An abstract from Edward Jones-Imhotep’s, paper, Malleability and Machines: Glenn Gould and the Technological Self

The Pianist Glenn Gould has often been portrayed as a musical idealist who embraced mundane recording media as a way of escaping the anxiety of the concert hall. In pursuing his musical ideals, however, Gould obsessed over material objects—the qualities of a chair, the action of piano keys, the placement of splices in magnetic tape. This paper argues that for him, the detailed properties of machines and electronic media were crucial, not just as tools for pursuing disembodied aesthetic aims, but as instruments and material sites for a moral project. Locating Gould’s concerns among the techniques and technologies that inspired him, the concert hall he despised, and the jazz and chance music he tolerated, the paper explores how Gould’s famed philosophy of technology was rooted in a “technological self” that tied morality and aesthetics, and intimacy and isolation, to concrete ideals for the kinds of people we ought to be.
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