Glenn Gould as a model of how to get your work done

…the fabulous terror of not knowing before/one begins. Again.  Kate Braid, “The Goldberg Variations (1981)” in A Well-Mannered Storm

– By J.S. Porter 

Start something big

Like Bach’s Goldberg Variations*

Let years go by


Take lots of walks, play with dogs and children

make late-night phone calls,  play

the piano  and hum along, keep warm

wear gloves and scarves and a navy-blue wool coat

drink lots of coffee, take  pills, make radio broadcasts

re-imagine the north, talk to strangers

rest on park benches, fall in love,  lose the love

be heartbroken, continue to build the lifelong

construction of wonder – art


Go back to what you did at the beginning

Do it again

Do it a little slower, more deliberate, feel every note

Know in every pore and cell of your body this is the last, the final music


*Glenn Gould performed The Goldberg Variations in 1955 and again in 1981.  He died on October 4, 1982.


The fall, arguably Canada’s most beautiful season belongs to Glenn Gould. He was born in September and died in October.

In my college-teaching years, I had a Latin-American student who came to Canada because of Glenn Gould.  She didn’t know very much about Canada, but she played classical piano and she knew enough to know that Glenn Gould came from Canada. She wanted to live in the same country as her idol.

In my teaching years, I also taught alongside an American, the son of a marine, who came from North Carolina.  He came to Canada to study medieval literature in a doctoral programme at the University of Toronto and because it was the home city of Glenn Gould.  The Goldberg Variations, both early and late, were a necessary experience he treated himself to on a daily basis.

To honour my former student and my old colleague, I too find myself frequently listening to Gould. My preference is the 1981 version of the Variations.