One of the many pleasures I have as a contributing author here at The Glenn Gould Foundation, involves the opportunity to interview various individuals who knew and/or worked closely with Glenn Gould. Needless to say, October 31, 2008 proved to be a very memorable day, for not only did it happen to be my first Halloween in Toronto, but also – and more importantly – it was my first meeting with Lorne Tulk. Without doubt, Lorne is one of the kindest, most attentive and thoughtful individuals I have ever met. We began our day – in true Gouldian style – at a restaurant near St. Clair West & Bathurst Street here in Toronto, before migrating to Fran’s restaurant, a favourite of Glenn. The following recollections on a life spent in collaboration with Glenn Gould, will surely offer a rare treat as to how Glenn came to be known by those closest to him.
As many of you may know, Lorne worked as a technician for CBC Radio in Toronto, a job that brought him into contact with numerous high profiled and important people such as political figures, dignitaries, as well as many entertainment personalities from writers and actors, to artists and musicians of all types. As Lorne explained, “the majority of these people had a special kind of sensitivity that, along with their creative skills, needed to be addressed if productivity was to be achieved.”
High on the list of very creative entertainers who became connected with Lorne, was Glenn Gould. The match produced a sizeable output of some of the most original – and perhaps quite memorable – productions of the twentieth century. Lorne worked on most, if not all of Glenn’s radio work, as well as assisting with some of Glenn’s television appearances. He also collaborated on all (save the very early Schoenberg) of the documentary compositions, as well as being involved with most of the commercial recordings that Glenn made for Masterworks (the Classical division of Columbia Records, based in New York and now known as Sony.) The two enjoyed a friendship that lasted for over thirty years, Glenn having thought of Lorne as a younger brother.
“I met Glenn a second time, several years after I started working for the CBC. The meeting developed into a strong working relationship, which in turn produced what would turn out to be a very strong and lasting friendship. It’s true that Glenn suggested, ‘…if possible, he would very much like for us to become brothers.’ I didn’t really give too much credence to this, but rather I just thought it was Glenn approving of our ability to work well together. Glenn however, was persistent. Several times over the next few months he continued to propose the notion. Each time I would just simply try to shrug it off. Finally he made it quite clear that he was serious by suggesting that we go to his lawyers office, or go down to City Hall tomorrow perhaps, or some time in the very near future, to make this (having me officially named as his brother) legal. Well, this made me sit up and take notice…he really was serious! Now I had a dilemma. What to do?
“So without thinking too deeply, I pointed out to Glenn that ‘...I have three brothers, a twin sister, a mother and father, all of whom should also have some say about this!’ His response (as I came to learn) was so ‘Glenn’. He said, ‘…that is so dear.’ Glenn never brought the subject up again, though it was clear to me that he really did want siblings. Thus I became the brother he never had, much in the same way that Glenn’s cousin, Jessie was more like a sister.”
Lorne and I spent a good deal of time talking about The Idea of North, or simply, ‘North’ as he and Glenn referred to it. “Glenn had every word of those documentaries (The Solitude Trilogy) in his head,” remarked Lorne. “Before he ever committed anything to paper, it was complete in his mind. It is quite possible that perhaps and/or because of the process of making ‘North’, the seeds for ‘The Latecomers’ – the second of the Trilogy, which we referred to simply as ‘Newfoundland’ – began germinating in his mind, and I suspect the same was probably also true for the Mennonite’s (‘The Quiet in the Land’).
“Glenn presented the The Solitude Trilogy using three forms of isolation: ‘The Idea of North’ explored a kind of geographical isolation, where you’re physically alone and often by yourself; ‘The Latecomers’ on the other hand, involved a communal kind of isolation, where whole communities exist in isolation from one another; ‘The Quiet in the Land’ had to do with more of a religious or spiritual type of isolation, where people are isolated by choice and for a specific reason.
“The interaction between Glenn and the various ‘characters’ in The Solitude Trilogy reflected a compulsive desire on his part, to be in complete control. Glenn was the kind of interviewer, who, when asking a question – which might take five or ten minutes – would explain (with elaborate details) what he expected. In fact, he practically gave the answer that he wanted to hear!”
