Friday, January 19, 2007

Glenn Gould's chair

Elaine Fine just alerted me to the web presence of a company marketing a replica of Glenn Gould's chair (news found via Soho the Dog). The chair is the creation of the designer René Bouchara and the Italian furniture maker Cazzaro.

Glenn Gould's piano chair is a story in itself, and Kevin Bazzana tells it in his biography Wondrous Strange: The Life and Art of Glenn Gould. Bert Gould customized a folding chair for his son in 1953 (what used to be called a bridge chair, for use at a cardtable), cutting several inches off each leg and adding a bracket and half-turnbuckle so that the height of each leg could be adjusted. Gould used the chair for the rest of his life. In the 1959 film Glenn Gould: On the Record, the chair can be seen (in Columbia's Manhattan recording studio) with white tape strengthening the intersections of legs and seat. In later photos the seat's stuffing is spilling out from the back. Later still, the seat disappeared altogether, leaving only a wooden frame. One of the most poignant photographs I know is this shot (by Lorne Tulk) of Gould's Toronto apartment, taken in 1982 shortly after the pianist's death.

The replica chair (seat included) sells for 990 euros ($1282). With a price like that, perhaps the manufacturer can invest some of the profits in a better English translation for the website. Here's a sample of what's there now:

Gould's chair cannot certainly be considered of the universe of design. At maximum it reminds a style chair, which original model has been modified for two times. The first time because the mechanical of the folding chair had damaged its shape. The second time because Glenn’s father, Bert Gould, had stricken on it a deathblow [!] by cutting off ten centimetres from every leg and by fixing on them a jack. . . .

Since Gould chair has become famous together with him, until becoming indivisible from his image. While the piano player became a legendary, his «chair-object» became «chair-worship».
Alas, this project reminds me of fake Rosebuds and Casablanca barware. And I'm put off by the slightly sniffy tone in the above passages ("cannot certainly be considered of the universe of design"). But I do want to get to Ottawa one day, to the National Library of Canada, where the Gould chair, the thing itself, now sits on display in a glass case.
The Glenn Gould Chair (Cazzaro) [Link’s dead.]

Other Glenn Gould posts
Glenn Gould chair project (with a $35 Costco chair!)
Glenn Gould's chair again
A Glenn Gould story
Classical music for beginners
The Search for "Pet" Clark
Three records

comments: 4

Unknown said...

It is as though the chair contained Gould's soul. His lifespan was determined by the durability of the chair.

yuzu said...

Great article.
Thank you for sharing your sentiment.
I greatly appreciated it.

Here is my version--my project.

Unknown said...

Great article. Last Summer I posted an article myself that touches on some of the same things you did, but mainly addresses my answer to the horrifyingly expensive replica - by making my own. For the curious, details are posted here.


Michael Leddy said...

Jofrid, thanks for sharing your work. Your chair is beautiful, and really in the spirit of the original.