Malleability and Machines: Glenn Gould and the Technological Self

Gould Extract.001

This article on Glenn Gould won the 2017 Abbot Payson Usher Prize for best scholarly work published during the preceding three years under the auspices of the Society for the History of Technology. You’ll find it in Technology and Culture.

Citation from the prize committee: “After a careful and deliberate discussion, the Usher Prize Committee unanimously selected Edward Jones-Imhotep’s Malleability and Machines: Glenn Gould and the Technological Self for the 2017 Abbot Payson Usher Prize. In examining the “musical ideals” that pianist Gould pursued, Jones-Imhotep creates a new picture of the artist — one rooted in the “technological self” where morality, materiality, and aesthetics came together. We found this article offered a wonderfully detailed description of the pianist’s studio where machines and electronic media conjoined mundane artifacts like furniture to reflect Gould’s particular and sometimes peculiar philosophy toward both recording and changing the role of the listeners from passive recipients to active manipulators of the music they enjoyed. Jones-Imhotep’s thoughtful and well-written essay brings together concepts from sounds studies and the history of technology along with scholarship on aesthetics and recent work on the history of the self. Ranging from the mundane yet critical aspects of studio recording to Gould’s own artistic and philosophical views, Jones-Imhotep offers a new picture of an iconic artist and some suggestions for new ways to broaden how we think about the histories of technology.”

You can watch my related talk at the University of California, Berkeley online here: Many thanks to the CSTMS, and especially Massimo Mazzotti, for hosting me.