Before The Solitude Trilogy, Lorne worked with Glenn on a documentary about Petula Clark, the British pop idol of the 1960’s. “Glenn liked her,” remarked Lorne. “In this twenty plus minute documentary, he quite literally puts her under a microscope, dissecting completely, every ounce of her music, and sometimes even her character as well as her arranger, Tony Hatch. I heard a lot of Downtown during those days [laughs]. Several years before my CBC days, Glenn also did a documentary on Arnold Schoenberg. He did another documentary on the composer years later, during the centennial of the composer in 1974, though I was only a peripheral player for that.”
During the course of our delightful afternoon together, Lorne shared with me many heart-warming anecdotes about the social side of Glenn Gould, a dimension that very few had the privilege of knowing. “He was both a good listener, and at the same time – if it’s possible – an incessant talker, because when he made suggestions, they were intelligent and well thought out. This indicated the depth of his listening ability. By the way, his suggestions were (for obvious reasons) usually accepted. He really was brilliant!
“I have often heard people say that Glenn was lonely. I cannot agree with that statement. I would say he was alone, and a loner, but lonely? No, I don’t think so. To me, Glenn always seemed to be pleased and grateful for what he was, and believe me, he definitely knew who and where he was. He was like a sponge. He absorbed everything around him. For example, after a week, no, after only a few hours, in one of our early studio bookings, he’d end up knowing more about that studio than I did! Well, almost. He was forever asking questions. He was interested in everything, and particularly in what ‘you’ (me) had to say. Another example: He’d often encourage you to become involved, or in some cases, say or do something that would help develop your ideas so that you too could contribute to a given project. Glenn was always interested in what you/we had to offer, even if you were just an innocent bystander. He genuinely believed that the good we do, will eventually come back. It helps us to grow (not to mention the added affect it might have on the final product.) This was Glenn! Believe me when I say that Mr. Glenn worked very hard every minute of everyday at being good.”
With his penchant for acts of humanitarianism, I wondered what Glenn might have thought about the whole ‘green’ movement. “I don’t know that he would have been ‘into’ it,” remarked Lorne, “but I’m sure he would have believed favourably in the whole idea of a green environment. I’m not so sure, but that we didn’t mention something of this nature during our car conversations. Glenn really didn’t belong to groups or take part in them. Glenn was never a joiner. It’s that simple!
“Glenn was very much a little boy with big ideas. He absolutely adored children too. You know, I remember when he got the phone in his car. Back in those days, (the late-1960’s) this was a big deal. The contraption took up most of his trunk, and must have cost a fortune. Nevertheless, he would telephone from right outside the house, and ask for one of the children (we had a daughter and son). In typical Glenn fashion, he would start off with: ‘Guess what I did today?’ The children, even at their tender ages, were on to Glenn’s tricks. Anyway, Glenn would maintain a conversation until we opened the door, and they could see him sitting in his car out front. For Glenn, that was real fun stuff [laughs]…not the actual phoning, but rather, the reaction of the kids. That’s what moved Glenn. He’d then come inside, have a coffee, and talk with the children.”
Knowing how much Glenn loved talking on the phone, I decided to ask Lorne how he might have responded to the age of communication, namely the era of the cell phone. “I think he definitely would have been into cell phones. They are certainly an improvement on the aforementioned one installed in his car. Actually, the phone that he had put in his car was intended to be a kind of safety precaution. I may have failed to mention that Glenn had an inner ear problem, which caused him to lose his balance. He was terrified about having an attack while driving. So, yes he would definitely have approved of cell phones!
“Speaking of cars – and he’d had several over the years, as you know – he actually had names for every one of them. For example, the last one he called ‘Longfellow’, and I remember a Pontiac called ‘Lance’. Oh and by the way, Glenn was – contrary to popular belief – a splendid driver! Yes, he tended to be fast, but believe me he was as dexterous behind the wheel as he was behind the keyboard. He knew ‘exactly’ where his car was on the road, and what he could do with it. Furthermore, he was extremely conscious of what it would do for him. Glenn loved going on long excursions, driving along lonely roads, especially in the early morning. Not once did I ever feel threatened or unsafe when Glenn was driving, and Glenn would drive me home almost every night. Oh, and just for the record, during the wee small hours, he tended to drive quite slow and relaxed.
