06. February 2005 · Comments Off on Music Quotes · Categories: imported

The quotes below are things I’ve found on the internet or in books. There is certainly a possibility for error here. If you see any misquotes or erroneous information don’t hesitate to email me at pattyoboe [at] me [dot] com .

Oh … sometimes the connection to music isn’t direct. I’m sure you can still figure it out.


In life as in the dance: Grace glides on blistered feet.
-Alice Abram

There are high spots in all of our lives and most of them have come about through encouragement from someone else. I don’t care how great, how famous or successful a man or woman may be, each hungers for applause.
-George Matthew Adams

In our street, we have friends with lots in common. We discuss new books, films, popular culture, politics – everything except serious music. That shuts everyone up. I don’t think they even know what I do.
-John Adams

Music goes beyond words in its power to express human emotion. It is both the form and the content of human experience, being both exquisitely precise and richly ambiguous. For children, it constitutes the ultimate education and preparation for life.
-John Adams

The jury is out on this piece. I just don’t know about it. Of course, I’m the next to the most severe critic of my music, the most severe being my son. I like parts of it very, very much. Other things in it I’m unconvinced by. I shouldn’t be giving myself bad press, but I’m being very honest. …
-John Adams

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.
-Scott Adams

Music, the greatest good that mortals know,
And all of heaven we have below.

-Joseph Addison

I can’t listen to that much Wagner. I start getting the urge to conquer Poland.
-Woody Allen (1935 – )

Opera is like a husband with a foreign title: expensive to support, hard to understand, and therefore a supreme social challenge.
-Cleveland Amory

I wish to share and pass down some of my generation’s traits, and encourage young people to create their own art, music, and literature.
-David Amram

Classical music is an interest of bloodsucking snobs.
-anaxagoras here

Where words fail, music speaks.
-Hans Christian Andersen

It might work with one orchestra, and the next orchestra — the oboe player might not get it. It’s different every time, but some of the orchestras do end up enjoying it and having a great time.
-Ian Anderson

I don’t mind what language an opera is sung in so long as it is the language I don’t understand.
-Sir Edward Appleton

The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.

The flute is not an instrument with a good moral effect. It is too exciting.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.

Music exalts each joy, allays each grief, expels diseases, softens every pain, subdues the rage of poison, and the plague.
-John Armstrong, Scottish poet and physician, Art of Preserving Health (bk. IV, l. 512)

All music is folk music. I ain’t never heard no horse sing a song.”
-Louis Armstrong

If ya ain’t got it in ya, ya can’t blow it out.
-Louis Armstrong

If a piece of music is under three minutes long, it’s rock. Over three minutes, it’s classical.
-Robert Ashley (composer)

A long apprenticeship is the most logical way to success. The only alternative is overnight stardom, but I can’t give you a formula for that.
-Chet Atkins

Music is the best means we have of digesting time.
-W.H. Auden

A verbal art like poetry is reflective; it stops to think. Music is immediate, it goes on to become.
-W. H. Auden


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.
-Johann Sebastian Bach

The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.
-Johann Sebastian Bach

Love is like a violin. The music may stop now and then, but the strings remain forever.
-June Masters Bacher

Sometimes he commented on our tempos. We’d say that we were only following his own metronome marks, and his reply was, ‘My metronome at home is broken. Don’t pay any attention to my metronome marks.’
-Valentin Baerlinksy, cellist of the Borodin Quartet, talking about Shostakovich

Opera is for giving you goose bumps, for making the hair stand up on the back of your neck, for making you cry.
-Dr. Barbara Baker

In the arts, virtuosity still matters.
-Andrew Bales

I always maintain that playing in an orchestra intelligently is the best school for democracy. If you play a solo, the conductor and everybody in the orchestra follows you. Then, a few bars later, the main voice goes to another instrument, another group, and then you have to go back into the collective [sound]. The art of playing in an orchestra is being able to express yourself to the maximum but always in relation to something else that is going on.
-Daniel Barenboim

It may be that when the angels go about their task praising God, they play only Bach. I am sure, however, that when they are together en famille they play Mozart.
-Karl Barth (1886-1968) Protestant Theologian

People want to believe you’re happy with your performance; they’re living through you. Allow your listeners to enjoy the performance no matter how much you would like to tell them what’s going on inside your head.
Correcting a compliment is the same as revealing a magic trick; it makes people feel stupid for not seeing the truth.

-Mark Baxter (from here)

If a thing isn’t worth saying, you sing it.
– Pierre Beaumarchais, The Barber of Seville

Bohème is one of the most skillfully orchestrated scores we have. The use of the Glockenspiel or the chimes, not to mention the more conventional instruments, is precisely related to the happenings on stage. Even the big drum˘the bane of Italian opera˘is here used with restraint. It is rather an oddity that Puccini is not given due credit for being the master of orchestral writing that he is. The simple fact is that toward the end of the 19th century such men as Tchaikovsky and Strauss evolved a formula for orchestration which they used more or less unchanged under all circumstances: doublings in the strings with the horns in the middle, or certain other set relationships. A very good sound, to be sure, but tending to a certain sameness. With Puccini each score presents a different tonal quality and colouration˘Bohème is different from Butterfly, as Butterfly is different from Tosca. To be sure, there are family traits, but the texture and detail in each are very much related to the specific kind of subject with which he is dealing.
-Sir Thomas Beecham

Great music is that which penetrates the ear with facility and leaves the memory with difficulty. Magical music never leaves the memory.
-Sir Thomas Beecham

If an opera cannot be played by an organ grinder, it’s not going to achieve immortality.
-Sir Thomas Beecham

If she is attractive, I can’t perform with her; if she is not, then I won’t.
-Sir Thomas Beecham

In assigning Puccini his rightful place among great composers of opera, one cannot compare him directly with such earlier masters as Mozart, Rossini, Donizetti or the Verdi of Rigoletto, and Trovatore. The customs of writing were then very much different. They had a secco. In other words when the action bogged down or the librettist was in a quandary what to do next, he would simply stop, have the character speak some lines that developed the story˘which could be put to any conventional musical line˘and then the composer would write an aria. If the quality of the inspiration was great, as almost always with Mozart, or sometimes in Rossini, what happened in between was unimportant. But when the scheme of writing a consecutive musical texture was introduced, the problem became very much greater. It is for this reason that I rate Puccini so highly. He achieved a synthesis of word, music and action that is not only highly appropriate to the subject and easy to assimilate, but also, in the end, very satisfying.
-Sir Thomas Beecham

They are quite hopeless – drooling, driveling, doleful, depressing, dropsical drips.
-Sir Thomas Beecham on music critics Feb. 13, 1954

We started with the Beethoven, and I kept up with Cortot through the Grieg, Schumann, Bach and Tchaikovsky, and then he hit one I didn’t know, so I stopped dead.
-Sir Thomas Beecham, conductor, on a disasterous lapse of memory by Alfred Cortot during a piano concerto

And why didn’t they encore the Fugue? That alone should have been repeated! Cattle! Asses!
-Ludwig Van Beethoven (His comment when the audience didn’t call for encores after his fugue, while they did so for middle movements of his string quartet, Opus 130.)

Anyone who tells a lie has not a pure heart, and cannot make a good soup.
-Ludwig Van Beethoven

Beethoven can write music, thank God, but he can do nothing else on earth.
-Ludwig Van Beethoven

I think that it will interest the musical public.
-Ludwig Van Beethoven, on his Third Symphony

Music – The one incorporeal entrance into the higher world of knowledge which comprehends mankind but which mankind cannot comprehend.
-Ludwig Van Beethoven

Rossini would have been a great composer if his teacher had spanked him enough on his backside.
-Ludwig van Beethoven

There ought to be but one large art warehouse in the world, to which the artist could carry his art-works and from which he could carry away whatever he needed. As it is, one must be half a tradesman.
-Ludwig Van Beethoven

Every orchestra is different. Sometimes, you’re blown away by a particular musician. If I’m playing the Brahms concerto, it’s crucial to have a great oboe player, because we work in tandem.
-Joshua Bell

Music may achieve the highest of all missions: She may be a bond between nations, races and states, who are strangers to one another in many ways; She may unite what is disunited, and bring peace to what is hostile.
-Dr. Max Bendiner

Now, if you have read, say, Mr. Krehbiel’s “How to Listen to Music” (which can be got at any bookseller’s for less than the price of a stall at the Alhambra, and which contains photographs of all the orchestral instruments and plans of the arrangement of orchestras) you would next go to a promenade concert with an astonishing intensification of interest in it. Instead of a confused mass, the orchestra would appear to you as what it is–a marvellously balanced organism whose various groups of members each have a different and an indispensable function. You would spy out the instruments, and listen for their respective sounds. You would know the gulf that separates a French horn from an English horn, and you would perceive why a player of the hautboy gets higher wages than a fiddler, though the fiddle is the more difficult instrument. You would *live* at a promenade concert, whereas previously you had merely existed there in a state of beatific coma, like a baby gazing at a bright object.
-Arnold Bennett

