What is music? Classical composer quotes




You know what music is when you hear it. Then again, someone else might have a completely different idea. One person’s music is another person’s noise. So what is music? And where does it come from? It’s not as if anyone can actually define it, but composers have expressed their opinions. What did they think they were doing? Here are some famous composers’ quotes … Continue reading

Composers: quotations about other composers




As a lover of classical music, you enjoy the music of many composers, but dislike others. Composers are no different, except that they are required to study other composers’ music carefully whether they like it or not, both their contemporaries and generations of earlier composers. Perhaps you have never heard of Brian Ferneyhough. Living composers are little known to today’s public, but he made the observation more eloquently than I can: “Composers dialogue – and obsessively, bitterly argue – with other composers, often over the span of several centuries.” … Continue reading

5 great stories about great composers




It is quite possible to enjoy or appreciate music, or any other artform, without knowing anything about the person who created it. But in whatever form, art is a human creation. Real people composed classical music. Real people have personalities, and knowing something about those personalities can put a human face on the music and rescue it from being a mere object. Enjoy these glimpses into moments in the lives of the people whose music brings so much pleasure. Franz Schubert Between March 1811 and October 1828, Schubert wrote more than 600 songs, not to mention symphonies, church music, operas, … Continue reading

A literary dozen: quotations about music




According to Aaron Copland, “If a literary man puts together two words about music, one of them will be wrong.” What do you think about the following examples? Take a music bath once or twice a week for a few seasons, and you will find that it is to the soul what the water bath is to the body. – Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. Music with dinner is an insult both to the cook and the violinist – G. K. Chesterton Of all noises, I think music is the least disagreeable. – Samuel Johnson Beethoven always sounds to me like … Continue reading

College students and music




I remember hearing about a student who turned in his final examination paper after only half an hour. He had not written answers to any of the questions. He only drew a tomb stone, with the epitaph: “sacred to the memory, which leaves me at times like this.” Here are some comments on tests and papers from students who might as well have followed his example. Enjoy! Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik is the product of the mad genius who struggled to find work, and keep his pants on. Michael Jackson brought back dancing, which still exists today. Composers of the … Continue reading

Unlikely greatness: Joseph Haydn as a child




In the middle of the eighteenth century, peasant boys born in villages tended to remain peasant villagers for the rest of their lives. Musicians of any social class usually came from musical families. Joseph Haydn, born to a wheelwright and a cook in the Austrian village of Rohrau, seems an unlikely candidate to become a musician at all, let alone become wealthy and internationally famous. His father, Mathias, could not read music, but learned to play the harp by ear. Singing songs while playing the harp, or playing harp while the family sang, was a favorite pastime. Visitors might also … Continue reading

What they say about the piano




Life is like a piano… What you get out of it depends on how you play it. ~Author Unknown The piano is the social instrument par excellence… drawing-room furniture, a sign of bourgeois prosperity, the most massive of the devices by which the young are tortured in the name of education and the grown-up in the name of entertainment. ~Jacques Barzun PIANO, n. A parlor utensil for subduing the impenitent visitor. It is operated by pressing the keys of the machine and the spirits of the audience. ~Ambrose Bierce Life can’t be all bad when for ten dollars you can … Continue reading

25 quotations on music




I started out looking for a comment I remember reading about music and humor and couldn’t find it. I wound up collecting more musical quotations to use on Twitter. I might as well share some of them here–especially some too long to tweet. Enjoy! It’s easy to play any musical instrument: all you have to do is touch the right key at the right time and the instrument will play itself. — J. S. Bach A composer is a guy who goes around forcing his will on unsuspecting air molecules, often with the assistance of unsuspecting musicians. — Frank Zappa … Continue reading

Quotations on sound and silence




A music appreciation textbook I used to use defined music as sound and silence, organized in time. That’s an awfully broad definition, but it’s right to include silence. Musicians and philosophers have pointed out the relationship between music and silence almost since the beginning of writing about music at all. Here is a selection of quotations. Music is the silence between the notes ~Claude Debussy A painter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence. ~Leopold Stokowski The notes I handle no better than many pianists. But the pauses between the notes – ah, that is where … Continue reading

America’s top ten musical Presidents




The current presidential election has already outstayed its welcome well before the primaries are even over. Perhaps I can offer some musical diversion. President Obama has broken into song on a couple of recent occasions, and Billboard ran a list of five other Presidents with varying levels of musical accomplishment. Some references to it say that Billboard put Obama at the top of the list. The list is in reverse chronological order, with the very musical but very early President Thomas Jefferson at the bottom. Still, at worst Obama fared better with his foray into music than Jimmy Carter did. … Continue reading