November 30th, 2010
Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould
About the Film

A profoundly enigmatic musical poet, there have been many documentaries about Glenn Gould, but they were typically sidetracked by his eccentricities, focusing on the pills and gloves and scarves – missing the man, the magic and the message behind his music.

American Masters artfully pierces through the myths and misconceptions about this humming and hunched figure, whose fingers glided across the piano as no one’s before or since in Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould airing nationally, Monday, December 27 at 9pm on PBS (check local listings). After the broadcast premiere, the video will be available to watch online for two weeks, with a DVD available at by calling 1-800-336-1917.

Currently in its 24th season, American Masters is a production of THIRTEEN in association with WNET.ORG – one of America’s most prolific and respected public media providers.

“Glenn Gould is one of the most accomplished and celebrated classical pianists of the 20th century,” says Susan Lacy, series creator and executive producer of American Masters. “Twenty-seven years after his death, we’re still trying to understand the passion and motivation that gave rise to his genius.”

Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould unravels the layers of an iconic, but intensely private, musician who had a revolutionary understanding of the Baroque masters – and a sentimental love for Barbara Streisand and Petula Clark.

Gould followed his sensational 1955 New York City concert debut at the age of 22, by taking his talent to the Soviet Union and became an equally prodigious star there, in the midst of the Cold War. But, after a decade-long thriving international career, he defied the critics and shocked and disappointed his fans by leaving the concert circuit completely.

In 1964, he chose to focus exclusively on the recording arts, believing that this medium could create a transcendental relationship between artist and audience, overcoming the limitations of time and space, rising above the mundane and offering a communication with the eternal.

Gould proceeded to devote countless hours obsessing over every minute detail of his songs, interviews and broadcasts, sculpting sound and image and creating an intimate rapport with his audience. He used music to reach across language, culture and ideology, rediscovering Bach for a new generation – and all the while, intentionally or not, perpetuating the cloud of mystery that encircled him.

The study of a myth is actually also the study of the culture that created it. Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould is an engrossing consideration of the western cult of celebrity that surrounded this reclusive artist – the myth is humanized and we are given the opportunity to grasp the passion and inspiration that gave rise to his genius and incomparable power of expression. The contradictions between the Icon and the Iconoclast are subtly muted.

Told with the benefit of his remarkable recordings and through interviews with those who knew him best – his lover, his manager, his personal assistant, his collaborators – Gould is revealed and newly revered.

Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould is a production of White Pine Pictures in association with Bravo! a division of CTV Limited, The Biography Channel, TV Ontario, The Knowledge Network, Thirteen/WNET NEW York American Masters, ZDF Arte, SVT Swedish Television, AB, NPS Television, The Netherlands, with the participation of the Rogers Cable Network Fund, the Canadian Television Fund, and with the co-operation of The Estate of Glenn Gould. Susan Lacy is the series creator and executive producer of American Masters.

American Masters is made possible by the support of the National Endowment for the Arts and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Additional funding for American Masters is provided by Rosalind P. Walter, The Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation, Jack Rudin, Rolf and Elizabeth Rosenthal, The André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation, and public television viewers.

  • Marina Pratt

    How many of our “American Masters” are really Canadian?

  • Sean

    Do you not consider Canada as being part of North *America*?

  • Bob

    I’ve followed Glenn Gould for many years. His early death was a great loss, I believe, to the art of keyboard music: Canada is part of North America.

  • Aredee

    He concertized a lot in the states, and recorded for a U.S. label. He also wrote for U.S. publications,like the NY Times and Musical America.

  • Fred

    To Bob and Sean:

    Point taken but I say, ‘nice try’: when people see ‘American’ they see USA and do not generally think in a pan-continental fashion. No more cultural appropriation please: Glenn Gould was a global star but he was a Canadian and we are proud of him. He was one of ours: his talent was global but his birth was Canadian, He was a ‘Canadian Master’.

  • Robert

    How many “Americans”, who mean by that exclusively people from the United States, are unaware that there are THREE North American countries:

    Canada, United States of America, and the United States of Mexico?