The oboe solo at the beginning of the funeral march is like a face in the crowd. It’s a very personalized and very interior expression of grief within a public ceremony. It’s a modern solo in that it has tremendous psychological dimension to it. It’s very introspective and fraught with all kinds of anxiety and tension.
-William Bennett

Music is the air I breathe and the planet I inhabit. The only way I can pay my debt to music is by bringing it to others, with all my love.
-Cathy Berberian

At least I have the modesty to admit that lack of modesty is one of my failings.
-Hector Berlioz

One man only in this orchestra does not allow himself any such diversion. Wholly intent upon his task, all energy, indefatigable, his eye glued to his notes and his arm in perpetual motion, he would feel dishonored if he were to miss an eighth note or incur censure for his tone quality. By the end of each act he is flushed, perspiring, exhausted; he can hardly breathe, yet he does not dare take advantage of the respite offered by the cessation of musical hostilities to go for a glass of beer at the nearest bar. The fear of missing the first measures of the next act keeps him rooted at his post. Touched by so much zeal, the manager of the opera house once sent him six bottles of wine, “by way of encouragement.” But the artist, “conscious of his responsibilities,” was so far from grateful for the gift that he returned it with the proud words: “I have no need of encouragement.” The reader will have guessed that I am speaking of the man who plays the bass drum.
-Hector Berlioz

I’m not interested in having an orchestra sound like itself. I want it to sound like the composer.
-Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) American conductor and composer

Inspiration is wonderful when it happens, but the writer must develop an approach for the rest of the time … the wait is simply too long.
-Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)

The key to the mystery of a great artist is that for reasons unknown, he will give away his energies and his life just to make sure that one note follows another . . . and leaves us with the feeling that something is right in the world.
-Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)

Music is a higher revelation than philosophy.
-Ludwig Van Beethoven

It’s so medieval. You have these arcane machines … and you cut yourself a lot. But maybe only one out of two dozen will be right, just because that’s the way cane is.
-William Bennett (Talking about cutting oboe reeds)

We have forgotten, or refuse to accept, the fact that there are other schools of playing, other approaches to the oboe, other methods of making reeds, which deserve and have at least as wide an acceptance as our own … We are taught to laugh at the English vibrato, smirk at the German sound, ridicule the French brightness.
-Melvin Berman (Professor emeritus of oboe and chamber music at the University of Toronto; from the Journal of The International Double Reed Society, 1973)

There are two instruments worse than a clarinet – two clarinets.

-Ambrose Bierce

There are two sighs of relief every night in the life of an opera manager. The first comes when the curtain goes up The second sigh of relief comes when the final curtain goes down without any disaster, and one realizes, gratefully, that the miracle has happened again.
-Sir Rudolf Bing (1902-1997) general manager of the Metropolitan Opera 1950 to 1972

Ah, music! What a beautiful art! But what a wretched profession!
Georges Bizet (1867)

As a musician I tell you that if you were to suppress adultery, fanaticism, crime, evil, the supernatural, there would no longer be the means for writing one note.
-Georges Bizet, letter to Edmond Galabert, 1866

Let us have fantasy, boldness, unexpectedness, enchantment — above all, tenderness, morbidezza!
-Bizet, letter to Edmond Galabert, quoted in W Dean, Bizet (1975)

The oboe is a narrow channel through which one must push a flood of expression. It takes control and restraint. When I play, I feel all this emotion, expression, concentrated˘like a continual knife stabbing at your heart˘but never going into˘never damaging.
-Robert Bloom

To give an audience too much music is criminally mistaken kindness and real irreverence to the composer.
-Artur Bodanzky

Art knows no limit, and the artists will never achieve perfection.
-Bente Borsum

The audience is fifty percent of the performance.
-Shirley Booth

I know canned music makes chickens produce more eggs, and factory workers produce more; but how much more can they get out of you on an elevator?
-Victor Borge (1909-2000)

Always look out for the little notes˘like minorities.
-William Boughton

Don’t impose yourself until you really know the work throroughly.
-William Boughton

Re-creative artists are investigators.
-William Boughton

Well, see! Grieg new best. Strange, that.
-William Boughton

You can’t expect the audience to feel anything if you don’t.
-William Boughton

You just have to believe in a corporate pulse.
-William Boughton

You’re musicians, not bank clocks!
-William Boughton

I’ve been a woman for a little over 50 years and have gotten over my initial astonishment. As for conducting an orchestra, that’s a job where I don’t think sex plays much part.
-Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979)

Life is denied by lack of attention, whether it be to cleaning windows or trying to write a masterpiece.
-Nadia Boulanger

Originality is the art of concealing your source.
-Nadia Boulanger

You can be a successful oboe teacher in Dubuque, Iowa and have a good, successful, fulfilling life.
-Roger Bourland

I saw the Nutcracker to be a dummy as I thought of its mouth moving like a nutcracker – and also find them pretty scary as they almost have a life of their own.
-Matthew Bourne

I know you’ve heard it a thousand times before. But it’s true — hard work pays off. If you want to be good, you have to practice, practice, practice. If you don’t love something, then don’t do it.
-Ray Bradbury (1920 – ) US science-fiction writer

For the shallow delights of matrimony and opera I have no courage.
-Johannes Brahms

If there is anyone here whom I have not insulted, I beg his pardon.
-Johannes Brahms

It is not hard to compose, but it is wonderfully hard to let the superfluous notes fall under the table.
-Johannes Brahms

Glauben Sie ich will fur die Schreibtischelade schreiben?
-Johannes Brahms (Translation: Do you think I want to write for the desk drawer? This was Brahms’ response to oboist Richard Baumgärtel (1858-1941) when he asked why Brahms hadn’t written chamber music for oboe, when he had been doing so for clarinet.)

My things really are written with an appalling lack of practicality!
-Johannes Brahms

The slower pieces we choose for the purpose of getting guests quiet and thoughtful. We pick pieces in a major key, not a minor one, so it doesn’t sound like someone died.
-Kathy Brantigan (Executive Director of Denver Brass

I read lots of blog discussions bemoaning “the death of classical music”. Lots of them seem to think the solutions would involve loosening up concert dress and protocol or more “crossover” programming. None of this will ever counteract music programming that openly dismisses the value of the music itself.
-Bill Brice

Popular applause veers with the wind.
-John Bright (English writer, 1811-1889)

It is cruel, you know, that music should be so beautiful. It has the beauty of loneliness and of pain: of strength and freedom. The beauty of disappointment and never-satisfied love. The cruel beauty of nature, and everlasting beauty of monotony.
-Benjamin Britten

The old idea of a composer suddenly having a terrific idea and sitting up all night to write it is nonsense. Nighttime is for sleeping.
-Benjamin Britten

Listening to the breathtaking music Howard Shore created [for “Lord of the Rings”] is like seeing the movie time and time again. You just close your eyes, open your ears and the whole film unfolds before you. Howard’s work is incredibly visual, evocative and narrative.
-Paul Broucek, Executive Vice President of Music at New Line Cinema

I’ve outdone anyone you can name — Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Strauss. Irving Berlin, he wrote 1,001 tunes. I wrote 5,500.
-James Brown (1928) America’s Godfather of Soul, charter member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

There are certain things in which mediocrity is intolerable: poetry, music, painting, public eloquence. What torture it is to hear a frigid speech being pompously declaimed, or second-rate verse spoken with all a bad poet’s bombast!
-Jean De La Bruyére (1645-1696) French writer, moralist
“Of Books,” aph. 7, Characters (1688)

He who hears music, feels his solitude peopled at once.
-Robert Browning

Unlike painters, who work with space, musicians work with time, with note following note as second follows second. Listen! says Vivaldi, Brahms, Stravinsky. Listen to this time that I have framed between the first note and the last and to these sounds in time. Listen to the way the silence is broken into uneven lengths between the sounds and to the silences themselves. Listen to the scrape of bow against gut, the rap of stick against drumhead, the rush of breath through reed and wood. The sounds of the earth are like music, the old song goes, and the sounds of music are also like the sounds of the earth, which is of course where music comes from. Listen to the voices outside the window, the rumble of the furnace, the creak of your chair, the water running in the kitchen sink. Learn to listen to the music of your own lengths of time, your own silences.
-Frederik Buechner (from the book Listening to Your Life)

He that is down needs fear no fall
He that is low, no pride.

