All of which leads me to ask: is the performance of classical music an intellectual activity? Did the breadth of Glenn Gould’s culture make him a better interpreter of Bach? I wonder. I’ve known a lot of musicians in my time, some of whom were damned smart and some of whom were (ahem) less so, and I rarely noticed any clear-cut relationship between what went into their heads and what came out of their fingers or mouths. (In my more limited experience, the same is true of dancers and painters.) I’m not saying that a stupid person can become a successful musician, but I’m not so sure that having read T.S. Eliot equips you to play Beethoven’s Op. 111 well. It certainly didn’t help Gould….
(If it’s new to you, read the whole thing here.)