  • Donald Burroughs

    Looking over these responses I totally concur. Gould was a Canadian Masterpiece and maybe PBS should re-consider naming the series North American Masters. I find it troubling that America somehow feels that they bestow an American re-birth or discover a performer that was by all rights a world class performer prior to his exposure in the U.S..

  • Doug

    Armando Manzanero is a well-known Mexican pianist and composer, yet I have never heard him referred to as an “American” even though Mexico is also part of North America.

  • Rich Fallis

    So let me get this right: Canada is part of North America and therefore Gould is an ‘American Master’.

    Uh-huh. Let’s go back to the Fenian raids on Canada by Americans who raped our women, destroyed our farms and generally weren’t all that pleasant.

    Or to the War of 1812, when we whipped yer butts at the Battle of Queenston Heights, burned Washington (after you torched Toronto)–conquered Detroit, and pushed the US border back half-way across Maine–sending the US Treasury into bankruptcy.

    Or up to World War 2, when we joined the fray three days after Britain.

    Or offered refuge to Vietnam war resisters.

    Yup….Canadians sure are Americans alright.

  • Jay

    Gould has certainly had influence on piano playing across the planet, and he did make many of his recordings in New York. His story certainly deserves two hours on television.

    But calling him ‘American’ is sort of a cheat. Canada celebrates him as a native (eccentric) genius, with his own Canadian stamp and a studio in Toronto’s CBC headquarters named in his honor.

    American Masters’ website (the one we’re reading now, see “About the Series”) describes past shows as “profiles of such American artists as Charlie Chaplin, James Baldwin, Helen Hayes, Andy Warhol, Charlie Parker, Aaron Copland, William Wyler, Martha Graham, Eugene O’Neill, Billie Holliday, The Group Theater, Philip Johnson, Paul Simon, Alexander Calder and Leonard Bernstein among others,,,,”

    AFIAK Chaplin was born in England, not part of this continent at all, but did the body of his work in Hollywood USA. I don’t recognize any names on their list as being either Canadian or Mexican… does anyone else?
    What I do seem to notice is most of them were known for uniquely American contributions to their art. (Maybe Graham’s was considered more international; I don’t know enough about dance. Calder had a lifelong friendship with the Spaniard Miro, but I believe most of his work was considered American as well…)

    The producers of this particular episode, White Pine Pictures, describes themselves as “…an independent Canadian film, television, and new media production company based in Toronto, Canada. … White Pine Pictures prides itself on its longtime relationships with Canadian talent…”

    So bottom line, for me: this is interesting television and certainly worthy of PBS. I intend to watch.

    But present it as “American Masters” suggests some programmers sitting around a table saying “we need to fill two hours…”.

  • Lori

    I don’t think it’s accurate to broadly label all Canadians as “American”. In common usage, America refers to the USA. Glenn Gould was born in Toronto, and died in Toronto, and was as Canadian as can be. I look forward to the film, he was an inimitable pianist and eccentric genius.

  • Suzy Doob

    AMERICA = North, Central and South AMERICA

  • Barry

    Canada may be part of North America, but it seems glaringly strange that the program omits any explanation and even acknowledgment why a series with this particular title – for distribution within the U.S. by a U.S. broadcasting organization – includes Gould. That said, I agree his early death was a great loss.

  • Max

    America takes everything.

  • Rose

    No matter how you interpret “American” – this program, and this man, are quite extraordinary. Thank you, “American Masters,” for such a beautiful portrait.

  • Stephen

    I’m a long time fan of Glenn Could. This documentary contained some insights I had not seen in other shows.

    There seem to be be some intriguing parallels here to the life of Michael Jackson. These include his, phobias, hypochondria, self-medication, and untimely death partly brought on by abuse of prescription medication, his control freak nature, and even the gloves! However, Glenn’s motivations and childhood were much different.

    Such a sad end to a gifted musician and unique personality.

  • Pierre Robineault

    What a turmoil! Glend Gould was a north american … when needed.
    How about the Mexicans, are’nt they central americans?
    America, I always thought, is a uge continent, guess who wish to call themselves the “only” Americans. on that continent?
    Therefore, to me, Glenn Gould was an American living in Canada. And so am !
    God bless me!
    And what a sensible film that was. Thank you PBS.