– John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress (pt. II)

Treble double-reed instruments have for centuries been invested with the potential to captivate those who hear them and to still the savage spirit. Shawms were used by Muslims and Christians alike to muster forces for battle and to inflame their warriors with courage, and alongside their comrade-at-arms the trumpet, shawms and oboes have been the instruments of power, attendants to colonial conquest.
-The Oboe by Geoffrey Burgess and Bruce Haynes, p7

Applause is the spur of noble minds, the end and aim of weak ones.
-Edmund Burke (British statesman and philosopher, 1729-1797)

The more perfect music we have, the more attractive the peculiarities and anomalies of human performance become. Perfection is a second rate idea.
-T Bone Burnett

We live in an age of music for people who don’t like music. The record industry discovered some time ago that there aren’t that many people who actually like music. For a lot of people, music’s annoying, or at the very least they don’t need it. They discovered if they could sell music to a lot of those people, they could sell a lot more records.
-T Bone Burnett

Critics! Those cutthroat bandits in the paths of fame.
-Robert Burns

Every man’s work, whether it be literature or music or pictures or architecture or anything else, is always a portrait of himself.
-Samuel Butler (1612-80), English poet, author

The exercise of singing is delightful to nature, and good to preserve the health of man, It doth strengthen all parts of the breast, and doth open the pipes.
-William Byrd

Some say, compar’d to Bononcini,
That Mynheer Handel’s but a ninny;
Others aver that he to Handel
Is scarcely fit to hold a candle.
Strange all this difference should be
‘Twixt Tweedledum and Tweedledee.
-John Byrom (1691-1763) English author, poet, On the feuds between Handel and Bononcini

A man must serve his time to every trade save censure — critics all are ready made.
-Lord Byron


I have nothing to say
and I am saying it
and that is poetry
as I needed it

-John Cage

It is better to make a piece of music than to perform one, better to perform one than to listen to one, better to listen to one than to misuse it as a means of distraction, entertainment, or acquisition of “culture.”
-John Cage

If you can sell green toothpaste in this country, you can sell opera.
-Sarah Caldwell (opera conductor, producer, director)

Film is one of the three universal languages, the other two: mathematics and music.
-Frank Capra (1897-1991) Italian born American Film Director

Who is there that, in logical words, can express the effect music has on us? A kind of inarticulate unfathomable speech, which leads us to the edge of the Infinite, and lets us for moments gaze into that!
-Thomas Carlyle, on Heroes, Hero-Worship and the Heroic in History (1841)

You know the problem: we need a man for solo trombone.
– Sergiu Celibidachei (to a woman trombonist)

Classical music is not stuffy, it just needs a different setting.
-Jean Jacques Cesbron

I never wanted to be famous. I only wanted to be great.
I did it to myself. It wasn’t society… it wasn’t a pusher, it wasn’t being blind or being black or being poor. It was all my doing.

(My note: In 1965, Charles was arrested for possession of heroin. I’m assuming that’s what this quote is about.)
-Ray Charles (1930-2004)

Affluence separates people. Poverty knits ’em together. You got some sugar and I don’t; I borrow some of yours. Next month you might not have any flour; well, I’ll give you some of mine.
-Ray Charles (1930-2004)

I was born with music inside me. Music was one of my parts. Like my ribs, my kidneys, my liver, my heart. Like my blood. It was a force already within me when I arrived on the scene. It was a necessity for me-like food or water.

-Ray Charles (1930-2004)

Love is a special word, and I use it only when I mean it. You say the word too much and it becomes cheap.

-Ray Charles (1930-2004)

My music had roots which I’d dug up from my own childhood, musical roots buried in the darkest soil.
Ray Charles (1930-2004)

An intellectual is someone who can listen to the “William Tell Overture” without thinking of the Lone Ranger.
-John Chesson

[T]here’s no bad day that can’t be overcome by listening to a barbershop quartet; this is just truth, plain and simple.
Chuck, The World According to Chuck weblog, September 30, 2003

To serve is a performer’s inheritance, plus our obligation.
-Van Cliburn

The moment I realized I didn’t have to major in music in order to play, it was like a blinding light shining down.
-Eve Cohen

Personally, I think the audience should applaud for the oboist who gives the ‘A’ rather than the concertmaster, who only walks out without falling off the stage!
-Fredric Cohen

An artist, in giving a concert, should not demand an entrance fee but should ask the public to pay, just before leaving as much as they like. From the sum he would be able to judge what the world thinks of him – and we would have fewer mediocre concerts.
-Kit Coleman

Music is the art of thinking with sounds.
-Jules Combarieu

Music has charms to soothe a savage breast,
To soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.
I’ve read that things inanimate have moved,
And, as with living souls, have been inform’d,
By magic numbers and persuasive sound.

-William Congreve, The Mourning Bride (act I, sc. 1)

The Americans . . . are almost ignorant of the art of music, one of the most elevating, innocent and refining of human tastes, whose influence on the habits and morals of a people is of the most beneficial tendency.
-James Fenimore Cooper

Most people use music as a couch; they want to be pillowed on it, relaxed and consoled for the stress of daily living. But serious music was never meant to be soporific.
-Aaron Copland

Mozart in his music was probably the most reasonable of the world’s great composers. It is the happy balance between flight and control, between sensibility and self-discipline, simplicity and sophistication of style that is his particular province… Mozart tapped once again the source from which all music flows, expressing himself with a spontaneity and refinement and breath-taking rightness that has never since been duplicated.
-Aaron Copland, Copland on Music (1960)

When I speak of the gifted listener, I am thinking of the nonmusician primarily, of the listener who intends to retain his amateur status. It is the thought of just such a listener that excites the composer in me.
-Aaron Copland

The whole problem can be stated quite simply by asking, ‘Is there a meaning to music?’ My answer would be, ‘Yes.’ And ‘Can you state in so many words what the meaning is?’ My answer to that would be, ‘No.’
– Aaron Copland (1900 – 1990)

Nothing separates the generations more than music. By the time a child is eight or nine, he has developed a passion for his own music that is even stronger than his passions for procrastination and weird clothes.
-Bill Cosby

Writing about music is like dancing about architecture – it’s really a stupid thing to want to do.
-Elvis Costello

O, popular applause! what heart of man is proof against thy sweet, seducing charms?
-William Cowper (English poet One of the most widely read English poets of his day, 1731-1800)


He said he would like to try out the English horn, which resembles a clarinet, while the French horn is a twined version of a trumpet and a saxophone.
-from the Daily Herald Tribune (no author given)

Realize that if you have time to whine and complain about something then you have the time to do something about it.
Anthony J. D’Angelo

Clutching a plastic doll of the golden droid he made famous, Daniels admitted to being “put off by opera houses, concert halls, by a certain snobbishness.”
“There is none of that in this concert,”
said the British actor during a chat with reporters just prior to rehearsing the program. “People already belong to the music and the music already belongs to them.”
-Anthony Daniels (C3PO in Star Wars)

Oboe is turning out to be a piece of cake.
-Eric Dannewitz

Mrs. Gilmartin smiled, and suddenly I saw what may have drawn her and her husband together; they had been united by music, that siren who makes so many bad matches.
-Robertson Davies, The Cunning Man

No, it’s the musicians and I must say they are an accomplished bunch, but odd, as musicians tend to be. Is it the vibration from their instruments, do you suppose, working on the brain? All that fraught buzzing?
-Robertson Davies, The Cunning Man

To this day I am indulgent toward orchestras that are trying to lift themselves in the world, while critics are busy assuring them that they are not the Vienna Philharmonic and never will be.
-Robertson Davies, The Cunning Man

We both work hard like stink from Friday through Sat., preparing the goodies, which I must say are pretty lavish˘scones with jam and whipped cream are a popular item and cucumber sandwiches by the hod. Because they eat like refugees, being musicians mostly ….
We seem to specialize in musicians because they are really the most clubbable of the artistic community here ….
Why musicians? It just happens but I suppose there is some deep reason for it. The painters are a very special lot and feel themselves beleaguered because they are trying to drag Toronto taste into the twentieth century and it’s an uphill pull. Sculptors hardly to be found; no call for it except effigies of dead politicians and they are getting very expensive (bronze, of course) and are generally farmed out to somebody in Montreal who specializes in that sort of thing and does it from photographs. Writers˘well, we’ve tried with writers but no go; they are so quarrelsome, and they expect booze, which we can’t run to. Certainly not the way writers guzzle it. So it’s musicians, chiefly.
-Robertson Davies, The Cunning Man

Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there.
-Miles Davis

Art is the most beautiful deception of all. And although people try to incorporate the everyday events of life in it, we must hope that it will remain a deception lest it become a utilitarian thing, sad as a factory.
-Claude Debussy

How much has to be explored and discarded before reaching the naked flesh of feeling.
-Claude Debussy

The century of airplanes has a right to its own music.
-Claude Debussy

The sound of the sea, the curve of a horizon, wind and leaves, the cry of a bird, they all leave manifold impressions in us. And suddenly, without wishing it at all, one of these memories spring from us and find expression in musical language. I want to sing my interior landscape with the simple artlessness of a child.
-Claude Debussy

Perfectly and painfully encapsulating in reality this conundrum, today I am punished for yesterday’s pleasure with a significant amount of sunburn, which could have been avoided so easily. I have tried to atone by spending spectacular amounts of money on aloe lotions. It is clear to one and all from my vivid face that I am a beach novice who fell into the stupidest of traps, and so this morning I put on my Johann Sebastian Bach T-shirt as a way of explaining. “You see, everybody, I’m really a classical musician and I think about Bach a lot and that’s why I forgot to put on sunscreen.” Perhaps though people won’t read so deeply into the shirt as I imagine, and they will just see a sunburned fool.
-Jeremy Denk

Criticism is easy, and art is difficult.
[Fr.,La critique est aisee, et l’art est difficile.]

