Гульд в Иране

The Glenn Gould Foundation опубликовал текст, в котором связаны две близких мне темы: Гульд и Иран: Absorbing Gould from an Iranian Perspective: An Interview with John McGreevy by P. Johnson
April 15, 2009
During the summer of 2008, The Glenn Gould Foundation posted an article titled Glenn Gould: A Musician in the Strictest Sense of the Word . Written by Iranian graphic designer, Majid Abbasi, the article examined the enormous surge of enthusiasm over the Canadian pianist in the years following his premature death in 1982. A native of Tehran, Abbasi first became interested in Glenn Gould during his teenage years in the early 1980 s. During a recent visit to the city, John McGreevy a prominent Canadian filmmaker and close friend of Gould who directed the film, Glenn Gould s Toronto (1979) had the opportunity to meet Abbasi, his family, and a number of his colleagues. In a telephone interview from his home in Toronto, McGreevy described Abbasi s commitment to fostering the creative legacy of Gould, in addition to commenting on the generosity of spirit characterized by the Iranian people.

Well, I didn't get a sense that the interest was universal, remarked McGreevy when asked how the fascination for Gould in the Middle East differs from that in the West, nor do I think that there are Farsi language versions of any of the books. McGreevy acknowledged that the regime of the past thirty years has not been one to place the same kind of value upon arts/culture as there exists in the West. The people we met were sophisticated, charming, and wonderfully hospitable. They all embrace with considerable excitement, the election of Barack Obama, and hope that it will mean a more relaxed relationship between East and West. The last decade has been pretty bruising in terms of Western perception of the Iranian people. Notwithstanding, we were met with nothing but the most cordial and gracious hospitality during our journey there.

As McGreevy explained, the opportunity to talk about Gould with people on the other side of the world was really quite remarkable. For example, I had the privilege of meeting through my friendship with Abbasi the great Iranian classical pianist, Amir Sarraf. Active as a teacher in the university, conservatory, and private tutoring settings, Sarraf has a high regard for Gould and considers him to be the greatest pianist of all time. His own musical ideas are in fact deeply influenced by Gould.

McGreevy, who made the journey with his wife, traveled throughout the country without any guides. The highlight of the visit, said McGreevy, was of course the visit with Majid Abbasi, who arranged a lovely evening at his home where we met his family. Joined by Amir, we then traveled out into the country to be entertained by one of the most celebrated filmmakers, Bahman Farmanara, where we exchanged ideas with other filmmakers. There were no limits to where the conversation could roam. I especially appreciated this because in Iran it isn t easy for artists, because the constraints they face in their daily lives are something we Canadians never have to contend with.

Abbasi himself a highly sought after graphic designer gave most generously of his time during our stay, remarked McGreevy. The leitmotif throughout our discussion was of course the connection with Glenn Gould, and his ability to bridge East and West. Though not trained as a musician, Abbasi is deeply informed about music and is a huge admirer of Glenn Gould. He has an extensive collection, noted McGreevy, and in fact I was astounded and rather envious of his collection of CD s, DVD s and other material.

In recalling Abbasi's question about what distinguishes Gould from other pianists, McGreevy believes that it has to do with the attitude that Gould had towards his work: In my own perception of Glenn, it wasn t sufficient for him to get the notes right or to interpret the score attending to the wishes of the composer, but rather, he was after something more ambitious, that being, to create in the listener a state of ecstasy, a desire to elevate us from our humdrum lives and take us into a more spiritual plateau. I think that this is the reason for the ongoing worldwide interest in Gould, now more than twenty-five years after his passing.

Incidentally, McGreevy became acquainted with Gould through his connection with CBC. Following an early film that I made for CBC, recalls McGreevy, I received a call at one o clock in the morning from Glenn, to praise a program of mine that had gone out earlier in the evening, adding that he was fascinated by my musical choices. He told me that I was clearly not a musician because no musician would ever take those risks. In Gould s words: It s a work of genius From that point on, I became used to receiving the calls and very much enjoyed conversing with Glenn about any number of subjects. I felt incredibly privileged to be part of a network of people who he felt relaxed enough to speak with at any time of the day, or mostly, night.