  • G. Brooks

    I was born in Toronto. Glenn Gould was a hero to music. Glenn Gould was a Canadian. He lived and worked in Toronto, Canada, all his life, the same city where I was born, earned a degree in piano, taught music, lived and still do live. . Why is he on “AMERICAN Masters” without your clear acknowledgement of his being a Canadian?

  • Marcia

    Thank goodness you consider Canada a part of America, otherwise we would not have gotten to see this amazing documentary! I had always marveled at Gould`s Bach, but now I have a greater appreciation of him as a warm and many faceted human being.

  • Heidi

    I was very depressed after watching this. He was not a happy man which was ironic because he created so much joy. He was a kind-hearted person and afraid of the pain of being human.

    I had only discovered his genius a few months before he died. I was devastated. What a great tragedy.

  • wartellc

    The full episode is now posted online.

  • Melinda

    Glenn Gould was apparently beloved around the world for his genius. The point that he was Canadian was emphasized over and over. And yet he was a familiar figure in New York. Let’s not belabor this trivial point: the mission of Amercan Masters is it focuses on genius…so what if he was not really American. Americans loved him too. The producers did a marvelous job opening my eyes to such a person. Really a brilliant piece.

  • domermom

    One of my alltime favorite films is 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould. This American Masters episode lovingly encapsulates the film by filling in holes that left me wondering what a particular “short film” was about. There’s one “short film” that does nothing but pan in on Gould when he’s sitting in that chair … it’s a very intense part of the film and it was cool to see where that came from.

    One of the best epi’s of American Masters I’ve ever seen.

  • Anabonrmal

    I didn’t watch the show because I can’t stand to watch or hear Gould. Was it ever mentioned that he probably had Asperger’s Syndrome? Without realizing that, your efforts to understand him are futile guess work.

  • Elliot Rosewater

    How pitiful – how pathetic – that discussion of such an excellent show about such a fascinating man put on by such a quality title could degenrate into a discussion of whether or not Canada is in North America. Among countless others, the American Masters series includes John Lenon, Albert Einstein and the Cuban Israel “Cachao” Lopez, none of whom one would consider…United Statians? Statese? One would need to be drinking heavily and passing out frequently to miss the fact that Mr Gould was Canadian and made that his home throughout his life.

  • rf318

    Does anybody know the name of the chamber piece for piano and strings that was excerpted? It was not listed in the credits. Thanks.

  • kavanava

    Maybe they mean American continent not American as in US. They did make it clear he was Canadian and his love for Canada was shown at the beginning of the documentary. I think they just wanted to honor a great artist. Someone like Glenn Gould belongs to the universe.

    From the comments people only seem to think he was a sad person. I felt he was a lovable kid having fun, but wanted to do things on his own terms. We should be grateful he was in our presence. That he became isolated and his own worst enemy often comes with fame/celebrity, because you just can’t live a normal life after that. Don’t forget that some of the image was manufactured by Gould himself for his own reasons too.

    He was loved by so many and affected so many people, artists, and musicians, never harmed anyone and only brought love. What could be a better life? So what if he wasn’t perfect. Thank you to PBS for showing this documentary. I had not listened to Glenn Gould in awhile and it reminded me how much I love his music.

  • Don

    I find it ironic that Canadians are offended that an American Masters would feature Glenn Gould. As an American (as in United States of “America”), I, too, was offended at his being featured. I kept waiting throughout the program for some kind of American hook, and it never came. Glenn Gould was Canadian through and through, right down to his Scottish Presby roots!

    To my knowledge, American Masters has been a show focusing on US masters, not broadly defined by the continent and, while I am by no means xenophobic, I think PBS should have made it clear up front that they were running out of Americans to feature and would now begin featuring pan-Americans. Cheers!

  • Friedman Family

    One gets a good sense of the man from watching the movie.

    It was a loss for him to pass away at such an earlier age.

  • EK

    I just watched this program online. What a wonderful, intriguing and thoughtful look at a master of music such as Glenn Gould. Enjoyed it immensely! The archival footage was worth the watch and it’s integration into the whole was done so well. Aside from the public televised and filmed footage, who took the personal photos such as the ones of Gould and Cornelia Foss together? Thank you PBS for showing such quality programs.

