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  • Writer's pictureDavid

Goldberg Variations: Again?

When asked why he wouldn’t play or record any of his old music, Miles Davis said “Didn’t we do it good the first time?” In contrast, Glenn Gould spent most of his career playing music written hundreds of years before his birth. He once wrote, "The basic statements have already been made, all that is left is for us to elaborate upon them." Gould recorded Bach's Goldberg Variations again in 1981. It was an audacious choice, given that much of the beauty in the 1955 recording is in Gould's impeccable piano technique, which is almost guaranteed to have declined in the aging process.

Ever listen to a rock band play its old music 30 years later? How about a pop musician covering another artist's song? Maybe a jazz musician playing their old licks? This is almost always a disaster! Even if an artist is focused on making honest work, here and now, many of them can't regain the magic found in previous work or their past self.

Questions to answer in your response:

1. What's the difference between the 1955 recording and the 1981 recording? Did Glenn do a good job? Discuss.

2. Why is it so hard for an artist to re-create someone else's work, and even their own past work?

3. What do you think an artist should do to stay relevant across their entire career? Elaborate.

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