reproduce that performance. So personal and so meteoric was it that it would be foolhardy to try. The fact that the wizards have figured out how to "capture" the performance and repeat it at will and ad nauseam is disgusting and a little macabre. Furthermore, they do not have the slightest understanding of Glenn Gould and why he preferred recordings. Neither do I, but I do get the sense that he didn't have much use for the concert hall and wanted to perfect his reading in private and with perfect sound.

Let the mass exhumations begin.


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