-Phillipe V. Destouches, Glorieux (II, 5)

Too many people today are trying to justify the precision with which organized musical sound is produced rather than the energy with which it is manipulated.
-David Diamond (1939)

“We all have these dual personalities. We have our talent and then we have our self-doubt. We’re all questioning what we can do. Finally my real talent itself was able to show.
-Pedro Diaz (English horn, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, 2005 interview on Weekend America)

Music provides the avenue for people to meditate upon the great events of the salvation, which, for Christians, is the life of Jesus, his death and resurrection.
-Anthony DiCello

If I didn’t have to dance, maybe I could play well. If I didn’t have to play, maybe I could dance well. I’m stuck between the two.
-Diana Doherty, oboe soloist in the U.S. premiere of Ross Edwards’s Oboe Concert

Probably after that moment, he’s unhappy for the rest of his life.
-Placido Domingo (commenting on Pinkerton, after Butterfly’s suicide)

Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself, but talent instantly recognizes genius.
-Arthur Conan Doyle

If you give a bad critic enough rope, sooner or later they’ll use it. It’s just a shame when they have to hang a good pianist/violinist/writer first.
-Jessica Duchen

Mozart is sunshine.
-Antonin Dvorak, quoted in Otakar Sourek (ed.), Antonin Dvorak: Letters and Reminiscences (1954)

Use what talent you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best.
-Henry Van Dyke (1852-1933) American scholar, educator, lyricist

An artist has got to be careful never really to arrive at a place where he thinks he’s at somewhere. You always have to realize you’re constantly in a state of becoming. As long as you can stay in that realm, you’ll sort of be alright.
-Bob Dylan

What good are fans? You can’t eat applause for breakfast. You can’t sleep with it.
-Bob Dylan


It’s very difficult to play. But an instrument should be difficult to play. That’s the only way to master musical materials, by overcoming these difficulties.
-John Eaton (referring to a new Moog creation)

All good art is about something deeper than it admits.
-Roger Ebert

Listening is an ability that gets developed by doing it. You have to both listen to the same thing often enough to get beneath the surface and to constantly listen to new things. And by new things, I mean things you’ve never heard before, things you don’t like on first hearing, even things you hate. The constant consumption of the same old, same old kills off the ability. If you want to see where the exclusive snobs are, it’s in the people who will brush off the work of great pioneers like Coleman, or Betty Carter or Arnold Schoenberg or Milton Babbitt as they go back to not listen to the same, sappy three minute tune for the thousandth time. To deride music as carefully and daringly produced as theirs because it failed to entertain on the first hearing, to think that such a superficial brush off was worth the breath wasted to express it, now that’s snobbery.
-Echidne of the Snakes

It’s not so bad being cursed if you have your own theme song.
-Peter Economos (commenting on the Dutchman being cursed)

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.
-Thomas Edison

The best, most beautiful, and most perfect way that we have of expressing a sweet concord of mind to each other is by music.
-Jonathan Edwards

The reeds can’t hold their tune very well.
-Stephanie Edwards (whoever she is) in response to a question from Bob Eubanks. He asked if certain instruments were more difficult to play in the rain. (It’s raining like crazy for the Rose Parade in Pasadena.)

He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would fully suffice.
-Albert Einstein

It occurred to me by intuition, and music was the driving force behind that intuition. My discovery was the result of musical perception.
-Albert Einstein (when asked about his theory of relativity)

If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.
-Albert Einstein

Mozart is the greatest composer of all. Beethoven ‘created’ his music, but the music of Mozart is of such purity and beauty that one feels he merely ‘found’ it˘that it has always existed as part of the inner beauty of the universe waiting to be revealed.
-Albert Einstein

An Englishman will take you into a large room, beautifully proportioned, and will point out to you that it is white- all over white- and somebody will say what exquisite taste. You know in your own mind, in your own soul, that it is not taste at all˘that is the want of taste˘that is mere evasion. English music is white and evades everything.
-Sir Edward Elgar

I think I should have no other mortal wants, if I could always have plenty of music. It seems to infuse strength into my limbs and ideas into my brain. Life seems to go on without effort, when I am filled with music.
-George Eliot (1819 -1880)

… music heard so deeply that it is not heard at all, but you are the music while the music lasts.
-T.S. Eliot, from THE DRY SALVAGES, (No. 3 of ‘Four Quartets’)

Art is dangerous. It is one of the attractions: when it ceases to be dangerous you don’t want it.
-Duke Ellington

Critics have their purposes, and they’re supposed to do what they do, but sometimes they get a little carried away with what they think someone should have done, rather than concerning themselves with what they did.
-Duke Ellington

The most important thing I look for in a musician is whether he knows how to listen.
-Duke Ellington

There is hardly any money interest in art, and music will be there when money is gone.
-Duke Ellington

The wise musicians are those who play what they can master.
-Duke Ellington

Art is a jealous mistress, and, if a man have a genius for painting, poetry, music, architecture, or philosophy, he makes a bad husband, and an ill provider, and should be wise in season, and not fetter himself with duties which will embitter his day.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Every artist was first an amateur.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is hard to go beyond your public. If they are satisfied with cheap performance, you will not easily arrive at better. If they know what is good, and require it, you will aspire and burn until you achieve it. But from time to time, in history, men are born a whole age too soon.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Music takes us out of the actual and whispers to us dim secrets that startle our wonder as to who we are, and for what, whence, and whereto.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sugar is not so sweet to the palate as sound to the healthy ear.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

The reward of a thing well done is to have done it.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

You are never as bad as you think you are. On the other hand, you are never as good as you think you are.
-Harold Emert (I’ve been informed that at least one other has said this as well.)

Being a professional is doing the things you love to do, on the days you don’t feel like doing them.
-Julius Erving

When you play music you discover a part of yourself that you never knew existed.
-Bill Evans

Why don’t you sell your magic cards and make a living off that, it’s more than you’ll ever make playing the oboe. I think the oboe hit its apex with Peter and the Wolf man. I mean, what were his parents thinking, “Oh yeah, the oboe, that’s a great investment in our son’s future.” Seriously, has he looked in the mirror at himself while playing the oboe? Does he actually think, “Yeah! people are just gonna bow down at my feet when I play this thing!”
-Ezra, venting after this guy took his favourite practice room for the second time at school.


You listen dutifully to the oboe, look at your slides, pull the main slide a bit and then put it back where it has been for the last seven years!
Phil Farkas (horn player)

A teacher who is only interested in great talents is like a man who only seeks the company of rich people.
-Carl Flesch

The basic sound of my instrument, my voice, was that of a gentle oboe. it
had to be gradually amplified. I had to find more resonance to make it broader.
And this can of course, only be the result of long, painstaking work because
the instrument of the voice is invisible. One has to discover the correct
feelings to solve the technical problems and assimilate the process.

-Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau

When you go out onto the stage, all the preparation has to be forced into your subconscious. For the moment of the performance, we all have to return to a new level of unconsciousness. All the reflection and all the doubts have to be laid aside before you start.
-Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau

I stole everything that I heard, but mostly I stole from the horns.
-Ella Fitzgerald

There are three things in the world I love most: the sea, Hamlet, and Don Giovanni.
-Gustave Flaubert

Man is so made that he can only find relaxation from one kind of labor by taking up another.
-Anatole France

Hide not your talents, they for use were made. What’s a sundial in the shade?
-Benjamin Franklin

Hell is a half-filled auditorium.
-Robert Frost


Undoubtedly, part of the reason students did not rush to the event is that most are simply not interested in classical music. If this applies to you, I am going to make an effort at conversion. In an age when the greatest sin is to make a judgment on someone’s personal preferences, I am going to make a big one: Classical music is simply better than contemporary popular or rock music. The great composers of the Western musical tradition were able to perform incomparable musical feats, and, at the peaks of technique and sophistication, their music simply cannot be compared to anything modern in terms of melody, harmony, complexity and spiritual or emotional expressiveness. Bach, even when using no libretto, was able to invoke the divine in ways that no one even aspires to today.
-Goutham Ganesan

Perhaps all music, even the newest, is not so much something discovered as something that re-emerges from where it lay buried in the memory, inaudible as a melody cut in a disc of flesh. A composer lets me hear a song that has always been shut up silent within me.
-Jean Genet

I personally like Tchaikovsky because he’s so dangerous.
-Valery Gergiev

True music must repeat the thought and inspirations of the people and the time. My people are Americans and my time is today.
-George Gershwin

A song without music is a lot like H2 without the O.
-Ira Gershwin

A song will outlive all sermons in the memory.
-Henry Giles (clergyman and lecturer)

Art is a collaboration between God and the artist, and the less the artist does the better.
-Andre Gide

Something’s your vocation if it keeps making more of you.
-Gail Godwin, Evensong p 12

A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.
-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Every day we should hear at least one little song, read one good poem, see one exquisite picture, and, if possible, speak a few sensible words.
-Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe (1749 – 1832) German poet, dramatist
Wilhelm Meister Apprenticeship, bk. 5, ch. 1 (1795-1796)

Please write music like Wagner, only louder.
-Sam Goldwyn, instructing composer for a movie

