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Share And Comment On Quotations About Music, Performers, Composers, Composition, Performance, Or By Composers, By Performers, By Conductors, Etc.


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Here are some that I would like to share to start this thread:


1. "Shame on the blind men who took Beethoven for a deaf man!" Wilhelm von Lenz (1809 - 83)


2. "They want me to compose in a different way; I could, but I must not." Anton Bruckner (1824-96)


3. "This boy will cause us all to be forgotten." German composer Johann Adolf Hasse (1699-1783), about the 15-year old Mozart.



My comments:


Concerning the third quotation: What a prophetic thing to say!


Concerning the second: Genius recognizes itself!


Concerning the first: Talk about metaphoric blindness and deafness!

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I think it's good for the composer to teach because you always have new students and you have to begin at the beginning and make things clear.

John Corigliano

Without craftsmanship, inspiration is a mere reed shaken in the wind.

Johannes Brahms

Young people can learn from my example that something can come from nothing. What I have become is the result of my hard efforts.

Joseph Haydn

Edited by Sojar Voglar
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"My time is not yet passed and I can still work".



Comment: one can and should never stop struggling to improve.


"... music is supra-personal and super-real and as such beyond verbal meanings and verbal descriptions (...). Music expresses itself".



Comment: to see music as nothing but personal expression is too narrow.


"There is such a thing as inspiration - but it must find you working".



Comment: A work of genius is the result of a drop of inspiration falling into a pool of knowledge.

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"It's a funny thing Alice, dying is just the way I composed it in Tod und Verklärung."

~ Richard Strauss


"Can you make this sound like an orange?"

~John Lennon, to George Martin about 'I Am the Walrus'


"They missed the point. There’s no such thing as silence. What they thought was silence, because they didn’t know how to listen, was full of accidental sounds. You could hear the wind stirring outside during the first movement. During the second, raindrops began pattering the roof, and during the third the people themselves made all kinds of interesting sounds as they talked or walked out."

~ John Cage, about 4'33"

(gotta love this guy's sarcasm)

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"Madam, you have between your legs an instrument capable of giving pleasure to thousands - and all you can do is scratch it" - Sir Thomas Beecham


It's pretty self-explanatory...


I think it's unfair not to mention that that remark was said during an orchestral rehearsal to a cellist!

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Guest Kibbletime

"I believe art is born, not of 'I can' but of 'I must'" - Arnold Schoenberg
"Only when I experience intensely do I compose; only when I compose do I experience intensely." - Gustav Mahler


"Everything beautiful is difficult, the short the most difficult." -  Robert Schumann
"It is not hard to compose, but what is fabulously hard is to leave the superfluous notes under the table." - Johannes Brahms


"Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius." - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart


"Melody... is the greatest of divine gifts, not to be compared with any other." - Richard Strauss
"How can I compose without melody?" - Sergei Rachmaninoff

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Quote: 'It may be that an artist has to believe in something, even in nonsense, in order to stimulate the mysterious process of creation. The listener does not have to share his beliefs. One does not have to be a Christian to understand and enjoy Bach, an Italian nationalist to appreciate Verdi, a Theosophist  to like Scriabin, a Soviet-style communist to admire Shostakovitch. In 1856 Wagner told the King of Saxony that his [aggressively anti-Semitic] writings were a sort of poison he had to get out of his system.' ('Richard Wagner', Watson, pg 317.)


Comment: Watson knew this to be a controversial statement, and I would guess it still is for some people. Though whenever I listen to music, everything besides it seems like some kind of add-on or embellishment, the meaning of which is overpowered and made largely immaterial. So I'm inclined to agree with Watson, even when a Beckmesser comes on stage or shows up in a song, that ideology shouldn't be read into music and that music should be judged on its own terms. 


Quote: 'Indeed, anything the Viennese wished to remain unchanged, which was most everything, was labeled as "tradition" in order to shelter it from the winds of change. This prompted Mahler's dictum "Tradition ist bloss Schlamperei [Tradition is only sloppiness]".' ('Mahler', Gartenberg, pgs 74-75.) (Toscanini: 'Tradition was "the last bad performance".' Ibid.)


Comment: The only reason I wrote this down in my workbook at all was to be able to nicely castigate a few musical reactionaries who, maybe offhandedly, insisted that 'true' music ended, say, in 1890 or whatever date. Arrgh! Very annoying thing to hear. And I usually only hear it from people who haven't really studied music or who have only been studying a short time and just listen casually - so no animosity here, I don't think - who, one person when asked if they knew any twentieth century composers, responded with The Beatles and Paramore (a twenty-first century band who started in 2004). Anyway...I sigh at the musically deficient. 


Quote: 'After all, we have no right to require that an artist's whole gift should consist of masterpieces. We do not judge Wordsworth by his stories of the nursery, or Shelley by his two attempts at burlesque; we take the "Ode" and the "Sonnets", "Prometheus" and "Adonais", and let the failures go. In like manner we can discard some of Schumann's compositions... but when we have done so there will still be left a legacy that will enrich Music to the end of the world. It matters little whether his monument be large or small; in either case it is imperishable.' ('Studies in Modern Music', Hadow, quoted from Schauffler's 'Florestan', pg 395.)


Comment: A fair statement, I think. Though not judging a composer by the number of failures, I think we tend to judge by the number of successes - which can be pretty devastating for a number of composers. 


Quote: 'Man, help thyself!' ('Beethoven', Schauffler.)


Comment: Mhm.

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"...that scoundrel Brahms. What a giftless bastard! It annoys me that this self-inflated mediocrity is hailed as a genius."



Comment: when a composer is plainly bad, there's usually near-unanimity about the fact. But even the most acclaimed and talented composers can grossly fail to see why another composer's work is successful and popular. And this actually tells much more about the one doing the bashing than about the one receiving it ;) .


Specially quoted with Mr. Greenberg in mind.

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Time for non made-up quotes?


"Respectable people do not make love or write music as a career".



"... in the end you find out how good Brahms is and how bad you are".

Elliott Carter


"Writing tonal music now, you are not writing into the 19th Century".

G. Bryars


"Never be ashamed to write a melody that people remembers".

B. Bacharach




"No one gives a @#%$ about a Bluejay. Let's have some beers instead".

George Steinbrenner

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