excerpt from
Glenn Gould in Six Parts


     There he is, standing on the stage. It's not a real stage; it's a recording studio. He's recording piano music in an old Presbyterian church that's been turned into a recording studio, and he's standing on the stage looking out to what used to be the pews because he thinks someone is out there. He holds up his hand to shade his eyes and you can see the steam rising off his skin. His hands are red and his arms are red and damp from soaking. He's been soaking his arms in the scalding water of the bathroom sink to get ready to play the piano. But he's not playing. He's standing on the what used to be the pulpit, looking out to see someone he believes is there. He believes someone is out there, but because he can't see anyone he can't prove it.

     Three pianos are lined up on the lip of the stage but his chopped-off stool is positioned behind only one. Where he sits. To play. But he can't. His job is to play the piano but he can't get his mind off the person he's convinced is out there, listening. Several men are sitting behind the glass wall of the recording booth but he's not thinking about them. He's thinking about someone he knows is out there. He knows the person is out there because he can feel that person in his skin.

     It's all a distraction, he knows that. And the distraction is all in his mind. Fine. So he sits behind the big, black Steinway and he touches the tips of his fingers to the smooth, white keys. He wants to play, and he's almost ready. Except for the feeling. His eyes and ears are telling him that no one is there, but he believes his feeling. He wants to play but he's distracted by his feeling, so he leans over the piano body and calls out, "I know you're out there." But nothing comes back. So he stands, walks down the five wooden steps that lead off the stage, crosses over the wires on the floor to the back of the old church. High above him is the vaulted ceiling and he walks under that ceiling to the back stairs starts to climb. It's a yellow stairway and at first he moves quickly, as if trying to catch the person he thinks is there. He begins by trying to catch the person but when he's about halfway up he looks down, he looks down and seeing him there you wouldn't know whether he's trying to catch something, or tying to get away.

- John Haskell

back