Gould, synethesia, and autism

I fell so much in love with Glenn Gould’s version of Bach’s Goldberg Variations when I was in my early twenties. For some perverse reason I purchased his recording of Mozart’s Piano Sonatas. Why would I want to purchase one of the more mainstream recordings like Barenboim’s or Eschenbach’s? The reviews on Amazon at the time were that this was a very “difficult” recording, with Gould rendering some of the pieces in an indosyncratic or even contemptous fashion. 

Listening to the recording again – I admit to listening only every few years – I am struck by the choices he made. For example, to my Loony Tunes trained ears, Sonata 16 in C major, K545, was one I would have expected Gould to slash – given that I recall the piece from a cartoon performance by Bugs, or Sylvester. This is played in a straightforward, respectful style.  But many of the other pieces are oddly mashed and mangled – though in some cases beautifully so.

I was drawn to re-listen to the recording based upon some recent research linking synaethesia to the same area on chromosome 2 that has been linked with autism. A good non-technical description of the research is here autism/synaesthesia

Some folks have speculated that Gould was autistic – hence my thought of him once I read the of the autism/synaethesia shared linkage. Others have speculated that he would more properly fit into the Asperger’s Syndrome area. I have not heard that Gould was a synethete – of course the genetic linkage does not mean that they necessarily are both present in the same person.

As our population grows, the rate at which we evolve increases. I wonder if this has any relationship to the increases in Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome reported in Silicon Valley. I believe that Autism and its related syndromes are being overdiagnosed – like ADD/ADHD – but an overdiagnosis does not mean that the frequency isn’t increasing.

I think I need to read The 10,000 Year Explosion.

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