McGreevy shared with Abbasi some of his own stories about meeting Gould, and how the two developed a telephonic relationship: I got used to these late-night phone calls, said McGreevy. Later on, I had the opportunity to work with him as a filmmaker where I grew to appreciate his unique qualities as an artist, as well as his generosity in sharing his ideas with others. Both McGreevy and Abbasi spoke about the intellect of Gould: What connected me to Gould, remarked McGreevy was my early concern with the architecture of any work. Glenn, who was a decade older than me, was very articulate about how to structure a project, whether it be a concert performance, radio script, essay, or film. He was a great mentor.

In 1976 McGreevy created his own production company, beginning with the Cities series, which represented a collection of films on cities around the world, to be hosted by singular artists presenting their own city. We had Peter Ustinov in Leningrad, remarked McGreevy, Melina Mercouri in Athens, Jonathan Miller in London, and of course I was very keen to have Glenn present Toronto. When I finished the Ustinov film and, knowing that Glenn was a big admirer of Peter s, and also that Leningrad was a city Glenn had a great personal attachment to I phoned Glenn and told him that I had been out making some new films, adding that there was one in particular which I wanted him to see. Glenn was always very happy to come to a screening with me, and so without telling him what it was, we went into the theatre and up came the city of Leningrad with Peter Ustinov sailing down the Neva and the title was, Cities: Peter Ustinov s Leningrad. Glenn laughed and said, I know exactly what you want me to do. You want me to do Glenn Gould s Orillia! I said almost, Glenn, but a bit further south. [Laughs]. In the end he thought that he would like to do Toronto, and so we made the plans to film the city. The film became one of the legendary episodes in that series. The whole experience was a wonderful one both for him and for me, and it brought us even closer together.

My friendship with Glenn continued after the Cities series finished, remarked McGreevy. He was always very interested in what I was up to. In fact, I spoke to him on his fiftieth birthday to send our greetings and he invited me to his studio the following week. Alas it never happened, because as you know, the next day he had the beginning of a stroke that took his life within five days. It s certainly extraordinary, how twenty-six years later the experience of the man remains as one of the indelible experiences of my life. I cannot listen to the Goldberg Variations without thinking of Glenn.

In 2007, McGreevy made his own tribute to Glenn with a play titled, An Evening with Glenn Gould, starring Ted Dykstra. Held as part of the Luminato festival, McGreevy was later asked to take the production to the National Arts Centre, where in the fall of that year, the performance coincided with the actual anniversary of Glenn s passing twenty-five years earlier. For me, it was a singular experience to be able to remind people, noted McGreevy about Glenn s extraordinary qualities as an artist and as a human being.

When asked what he would say to a person who has never heard of Glenn Gould, McGreevy commented that, one must first have a particular interest in the singular qualities of a man who as one of life s great humanitarians combined dedication with a preoccupation for the spiritual realm. As our culture becomes more trivialized, these notions become difficult to convey. For those who have had the experience of Glenn Gould, we know that he was a singular person. He was like a meteorite flashing across the planet, the light from which is still visible to his many admirers. Some years ago the Voyager spacecraft took off into outer space. There exists in the spacecraft, a capsule containing a recording of Glenn Gould playing Bach. The capsule is expected to survive for more than a billion years, long after our own extinction. The idea of Glenn being conveyed into the outer realms of our universe as an earthly messenger, would have appealed to him immeasurably.

Speaking to John McGreevy about his recent visit to Iran was a great pleasure for me, and I cannot help but feel struck by the poignancy of the connection made between him and Majid Abbasi. The social impact of Gould s creative work has left an indelible impression upon the lives of many individuals. The Glenn Gould Foundation encourages Gould admirers from around the world to share their stories about this great artist, philosopher, and humanitarian of the twentieth century.
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