I know that I am honest. That my music has emotional power, but I know my limitations, too. I know that there is something healthy in my music regarding the current world of classical music, but I know there will be something amazing coming after. I feel like a temporary kind of voice and somebody better will carry on.
-Osvaldo Golijov

Beethoven and Liszt have contributed to the advent of long hair.
-Louis Moreau Gottschalk

I’ve bested you. Faust has made 20,000 francs this week and your Le Cid only 16,000 . . . suicide’s the only thing left for you now.
-Charles Gounod (1818-1893) French composer to French composer Jules Massenet (Harding, Gounod, 1973)

I fight against the void. I think I’ve written something acceptable, and then, when I look at it again, I find it execrable.
-Charles Gounod

Musical ideas sprang to my mind like a flight of butterflies, and all I had to do was to stretch out my hand to catch them.
-Charles Gounod

Take the Spanish airs and mine out of the score, and there remains nothing to Bizet’s credit but the sauce that masks the fish.
-Charles Gounod (1818-93) on the premiere of Carmen, 1875, quoted in W Dean, Bizet (1975)

If none of these [plagiarized recordings] turn out to be something that I did, I’ll be deeply insulted!
-Gary Graffman

Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire. Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired.
-Martha Graham (1894-1991) American dancer, choreographer, teacher quoted in ib, 5 Aug 86

Music is a friend of labor for it lightens the task by refreshing the nerves and spirit of the worker.
-William Green

Artists like Bach and Beethoven erected churches and temples on the heights. I only wanted… to build dwellings for men in which they might feel happy and at home.
-Edvard Grieg

I am sure my music has a taste of codfish in it.
-Edvard Grieg

Must Never Be Performed
-Edvard Grieg, written on a symphony he wrote

…performing musicians don’t get to enjoy the experience the way audiences do. For example: if we wallow in the sadness of a sad piece, or the exultation of an exultant piece, it’s liable to distract us from the things we have to concentrate on in order to communicate that sadness or exultation to the listener.
-Matthew Guerrieri


The fact is, an effective performance is more likely to emanate from humility than from arrogance.
-Jerry Hadley

I think that if people show up in jeans and chains, it’s great that all parts of culture are interested in music. People forget sometimes that it’s about the music, not how you act and dress.
-Hilary Hahn

It’s fine with me if people want to applaud between movements of a concerto. It doesn’t bother me — it’s part of performance experience. Sometimes when they applaud if I’m still playing it’s not as good, but there’s always a way around it. Actually the applause gives me a little rest and chance to stretch, too.
-Hilary Hahn

When they have to play long sections without taking a breath, their skin turns from red to purple, their veins and eyes start to pop out, and their facial muscles look very strained. I think I’d pass out if I had to perform such a feat.
-Hilary Hahn, recommending that audience members watch the oboists and clarinetists when at an orchestra concert.

I have every iPod that’s been made ˘ that’s how sick I am. I carry anything and everything I possibly would want to listen to. I have a lot of jazz. I adore Ralph Towner, Leo Kottke. I’ve always been a big Oscar Peterson fan. I’ve branched out a little bit more in rock-and-roll, but that’s maybe because I’m 50 years old and I can now listen to Steely Dan again without shame. I adore the Grateful Dead. Creedence Clearwater Revival. Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. All that’s been fun to get back into. But I’m no longer interested in the Doobie Brothers.
-Thomas Hampson

Whether I was in my body or out of my body as I wrote it I know not. God knows.
-George Frideric Handel (it is reported that he said this regarding his composition, Messiah)

Music is an elegant art and fine amusement but as an occupation it hath little dignity, having for its object nothing better than mere entertainment and pleasure.
-Handel’s Father

The Prelude to [Wagner’s] ‘Tristan und Isolde’ reminds one of the old Italian painting of a martyr whose intestines are slowly unwound from his body on a reel.
-Eduard Hanslick

I’m a great believer in conversational rhythm. I think in terms of rhythmic dialogue. It’s so easy, you can talk naturally. It’s like peas rolling off a knife. Take the great screen actors and actresses, Bette Davis, Eddie Robinson, Jimmy Cagney, Spencer Tracy. They all talk in rhythm. And rhythm and movement are the life of the screen.
-Lorenz Hart (lyricist, referring to the movie Love Me Tonight)

If they think they are doing something new they ought to do what I do every day. I spend at least two hours every day listening to Johann Sebastian Bach, and man, it’s all there. If they want to improvise around a theme, which is the essence of jazz, they should learn from the master. He never wastes a note, and he knows where every note is going and when to bring it back. Some of these cats go way out and forget where they began or what they started to do. Bach will clear it up for them.
-Coleman Hawkins (1904-1969) American jazz saxophonist

What is the voice of song, when the world lacks the ear of taste?
-Nathaniel Hawthorne

When words leave off, music begins.
-Heinrich Heine

He held my hand, with sincerity, and escorted me directly into the musical and poetic world. I felt the snowflakes, the icy chill, and the heaviness of a broken heart. I dreamed nostalgically when we stopped at the linden tree, and though I wanted to run away from the hurdy-gurdy man, I followed his mesmerizing tune towards the inevitable.
-Heather Heise from In the Wings found here

Veering toward a visual expression of my creativity has allowed a new
freedom to soar in my music-making. I like to let certain subjects in my paintings
shimmer, as certain notes in a melody vibrate, lighting up canvas or phrase
from within.

-Marsha Heller (1939) American oboist and painter (student of Harold Gomberg)

Then, there’s the reason why woodwinds are tucked behind the strings in orchestras: Seeing the players having clear their instruments of accumulated saliva a dozen times per concert has its visual/aesthetic drawbacks.
-Paul Hertelendy (from a review)

Classical composers are a mild and bookish lot on the whole. They like to wrap up warm, are into organic food, and rarely break into a run. Their music reflects the fact that they live in their heads, rather than their bodies.
-Ivan Hewett (a href=”http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2007/02/01/bmtansy101.xml”>here)

The example of Stravinsky and Messiaen (to name only two) shows that modern church music doesn’t have to be a pale copy of the past. And there are plenty of church musicians around who are bothered by the divorce between the Church and the wider world of music.
-Ivan Hewett

Music is actually too difficult for musicians. It should be left to the music critics, for whom no problem is too difficult.
-Stevens Hewitt

The instrument is physically difficult. Do not be seduced into practising as one would practise weight lifting. The order of work involved is that necessary to memorize a poem or speech.
-Stevens Hewitt

The primary difficulty in playing the oboe is knowing exactly when.
-Stevens Hewitt

There is no other art form that is so highly evolved, sophisticated, sublime, where absolute discipline of technique is allied with grace, beauty, sensuality and pure emotion.
-Charlotte Higgins (found here

But anyway it does seem that to 95-99% of people minor is sad. But to a few of us it’s just too beautiful to be sad.
-Hilda (of The Dominican Oboist)

People who make music together cannot be enemies, at least while the music lasts.
-Paul Hindemith

I understand the inventor of the bagpipes was inspired when he saw a man carrying an indignant, asthmatic pig under his arm. Unfortunately, the manmade sound never equalled the purity of the sound achieved by the pig.
-Alfred Hitchcock

It is the stretched soul that makes music, and souls are stretched by the pull of opposites — opposite bents, tastes, yearnings, loyalties. Where there is no polarity — where energies flow smoothly in one direction — there will be much doing but no music.
-Eric Hoffer

It was never my goal to achieve fame for fame itself. There’s tremendous fulfillment and pleasure by knowing and feeling that at least from time to time I give others pleasure. It’s not a one-way street, and it’s not at all a selfish act, playing music. At its best it’s a selfless act. And when those moments occur, it’s an indescribable feeling.
-Gary Hoffman

It is an unfortunate irony that music-making intended in part to attract new listeners is usually the least well rehearsed and motivated.
-Bernard Holland

A few can touch the magic string,
And noisy Fame is proud to win them;
Alas for those that never sing,
But die with all their music in them!

-Oliver Wendell Holmes

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

I observe that there is a good deal of German music on the program, which is rather more to my taste than Italian or French. It is introspective and I want to introspect.
-Sherlock Holmes (from The Red Headed League)

Music-making as a means of getting money is hell.
-Gustav Holst

I dream of a collaboration that will become so complete that, often, the poet will think as musician and the musician as poet, so that the work resulting from this union will not be the random conclusion of a series of approximations and concessions, but the harmonious synthesis of two aspects of the same thought.
-Arthur Honneger (1892-1955)

The Nutcracker is a patriarchal ballet. The only good thing in the Nutcracker is the rats and they die!
-Penelope Hope (a character in a movie called “Bring It On Again” … and no, I’ve never seen the movie. But the quote is fun.)

This is a fault common to all singers, that among their friends they will never sing when they are asked; unasked, they will never desist.

