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

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

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

Quotations about music: unspeakable until recently.

Plato wrote, “Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” Other people have made similar comments in the millennia since then. Nowadays, people well versed in intellectual and social history can read comments about music and, without knowing who said them first, can discern approximately when they were made. Most of us can’t do that, but here are some quotations about music that probably wouldn’t puzzle anyone. Even if I had left out who said what, could anyone have made … Continue reading

10 quotations by jazz masters

No particular music makes me feel nostalgic. If it’s great, it just keeps me in the present moment. That level of music is like a classic story, like the Iliad–something so perfect it can never be old. ~ Wynton Marsalis You can study orchestration, you can study harmony and theory and everything else, but melodies come straight from God. ~ Quincy Jones We all do “do, re, mi,” but you have to find the other notes yourself. ~ Louis Armstrong Music is your own experience, your own thoughts, your wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of … Continue reading

Non-musicians on music: 10 quotations

Just as no one has to be a musician to listen to and enjoy music, no one has to be a musician to have interesting, informative, and even provocative things to say about it. Here are ten quotations to demonstrate that truth: Music with dinner is an insult both to the cook and the violinist. ~ G. K. Chesterton Military justice is to justice what military music is to music. ~ Groucho Marx Music is a discipline, and a mistress of order and good manners, she makes the people milder and gentler, more moral and more reasonable. ~ Martin Luther … Continue reading