The lights dim, the audience grows quiet, and the film begins. It starts so simply, so innocently: two tones, two octaves apart, ringing purely, seemingly alone in a dark room. The camera turns and the scene reveals their source, as the music unfolds slowly, methodically. At first from a distance, we see a man, aged beyond his years, crouched behind a piano, head scarcely visible rising above it. As we approach, we see him seated scarcely a foot above the floor, arms bent unnaturally, his gargantuan glasses nearly touching the keys as he sways back and forth, appearing to speak each note as he articulates it with his long, spindly fingers. The scene is somewhat unsettling; the music, divine.
Thus began my visual introduction to Glenn Gould, at a “concert” screening of his 1981 Goldberg Variations film at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, in honor of the twentieth anniversary of his death.