Two Musics in Mind: Bach meets Gould

A Short Play by Christopher Dawes with Music by J.S. Bach and Peter Tiefenbach

Commissioned by the Glenn Gould Gathering (Toronto Spetmber 1999) with the support of Stanley Witkin in honour of the birthday of Roslyn Witkin; first performed September 24, 1999 and broadcast nationally by the CBC Radio 2 September 26

Bach: Peter Tiefenbach

Gould: Christopher Dawes

Direction: John Van Burek (Pleaides Theatre, Toronto, Canada)
Radio Producer: Neil Crory (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)


On a fall afternoon in 1970, Glenn Gould, age 38, encounters Johann Sebastian Bach in the organ loft of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Toronto.

In his post-live performance career, Gould enters the church not for musical, touristic or devotional reasons, but with an over-the-shoulder analog tape recorder, researching a never-to-be-completed Solitude documentary, after the premise of The Idea of North and The Latecomers. Gould’s only explicitly stated relationship with the church is one of peace and comfort, and as the state of artistic and personal solitude also provides these things for him, he has brought his continuing search here. With the humourous but thought-provoking aid of a ‘caretaker’ with a curious similarity to J.S. Bach, he discovers the raised and removed organ loft as a point of musical solitude, and the instrument contained therein as a vehicle for the music which so defined him.

Their discussion is friendly, although competitive; humorous but sometimes passionate. The emotional climax lies in Bach’s feelings about Gould’s appropriation of his musical statements of faith (though secular in nature, Bach views all his music as divinely inspired), and Gould’s insistence on treating them as works of intellect awaiting a performer’s re-creative, and not necessarily faithful or even informed, signature. 

The piece examines both Gould’s known relationship with the organ and a hypothetical relationship he might have had with Bach, had the two had ever met. 

The two also “improvise” an impromptu 4-hands Fugue (by Peter Tiefenbach) on Petula Clark’s “Downtown”.

Two Musics in Mind is above all intended to be a very Gouldian drama following the example of many such humorous pieces prepared by Gould for the CBC, and a statement to the effect that pure, informed conjecture has some place in illuminating the persons and premises of the past… and can be perhaps its own self-entered plea against prosecution on the grounds of being anything more than it is.