Interviews Music

One Track Mind: Loscil

The Canadian producer goes deep on Glenn Gould’s 1981 recording of Aria da Capo.

The premise of One Track Mind is pretty simple: I ask artists to pick one track that means a lot to them – either something they’ve discovered recently, something that’s been with them for years, or one that reminds them of a specific time in their life or career – and tell me what makes it so special to them. I get to talk to the artists I love, and they get to talk about the artists they love. Love all round!

Today we welcome Canadian electronic producer Scott Morgan -better known as Loscil – to the blog. One of the most singularly talented producers and an absolute TPW favourite, Scott has produced around 16 Loscil albums over the past two decades. His latest Clara – like them all – is carefully considered and completely engrossing, and a testament to just how powerful and emotionally rewarding electronic music can be when done right.

For his track, Scott waxes lyrical about his obsession with Glenn Gould’s interpretation of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, in particular his 1981 recording of Aria da Capo.

Loscil on Gleen Gould – Aria de Capo

I’d like to write about an artist whose legacy has shown up many times in my life in strange ways – Glenn Gould. There are several of his recordings and ideas that have been inspirational but perhaps the one I’m most fond of is the Aria da Capo from his 1981 recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations.

For some reason and without much effort from me, Glenn Gould’s legacy has shown up in my life repeatedly over the span of the past 25 years. I was first introduced to his radio work, most notably his seminal radio documentary: The Idea of North while studying tape editing. Not only was it incredibly inspiring to hear Gould introduce musical ideas like counterpoint and dynamics to radio documentary, but it also drew me into Gould’s unusual but inspiring views on music and culture. The world of classical music was a bit foreign to me but Gould pulled me in with his innovation, philosophical ideas and his personal quirks.

Shortly after graduating from university I worked on a project centred around Glenn Gould called The New Listener. The goal of the project was two-fold: to provide a relatively encyclopaedic collection of data about Gould, his life, his thinking, his recordings and secondly, to bring some of his more forward thinking musical ideas into an interactive context. We built interactive versions of his recording “kits” where listeners could assemble their favourite studio takes into different final versions of his recordings and recreated his multi-microphone recording of Sibelius with a real time mixing interface. All of this opened up my mind not only to the idea that classical music could be presented differently but also that the relationship between musician and listener could be something other than passive.

Most recently, I was invited by Ryuichi Sakamoto to participate in the celebration of Gould’s life in Tokyo and to perform with him at the Canadian Embassy there. For this, I decided to seek out and record two of the existing former pianos of Gould, the most notable being the Steinway CD318 housed at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. Being able to spend time with this instrument up close knowing it was Gould’s preferred piano for a time was pretty special.

On the tails of this piece, I was invited by my good friend and frequent collaborator, choreographer Vanessa Goodman, to contribute music to her project Wells Hill. When Vanessa was young, she grew up in the former family home of Marshall McLuhan in Toronto. It was said to her by members of the McLuhan family that Gould would visit the house and they would exchange philosophical discussions about art, communications, music, etc. She used this as inspiration for her work and I used the samples of Gould’s piano to compose music for her choreography. We also used and transformed several of Gould’s recordings, including ending the piece with the Aria da Capo from the 1981 Goldberg Variations.

Of course, there are two famous recordings by Gould of the Goldberg Variations. The early one is quick, technically flashy and virtuosic. But the latter recording is incredibly slow and expressive. He imbues the work with sentimentality and introspection. He plays it mournfully and you can hear Gould’s patented, mumbly sing-along in the background of the recording. Knowing he died not long after this recording adds to its nostalgia and romanticism. For me, it’s one of the most sad and beautiful musical recordings I can think of.

Loscil – Clara is out now