Although I have decided to at least temporarily continue to make my music available, I am entirely finished with the music establishment. No mainstream American music institution will be permitted to perform my work (Not that there’s much chance of it anyway). Why? Because it’s a rigged game and because it’s run by the elite; the same people who profit from dead Iraqi women and children. Some of the same people who stage terror attacks. Am I saying that, for instance, Esa-Pekka Solonen is a terrorist? No, but I am saying he works for terrorists, among others. I don’t want that job. I’ll be having more to say about these issues later on my blog. If you’re so inclined, please help support this site with a paypal contribution.
-William Houston

When people hear good music, it makes them homesick for something they never had and never will have.
-Edgar Watson Howe

The things which can make life enjoyable remain the same. They are, now as before, reading, music, fine arts, travel, the enjoyment of nature, sports, fashion, social vanity (knightly orders, honorary offices, gatherings) and the intoxication of the senses.
-Johan Huizinga (1872-1945) Dutch historian, “The Autumn of the Middle Ages,” ch. 2 (1921, trans. 1995)

I do wonder what would happen if the respective economics of orchestras and baseball switched places. In such a world Patricia Mitchell would be an all-star oboe player making ten million dollars a year with her very own bobble-head doll and trading cards. And the Yankees would be struggling to pay for their own road trips while they attempt to market games to a younger audience without alienating the blue-haired old ladies who faithfully subscribe every season (even though several quit coming after they introduced that “modern” designated hitter rule).
-From the Hurd Audio Blog


Please don’t try to make things nice! All the wrong notes are RIGHT. Just copy as I have — I want it that way.
-Charles Ives


No matter how many great performances or exciting visuals we put together for the movie, we found that it was all somewhat two dimensional until we added the emotional heart of Howard Shore’s music. Then, and only then, did the film come to life.
-Peter Jackson, director of The Lord Of The Rings

The wrong note note played with the right intention is much to be preferred to the right note played with no soul.
-Janine Jansen

I am still very proud of that concert. In America, the (musicians’) connection with the conductor is as with management — it becomes political. You cannot conduct properly in this environment. I hate this enemy situation between management and orchestra members.
-Neeme Järvi

What is a career, actually? Nobody can destroy my career. Only I can destroy my career, if I am a bad conductor. I’ve gone to lesser known orchestras in Scotland and Sweden, Detroit, but I have enjoyed the places I’ve been, and had success. I like the close community relations, and to solve problems.
-Neeme Järvi

Do not neglect your music. It will be a companion which will sweeten many hours of life to you.
-Thomas Jefferson to daughter Martha, 4 April 1790

If there is a gratification which I envy any people in this world, it is to your country its music. This is the favorite passion of my soul, & fortune has cast my lot in a country where it is in a state of deplorable barbarism. From the line of life in which we conjecture you to be, I have for some time lost the hope of seeing you here. Should the event prove so, I shall ask your assistance in procuring a substitute, who may be a proficient in singing, & on the Harpsichord. I should be contented to receive such an one two or three years hence, when it is hoped he may come more safely and find here a greater plenty of those useful things which commerce alone can furnish. The bounds of an American fortune will not admit the indulgence of a domestic band of musicians, yet I have thought that a passion for music might be reconciled with that economy which we are obliged to observe. I retain for instance among my domestic servants a gardener (Ortolans), a weaver (Tessitore di lino e lin), a cabinet maker (Stipeltaio) and a stone cutter (Scalpellino laborante in piano) to which I would add a vigneron. In a country where like yours music is cultivated and practised by every class of men I suppose there might be found persons of those trades who could perform on the French horn, clarinet or hautboy & bassoon, so that one might have a band of two French horns, two clarinets, & hautboys & a bassoon, without enlarging their domestic expenses. A certainty of employment for a half dozen years, and at the end of that time to find them if they choose a conveyance to their own country might induce them to come here on reasonable wages. Without meaning to give you trouble, perhaps it might be practicable for you in [your] ordinary intercourse with your people, to find out such men disposed to come to America. Sobriety and good nature would be desirable parts of their characters. If you think such a plan practicable, and will be so kind as to inform me what will be necessary to be done on my part I will take care that it shall be done. The necessary expenses, when informed of them, I can remit before they are wanting, to any port in France, with which country alone we have safe correspondence. I am Sir with much esteem your humble servant.
-Thomas Jefferson (in a letter to o Giovanni Fabbroni [Italy] Williamsburg in Virginia, June 8, 1778

Of all musicians, flutists are obviously the ones who know something we don’t.
-Paul Jennings

A typical day in the life of a heavy metal musician consists of a round of golf and an AA meeting.
-Billy Joel (1949) American singer, songwriter

Music is the only sensual pleasure without vice.
-Samuel Johnson

Of all noises, I think music is the least disagreeable.
-Samuel Johnson

Tenors get women by the score.
-James Joyce, Ulysses


Yes, playing in churches can probably be done. Playing in young, hip places, yes. But the bottom line is, there’s no way to deny we are a classical orchestra.,br>
-Carlos Kalmar

Although I was a Julliard student, the most creative thing I could possibly do was to start a rock ‘n’ roll band. I brought the oboe into the band not having any idea that the oboe was not a rock ‘n’ roll instrument. It seemed expressive enough to me.
-Michael Kamen

Of course, being a musician, I myself am rarely at work (or even awake) before noon, . . .
-Stefan Katz

I see little of more importance to the future of our country and of civilization than full recognition of the place of the artist. If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his/her vision wherever it takes him/her.
-John F. Kennedy

The life of the arts, far from being an interruption, a distraction, in the life of a nation, is close to the center of a nation’s purpose – and is a test of the quality of a nation’s civilization.
-John F. Kennedy

If a man is called to be a streetsweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great streetsweeper who did his job well.
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

I played cards with [Richard] Strauss every day for ten years, and he was a pig!
-Hans Knappertsbusch, conductor (1888-1965)

I would advise my young colleagues, the composers of symphonies, to drop in sometimes at the kindergarten, too. It is there that it is decided whether there will be anybody to understand their works in twenty years’ time.
-Zoltan Kodaly

Our age of mechanisation leads along a road ending with man himself as a machine; only the spirit of singing can save us from this fate.
-Zoltán Kodály

Orchestras seem content to be museums now, even as they wring their hands about dropping subscription sales and graying listeners.
-Allan Kozinn (in a New York Times article on 8/15/05)

It’s better to be booed than to be forgotten.
Mike Krukow


Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is now fourteen, and, while he gives little sign of doing what Lord Rochester planned to do at the same age, there are nonetheless changes afoot. Harry’s voice, like that of his best friend, Ron (Rupert Grint), sounds like the mating cry of an oboe, and, worse still, the two cease to be best friends.
-Anthony Lane, From the opening of his review of Harry Potter in the latest New Yorker

The study of the oboe is full of traps for the student, and he must deploy great perseverance in order to arrive at a clean execution and attain a certain facility. As much as the tone of the oboe can be soft and velvety (albeit a littel nasal) when in the hands of a skilled virtuoso, it can be sour and screeching when the player is inexperienced or lacks the taste of a true artist.
-Pierre Larousse (Grand Dictionnaire universel – 1800s?)

I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.
-Bruce Lee (1940-1973) American actor and martial arts expert

When you love something it’s not a job anymore.
-Spike Lee (Commencement Speech, 2006)

So, here’s what we all already know that refreshed me today: music is a gift, and no matter how “good” you are, you can use your playing to deal with life in a way you cannot do with anything else.
-Maryn Leister (Of flarp. Precise link here.)

Because I am a storyteller I live by words. Perhaps music is a purer art form. It may be that when we communicate with life on another planet, it will be through music, not through language or words.
-Madeleine L’Engle (US novelist)

You can’t possibly hear the last movement of Beethoven’s Seventh and go slow.
– Oscar Levant, explaining his way out of a speeding ticket.

The musical emotion springs precisely from the fact that at each moment the composer withholds or adds more or less than the listener anticipates on the basis of a pattern that he thinks he can guess, but that he is incapable of wholly divining…. If the composer withholds more than we anticipate, we experience a delicious falling sensation; we feel we have been torn from a stable point on the musical ladder and thrust into the void…. When the composer withholds less, the opposite occurs: he forces us to perform gymnastic exercises more skillful than our own.
-Claude Lévi-Strauss (b. 1908) French anthropologist, “Overture”, The Raw and the Cooked (1964)

I like to listen to singers where I feel the direct openness of the heart in the voice. They say the eyes are the windows of the soul. You could say that the voice is the music of the soul.
-Lorraine Hunt Lieberson

First of all I listen to music. I like music.
-Gyorgy Ligeti (May 28, 1923 – June 12, 2006)

The fact that someone doesn’t appreciate classical music doesn’t make them stupid or inartistic or unappreciative of music in general. It simply means they’re not interested in it. And while I happen to find this sad (because I do find beauty in these styles) I don’t think it’s a national crisis. Excellent musicianship, composition, and/or the ability to move people with aural combinations of sound are not the exclusive domain of classical music no matter how much some people would have you think so.
-Lindsey of Behind Blue Eyes

Some critics are like chimneysweepers; they put out the fire below, and frighten the swallows from the nests above; they scrape a long time in the chimney, cover themselves with soot, and bring nothing away but a bag of cinders, and then sing out from the top of the house, as if they had built it.
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807?1882) American poet, “Table Talk” (1845)

Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labour and to wait.