“Often when we went to the house, I’d make him scrambled eggs. Most of the time though we’d just park out front and talk for hours. It’s difficult to try and recall what specifically we talked about – this occurred almost every night over the course of several years – but the conversations went in every direction. Sometimes we’d discuss a particular news item that caught our attention that day, or perhaps politics, a politician, religion, or a particular theory. Whatever it was it was always interesting...and it would – of course – last for hours.”
Amidst all of the publications that have been put out in the years following the death of Glenn in 1982, I wondered whether or not Lorne ever considered him to be over‐rated in any way. Lorne replied by saying that: “Well, biased as I am, I’m not sure I can answer that [laughs]. People often use the word ‘genius’ when describing Glenn, and I’m not sure that’s a completely accurate description of him. ‘Genius’ implies ‘singular of purpose’, and Glenn was just too multi- directional. Being ‘single minded’ just wasn’t a ‘Glenn’ thing. He seemed to be everywhere, and all at the same time.”
Our readers may not be aware of the fact that Glenn named as his beneficiaries, the Toronto Humane Society, and The Salvation Army. “He definitely was a humanitarian,” remarked Lorne. He very much wanted – and at all times when the occasion permitted him – to help those who had less than he. I think Glenn is particularly well known for his love and/or attachment to anything having to do with animals. You know, Glenn would not even kill an ant. He was constantly afraid of stepping on – and possibly killing – any type of small creature and so he’d walk slightly bent forward in order to be on the lookout…that is, in order to see what was underfoot. That’s the Glenn that few knew. I was indeed privileged.”
Lorne Tulk began working at a very young age in his father’s recording studio. Since then he has been involved with entertainment for five decades, working in theatre, film, and television, but mostly in radio broadcasting.
Thirty-eight of those years were spent with the technical department of CBC radio in Toronto. His career has taken him from cheap rooming houses to encounters with royalty, from the hallowed halls of academia to the highly charged world of news and current affairs and into the world of drama, from the excitement of sports, to the depths of the ocean (he once had an assignment on a British nuclear submarine). He has worked with some of the most outstanding people of the 20th century, brushing shoulders with composers, poets, scientists and politicians.
A large percentage of his time was spent mixing documentaries for the CBC radio program, “Ideas.” It was here that he reestablished his relationship with Glenn Gould. (They actually met in 1950). It should not be surprising then, to appreciate that Tulk spent a considerable amount of time with Gould. He collaborated on many of Glenn’s radio documentaries, films and worked on a lot of Glenn’s international recordings. They developed a very strong and deep personal friendship, which lasted until the pianist’s death in 1982. Tulk has also served in a supervisory capacity, with CBC’s Operations Department.
After retiring in 1996, he became interested in digital audio. Lorne and his wife Melva live in Toronto. They have two children, a daughter Lynn, a son Dana, along with three grandchildren.
Born in Peace River, Alberta, Penny Johnson is currently a contributing author for The Glenn Gould Foundation, in addition to being on the faculty of the Young Artists Performance Academy at the Royal Conservatory of Music. She holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Piano Performance from the Manhattan School of Music, as well as a Master of Music degree and a Bachelor of Music degree from the Eastman School of Music. Her principal teachers include Constance Keene and Barry Snyder. In addition to her work as a teacher and writer, Penny is active as a performer and will be travelling to France this summer to study with Jean-Paul Sevilla. She is particularly interested in the piano music of Sergei Rachmaninoff, Maurice Ravel, and J. S. Bach, and has performed the entire Art of Fugue, complete with an ending that she wrote for the final, unfinished movement. Her doctoral dissertation focused on the Polish pianist, Ignacy Jan Paderewski and the Golden Age of the Piano. Penny currently lives in Toronto.