The mystery of Glenn Gould’s chair


Those who do not know him will ask: who the hell can import a chair?

Imagine a man clinging to the piano keys, like the banks of a ravine. Or like a child who stands on tiptoe at a window sill.

This was Glenn Gould when he played on his inseparable chair.

More than a stool, a kneeler: so low that his face touched his hands in a kind of untranslatable prayer.

The perfect image of one of the highest and most spiritual music hearing can meet.

Not just a chair, his, but a real “musical instrument”, which our hypochondriac genius kept even more than his pianos, even more than the music he played.

For him, it was everything: his piano technique, his anatomical ideal, his psychopathology, and musical philosophy.

Looking at it well, this sacred object leaves nothing to be glimpsed of its importance.

It is a rudimentary folding chair, designed by Glenn’s father, bearing in mind the tables of the law written by his son:

  • that the seat was just 35 cm from the floor (record of baseness compared to any other pianist);
  • that the chair could be adjusted according to the requirements of execution;
  • that it was not tilted backward like all the other chairs, but at a right angle, to curb any temptation to retreat;
  • that it was handy and easily transportable from one concert to another.

Since there is no similar object on the market, the good father, improvised Geppetto, sliced ​​10 cm off the legs of a chair, and screwed in adjustable jacks, so that the child could adapt the height of the seat to the different registers: more low for Bach, higher for romantics.

But that’s not all! In reality, 35 cm was the limit distance from the floor, beyond which Gould’s knees would have come to cover his face. But it was still not enough to distance his elbows sufficiently from the keyboard.

The solution that the Master found was very simple: put the heels on the piano! He added wooden blocks under the four legs, as a rise.

And the strange musical creature, made up of stool, man and instrument, was complete.

Technically, the artistic power of the chair by Glenn Gould is explained in the position to which the hand forces: a seat so low compared to the keyboard, brings the palm of the hand to assume an almost vertical position.

And this is his true executive power: a force distributed on the fingers only.

Try lifting gym weights, using only your fingers and keeping the palm of your hand vertical. The muscular effort will undoubtedly be less than when you lift the same weights with the palm of your hand in a horizontal position, thus also involving the muscles of the arm and shoulders.

Power is concentrated in the fingers to become almost magnetic.

Another advantage of the vertical position of the palm is the greater control of the keys, due to the fact that the fingers touch the keyboard with their entire length. The horizontal position of the palm, on the other hand, forces the hand to assume that classic arched position, where the touch of the keys is not the whole finger, but only the fingertip.

Of course, all this is not enough to explain the prodigy of Gould’s music, which remains among the mysteries of faith not yet revealed.

But those wishing to experience the legend’s charm can always curl up on the reproduction of Gould’s chair, put on sale by Cazzaro SpA, at the astronomical figure of € 990 (much better to arm yourself with a good frame saw and sacrifice a folding kitchen chair).

Returning to the initial question, we suggest you invest your savings better, in an unforgettable journey into the history of music, destination Canada. Here you can touch the authentic Glenn Gould chair, kept in the music department of the Ottawa library.

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