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, A Psalm of Life (st. 9)

The Arts are an even better barometer of what is happening in our world than the Stock Market or the debates in Congress.
-Hendrik Willem Van Loon (1882-1944) Dutch-born American historian, writer

Music is a fair and glorious gift from God. I am strongly persuaded that after theology there is no art than can be placed on a level with music; for besides theology, music is the only art capable of affording peace and joy of the heart.
-Martin Luther

I love traditional instruments, though of course they are anachronisms. Satellites run around our planet, but we still play bassoons. It’s ridiculous!
-Wiltold Lutoslawski

People whose sensibility is destroyed by music in trains, airports, lifts, cannot concentrate on a Beethoven Quartet.
-Witold Lutoslawski (1913-1994)


I have this theory that I share with (Art Institute of Chicago president) Jim Cuno. It’s that nothing great was ever produced in isolation.
The guitar and the sitar are obviously related – even linguistically. The oud moves west from Persia to become the lute; it moves east to become the pipa. And a European hears an erhu and says it’s purely Chinese, a Chinese violin, but in Chinese the word ‘erhu’ means ‘two-stringed foreign instrument.’

-Yo-Yo Ma

I play an instrument that has four strings, and I’m still trying to get it right. What I’ve tried to do in the process of playing these four strings is to try and understand the people I meet, the stories they have to tell. And then become an advocate for them and their stories through music.
-Yo-Yo Ma

As you get older, the assumption is you get wiser. I try to earn it by not staying still, not resting on laurels. A lot of people in other professions are retired at my age. I care about music more than ever.
-Lorin Maazel

In this world, there’s even room for quality.
-Lorin Maazel

To be passionate in today’s world is not politically correct… Nowadays we are supposed to cope. This was not Mahler’s problem. He saw it, he heard it, and he expressed it. He was a kaleidoscopic, Olympian figure.
-Lorin Maazel

What our profession is all about is interacting with people.
-Lorin Maazel

Art is a beacon and music happens to be our special beacon. (I wonder if there is a relationship between the words beacon and beckon?) Music most assuredly does sustain us, and beguile and nourish us. What kind of void would be in its absence? Not a pretty thought. So it falls to us to do what it is that we can do. Our contributions to the cause of music can take so many forms and go in so many directions.
-John Mack

If you’re going to play the oboe, you have to have elementary bravery, or you’re in big trouble. Some of them are nutty, wild and unreasonable. I call myself a quintessential Cleveland Orchestra player — orthodox, but zippy, and nonwacko. I hate wacko.
-John Mack

Son, don’t ever take “no” from an inanimate object.
-Attributed to John Mack

Teaching is close to a sacred duty.
-John Mack

Beauty and fullness of tone can be achieved by having the whole orchestra play with high clarinets and a carefully selected number of piccolos.
-Gustav Mahler

If a composer could say what he had to say in words he would not bother trying to say it in music.
-Gustav Mahler

What is best in music is not to be found in the notes.
-Gustav Mahler

Reason speaks in words alone but love has a song.
-Joseph de Maistre

I decided to make it lyrical, thoroughly stylised: a film in which the whole action of actors, as well as the movement of camera and cutting was rhythmic. Then I got Rodgers and Hart to write the music?. We finished the whole score before I began to work on the script. We did the whole thing to a metronome, because we couldn’t carry an orchestra round with us.
-Rouben Mamoulian (director, referring to the movie Love Me Tonight)

Classical musicians, in my limited experience, are a sheepish and particular group. They resist labels as if they were balls and chains.
-Timothy Mangan

There is something suspicious about music, gentlemen. I insist that she is, by her nature, equivocal. I shall not be going too far in saying at once that she is politically suspect.
-Thomas Mann (1875-1955) German author, critic Herr Settembrini, in The Magic Mountain, ch. 4, “Politically Suspect,” (1924), trans. by H.T. Lowe-Porter (1928)

Music and silence combine strongly because music is done with silence, and silence is full of music.
-Marcel Marceau

Music conveys moods and images. Even in opera, where plots deal with the structure of destiny, it’s music, not words, that provides power.
-Marcel Marceau

Glorious bouquets and storms of applause … are the trimmings which every
artist naturally enjoys. But to move an audience in such a role, to hear in
the applause that unmistakable note which breaks through good theatre manners
and comes from the heart, is to feel that you have won through to life
itself. Such pleasure does not vanish with the fall of the curtain, but becomes
part of one’s own life.

-Dame Alice Markova (b. 1910) British ballerina, “Giselle and I,” (1960)

I like Wagner’s music much better than anybody’s. It’s so loud that one can talk the whole time without people hearing you.
-Bob Marley

The trouble was that he had set out to write a masterpiece. He had tensed his intellectual muscles and had sweated in his earnestness in order to make each word a jewel, each sentence a concise gem of thought, and the whole a symphony of words; and what was worse, you could tell that he had been thinking of what the critics would say.
-John P. Marquand, Wickford Point

The nerves are a problem on trumpet, because when you mess up everyone can hear it. Just remember most people are too polite to say anything about it. That should calm your nerves.
-Wynton Marsalis

When I’m 40, too old to be a rock star, I plan to go back to college to study classical music.
-Chris Martin (of the band Coldplay)

Military justice is to justice what military music is to music.
-Groucho Marx (1890-1977)

Modern music is as dangerous as narcotics.
-Pietro Mascagni (Born:  Leghorn, December 7, 1863, Died:  Rome, August 2, 1945)

Think about having the success of your professional career hinging on a piece of bamboo.  A bad reed can make or break an oboist.
-June Matayoshi (article here

It is dangerous to let the public behind the scenes. They are easily disillusioned and then they are angry with you, for it was the illusion they loved.
-William Somerset Maugham

No longer tired, Henry comes away from the wall where he’s been leaning, and walks into the middle of the dark auditorium, toward the great engine of sound. He lets it engulf him. There are these rare moments when musicians together touch something sweeter than they’ve ever found before in rehearsals or performance, beyond the merely collaborative or technically proficient, when their expression becomes as easy and graceful as friendship or love. This is when they give us a glimpse of what we might be, of our best selves, and of an impossible world in which you give everything you have to others, but lose nothing of yourself. Out in the real world there exist detailed plans, visionary projects for peaceable realms, all conflicts resolved, happiness for everyone, for ever˘mirages for which people are prepared to die and kill. Christ’s kingdom on earth, the workers’ paradise, the ideal Islamic state. But only in music, and only on rare occasions, does the curtain actually lift on this dream of community, and it’s tantalisingly conjured, before fading away with the last notes.
-Ian McEwan, Saturday

I have always adored Mahler, and Mahler was a major influence on the music of the Beatles. John and me used to sit and do the Kindertotenlieder and Wunderhorn for hours, we’d take turns singing and playing the piano. We thought Mahler was gear.
-Paul McCartney (1942) British musician, “The “Beatles”

The second big challenge has been learning not to judge this woman: I’ve got to learn to love this woman, but a big part of me wants to slap her; part of me wants to say to her: “Get over it! Find another man, honey! Move on with your life!” Or worse, on my really grumpy days: “Just kill yourself already!”
-Audra McDonald (from her online journal, commenting on La Voix Humaine)

In covering arts organizations over the years as a critic and journalist, I have developed a “McLennan’s Law” test. It goes: the effort an arts organization expends on trying to get butts in seats is often inversely proportional to its overall health. That is: You can always tell a theater or symphony orchestra is in trouble when it starts worrying more about getting people in the seats than it does about inspiring audiences; that’s the point it has become a follower rather than a leader. On the other end – a really successful company with a hot product doesn’t worry much about how it will attract an audience, it pours its efforts into a product it believes in.
-Douglas McLennan

Everyone says “practice makes perfect” but they’re wrong, they should say “practice makes permanent” because whatever you do over and over again is what you’ll do over and over again.
-Drew McManus

Opera chose me. I kicked and screamed and bit against it, but now I have to admit that this is what I’m best at. I’ve said that opera is a dead art, and I still believe that, because nobody is writing any decent ones now. But I don’t care: we have 400 years of it and we only do 20 per cent of what there is. I’m utterly devoted to the art form.
-David McVicar (opera director)

A woman’s life in the orchestra is not as long as a man’s; she is just not as good at 60 as a man is at 60.
-Zubin Mehta (from Time magazine, December 9, 1966, explaining why he enforced a limit of 16 women in the Los Angeles Philharmon

If the King loves music, it is well with the land.

