Going North: Glenn Gould, Stars and the Authentic Self

Emilie Hurst

Abstract


On December 28th, 1967, CBC aired an hour long documentary labelled the The Idea of North as part of its yearlong Canadian centennial celebration. Conceived by the well-known Canadian pianist Glenn Gould, the piece puts the voices of five speakers in dialogue by splicing and juxtaposing the text of the five, creating an aural collage which highlights common themes. The end result forms what Gould termed “Contrapuntal radio,” a format he would employ again in the next two installment of The Solitude Trilogy. A brief fragment from this documentary is later sampled by Canadian indie bad Stars, to open their 2012 album The North. Whether or not Stars were overtly influenced by Glenn Gould’s sound documentary is unclear. What I would like to suggests is that like The Idea of North, the album participates in a long Canadian tradition of engaging with northern themes, and thus contribute to the discursive formation of the North. Similar to the way in Gould juxtaposed the voices of his subjects, I will be taking the opening citation of The North as an invitation to put the two works in dialogue and argue that by employing a Northern discourse, often steeped in nostalgia, Stars are able to position themselves as an authentic indie band. 


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