  • Roberto

    Many of we Canadians would like to be American (not just North American) – after all – the 51st state could temper the political mood of the US and think of the resources! Only if! Hopefully we are close enough that a Canadian artist could be showcased on an American Masters programme – after all, as has been pointed out, there are three (north) American countries and we have influenced one another profoundly.

  • Michael R Murphy

    What people don’t realize about this American/Canadian on American Masters thing is that this film was
    “in the can”, or co-comissioned by CTV/Bravo and PBS. It was a matter of American Public Broadcasting having the airtime to fill and a suitable program being around to fill it. Glenn Gould not American? Enh,its an interesting personality and it fits the program profile of the series-let’s run it anyway. THAT would have been the thinking of the programmers at WNET/PBS.
    Hence,Canadian Glenn Gould being on American Masters. Makes sense to me! And Glenn Gould is one of my heros. One of the greatest pianists of all time,period. Thank God we have the recordings AND don’t forget
    The Idea Of North. He cared about being a sonic artist as well. A genius we are still trying to understand,
    and I get so mad to think that he can be dismissed as “that weirdo who played piano”. People all around the world know the greatness of Glenn Gould,a Canadian-a world citizen we can all pe proud of!!

  • Janschie

    Glenn Gould was related to Edvard Grieg …. so why not Norwegian Canada America Master? North America IS “America” ..North, South, Central …… named after Amerigo Vespucci … and save American First Nations (Indians) … every modern day “American” is descended from some Non-American locale …. genius knows no borders.

  • Ken

    It seems to me, Neil Young was also an ‘American Master”.

  • Rich

    Well…Einstein, Cachao, . . It’s obvious this series is not defining “American” as meaning hailing from the United States. It may well be that the requirement is that the artist has to be greatly influenced from/by american sensibilities, and identify themselves most strongly with any of the “americas” in order to qualify.

  • GlenSissons

    You people are no better than the clowns comments on youtube. For shame…
    -an embarrassed Canadian.

  • Tim The Canuck

    It’s a silly argument, and maybe not worth a whole lot. But it’s also a fact that Glen Gould was not an American. Nobody ever refers to Canadians as Americans — any more than they call South Americans ‘Americans’ or Mexicans “Americans”. If I try telling the US Customs officers I’m an “American” next time they ask me at the border, I can expect some harsh looks and terse treatment, I can tell you that.

    Sure, many people from Canada and around the world have hit it big in New York or Hollywood, etc. Canada’s had a long chain of entertainment stars, all the way back to Mary Pickford, aka ‘America’s Sweetheart”. But nobody calls Canucks ‘American’ (unless they’re trying to win a petty hair-splitting argument like this one). As much as Glen Gould deserves all the acclaim he gets, and a world-wide audience, featuring him on a show specifically dedicated to ‘American Masters’ just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, and instead smacks of just trying to fill time and save some bucks by buying an existing Canadian documentary.

    I’m glad you PBS viewers enjoy Gould’s music. But if you’re gonna start calling him ‘American’, then make sure I get a free pass at the airport and a lower tax rate next time I ask for it… On second thought, skip the requests. I’m pretty happy being a Canadian.

  • James Walsh

    Your Passport says who U really are. Lets all be cool with each other ..Canada is a great country and we love it – if only I could figure out how to take the weather up north with me. FYI: There’s nothing to fight about really. Canada is the only country in the world that’s debt free. Things are good in Toronto. Glenn Gould plays great. We enjoy his talents, it but his life is not ours. We admire his talent but we don’t live in there with him.

    Rolling Stone called Neil Young the “Last American Hero” and he is truly a great artist and a cool musician. It’s o.k. – America is our friend… and guess what ? – my wife is American. To me, she is “America’s Sweetheart”. That much is true. She does a nice cover of Neil’s song “Only Love Can Break Your Heart”. So sweet it made me smile.

  • Glen Chaddock

    I think They should make a movie about his life and have Ethan Hawke play Glenn.

  • Sandra

    I think Billy Bob Thornton would make a good Gould.


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