Thinking about Teo Macero, who has just died - the original cut-and-paste man, jazz's own Burroughs - I wonder how influenced he was by Gould. Certainly he was under the spell of Mingus, in whose Jazz Workshop he served throughout the first half of the fifties, and then, after Mingus and producer Bob Thiele had devised the notion of overdubs and tape splices to enhance 1963's Black Saint And The Sinner Lady, Macero then proceeded to his monumental body of never-performed work with Miles; a tapestry from In A Silent Way to Get Up With It, an exhibition of "spontaneous" performances which never actually took place; long improvisational wanderings edited down, phased, tweaked, cut up, rolled over and made to work as discrete records, and it is little wonder that they sounded like music not of this planet.
But, as I said, there was also Gould; the vacillating artist who could never find it in himself to trust live, or "real" performances. His series of radio soundscapes for CBC - the word "documentary" manifestly fails to do them justice - are processed, sculpted meditations, contrived to fit, but never are their contents untrue or dishonest; artistically they are magical, emotionally and logically they are revelatory and illuminating.
His complete recordings of the two books of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier took eight fitful years to record, from 1963 to 1971. His reading (and I use the singular case advisedly) of what Gould called "the celebrated obstacle course," the titanic A Minor Fugue, is actually spliced together from two separate takes. Though both were note-perfect and in the same tempo, the emotions attached to them were very different; one take Gould deemed too mournful, too machine-like, too Teutonic, and the other he thought far too happy and bright for the material under consideration. After some consultation, excerpts from both takes were cut and spliced together to make a satisfactory whole.
The editing is expertly done; the shifts occur every 30 seconds or so, but only extremely close listening will reveal the joins. The "performance" hence becomes simultaneously jubilant and pining, at one time efficiently robotic and fervently human, thus providing us with a thought-through glimpse of the two minds which Gould was wont to house. Like life, it goes up and down and back again, though resolves considerably more tidily; and while one can see the point of Gould's reference to the "Dixieland beat" undertow of the B Minor Fugue which concludes Book I, since he evidently prefers its jaunty splashes to the stricter post-Webern pointillism at which he was striving. It is rather like listening to a man who can't make up his mind whether to laugh or cry, but is in the end glad to do both at once. The imperfections emphasise his wilfully messy and merrily wild perfection, and finally it doesn't matter whether or not this was ever really "played" since it plays both with and into the mind of the listener - and the emotional rewards are no less vast.