Opera in English is, in the main, just about as sensible as baseball in Italian.
-H. L. Mencken

Any subject is good for opera if the composer feels it so intently he must sing it out.
-Gian Carlo Menotti

My faith is the grand drama of my life. I’m a believer, so I sing words of God to those who have no faith. I give bird songs to those who dwell in cities and have never heard them, make rhythms for those who know only military marches or jazz, and paint colours for those who see none.
-Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992) French composer, organist

Traditional bassoons don’t fit easily under airplane seats, so in the 1960s some makers took a saw to the longest joint of the bassoon and glued the cut-off piece to the bell. (I’m not making this up!) This rearranged design is called a “Gentleman’s Cut” and it allows the bassoon to fit into a shorter case. Thankfully, you don’t need to be a gentleman, or especially ladylike, to play the bassoon; you just need good thumbs.
-Christopher Millard

Poetry and Hums aren’t things which you get, they’re things which get you. And all you can do is to go where they can find you.
-A. A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

In my music, I’m trying to play the truth of what I am. The reason it’s difficult is because I’m changing all the time.
-Charles Mingus

In the end, it was a Bach motet that shooed me away˘choristers weren’t damnably bad, but the organist’s only hope for salvation was a bullet through the brain. Told him so too˘tact and restraint all well and good in small talk, but one mustn’t beat around any bush where music is concerned.
-David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas, p 75

One can spot a fellow musician in any context, even amongst policemen. The craziest-eyed, unruliest-haired one, either hungry-skinny or jovial-portly. This French-speaking, cor anglais-playing, local operatic society belonging inspector had heard of Vyvyan Ayrs and kindly drew me a map to Neerbeke.
-David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas, p 48

Wrong Note!
-Mom (said from the kitchen many a time, when I was practicing piano in the living room)

When you’re doing what you love, you can just let the beauty pass through you. You don’t have to own it.
Robin Moore

Music is an experience, not a science.
-Ennio Morricone

We live in a modern world, and in contemporary music the central fact is contamination. Not the contamination of disease but the contamination of musical styles.
If you find this in me, that is good.

-Ennio Morricone

Music is spiritual. The music business is not.
-Van Morrison

There’s always stress involved in any genre or art form, there’s always going to be a struggle. If there’s no struggle, you wouldn’t do anything. What are you going do? Retire?
-Van Morrison

It is too much for what I do and too little for what I could do.
-Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (referrring to his minor post as chamber musician/composer to Emperor Joseph II)

I was in such high spirits today, I cannot describe it. I played everything from memory, also three Duetti with violin that I had never seen before, from a composer I had never heard of. Everybody was so delighted with me that I had to˘kiss all the ladies present. With the daughter this wasn’t hard at all, she is anything but ugly.
-Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

My great-grandfather used to say to his wife, my great-grandmother, who in turn told her daughter, my grandmother, who repeated it to her daughter, my mother, who used to remind her daughter, my own sister, that to talk well and eloquently was a very great art, but that an equally great one was to know the right moment to stop.
-Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

My dearest Papa!
I cannot write Poetically; I am not a Poet. I cannot arrange my words so artfully that they reflect shadow and light; I am not a painter. I cannot even express my feelings and thoughts through gestures and Pantomimes; I am not a dancer. But I can do it with the sounds of music; I am a Musikus. Tomorrow at Cannabich’s I will play a whole congratulatory arrangement on the Clavier for both your Name Day and Birthday. Today I can only wish you with all my heart, Mon Trés cher Pére, what I wish for you every day, mornings and evenings; goode health, a long life, and a cheerful heart.

-Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (November 8, 1777)

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 (One source says this is attributed to Mozart, while the rest state it as fact.)

Nevertheless the passions, whether violent or not, should never be so expressed as to reach the point of causing disgust; and music, even in situations of the greatest horror, should never be painful to the ear but should flatter and charm it, and thereby always remain music.
-Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Nor do I hear in my imagination the parts successively, I hear them all at once. What a delight this is! All this inventing, this producing, takes place in a pleasing, lively dream.
-Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Now there is music from which a man can learn something.
-Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (on hearing J.S. Bach motets in Leipzig)

People make a mistake who think that my art has come easily to me. Nobody has devoted so much time and thought to composition as I. There is not a famous master whose music I have not studied over and over.
-Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

The evening came upon us quicker than you might think possible;—anyway, it was time for the opera.—As far as the performance of this opera is concerned I cannot tell you anything special, because I was talking too much.
-Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

This Graf is a brother of the two Grafs who live in The Hague and Zurich. Stein insisted on taking me to see him right on the spot. And what a Noble Gentleman he is indeed. He was wearing a dressing gown, which I wouldn’t mind wearing in public; he pronounces his words as if they were sitting on stilts, and, for the most part, he opens his mouth before he knows what he wants to say˘and sometimes it falls shut again without anything having emerged from it. He performed, after much coaxing, a concert for 2 flutes. I had to play the First violin. The concert was like this: not good for the ear; not natural; he often marches into his tones with too much˘Heaviness; and everything was without the slightest bit of magic. When it was over, I paid him many compliments because he actually deserved it. The poor Fellow must have had a plenty of trouble writing it all, he probably had to work on it quite a bit. At last, they brought out a Clavicord from a backroom, one built by Herr Stein, it was good, but full of dirt and dust. Herr Graf, who is music Director here, stood there like Someone who had always thought that he was somebody special in his Journey through music, and now finds out that somebody else can be even more special, and that without assaulting anyone’s ears; in one word, there were all quite amazed.
-Mozart (Age 21. From a letter to his father, telling a story about Friedrich Hartmann Graf.)

When I am, as it were, completely myself, entirely alone, and of good cheer – say traveling in a carriage, or walking after a good meal, or during the night when I cannot sleep – it is on such occasions that my ideas flow best, and most abundantly. Whence and how they come, I know not, nor can I force them.
-Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (attributed; some say this isn’t by Mozart)

You know that I become quite powerless whenever I am obliged to write for an instrument which I cannot bear.
– Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, in a letter to his father, after being commissioned to compose flute music.

…I think there’s only one [thing] that anybody teaches, and this is character. And I think that whether you are teaching history, math, or biology, or music, what you are really doing is, you are helping to shape the character of that person who is your student… Music is such a wonderful teaching tool, because while you are developing musical skills, that student can learn a lot about discipline [and] cooperation.
-Rich Mullins, The Summer ’92 WCBW interview.


To do anything artistically you have to acquire technique, but create through your technique and not with it.
-Stephen Nachmanovitch

It’s a disease. Because I think the commercialization of Christmas, you know. Because every Hicksville little town is doing a version of The Nutcracker. Is really incredible and is same in Europe too. In England there is so many Nutcrackers because every town, every town has a Nutcracker. It’s really incredible. In Hungary you’d never believe, my childhood, we had it every Sunday, The Nutcracker. Autumn, Winter, Spring, early Summer. We had Nutcracker. When I hear the music which is so beautiful, really beautiful, I start getting eczema.”  
“When the audience is looking at Swan Lake, there’s not much happening for the prince, but you really have to get inside him, whether it comes across or not, you know, the little nuances, the tiny little tch tch. In The Nutcracker, you can’t. It’s just half a kilo of make up and then you have to be Prince Charming and get on with it.

-Ivan Nagy (Artistic Direction of the Ballet de Santiago – Chile) Comments on the Nutcracker

We protest against unjust criticism, but we accept unearned applause.
-Jose Narosky

The oboe’s a horn made of wood.
I’d play you a tune if I could,
But the reeds are a pain,
And the fingering’s insane.
It’s the ill wind that no one blows good.

-Ogden Nash

I don’t like country music, but I don’t mean to denigrate those who do. And for the people who like country music, denigrate means ‘put down’.
-Bob Newhart

A good composer is slowly discovered; a bad composer is slowly found out.
-Ernest Newman

If I had the power, I would insist on all oratorios being sung in the costume of the period – with a possible exception in the case of the Creation.
-Ernest Newman (1868-1959) English music critic, New York Post, 1924

My music has a high irritation factor. I’ve always tried to say something. Eccentric lyrics about eccentric people. Often it was a joke. But I would plead guilty on the grounds that I prefer eccentricity to the bland.
-Randy Newman

In dealings with scholars and artists we are apt to miscalculate in opposite directions: behind a remarkable scholar we sometimes, and not infrequently, find a mediocre man, and behind a mediocre artist, fairly often a very remarkable man.
-Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) German philosopher, classical scholar, critic of culture
Beyond Good and Evil, Fourth Part: Maxims and Interludes, section 137 (1886)

Only sick music makes money today.
-Friedrich Nietzsch

This music is wicked, refined, fatalistic, and yet it retains a popular appeal.
-Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), quoted in C Headington, The Bodley Head History of Music (1974)

Music melts all the separate parts of our bodies together.
-Anais Nin


Musical inspiration is the gift of God. Use it with the purest motives. Aim high and consider yourself capable of great things. Lend your talents to the world to make it better.
-Rildia Bee O’Bryan (pianist Van Cliburn’s mother)

It’s so wonderful… if your whole day is rotten, once they start the music, it seems to melt away.
-Donald O’Connor

In some sort of crude sense, which no vulgarity, no humor, no overstatement can quite extinguish, the physicists have known sin; and this is a knowledge which they cannot lose.
-J. Robert Oppenheimer

That’s the way Stravinsky was — Bup, bup, bup – The poor guy’s dead now. Play it legato.

-Eugene Ormandy

What I like is bottomless flattery.
-Peter O’Toole

Music is not a science any more than poetry is. It is a sublime instinct, like genius of all kinds.
-Louise de la Ramee Ouida

I have my own particular sorrows, loves, delights; and you have yours.  But sorrow, gladness, yearning, hope, love, belong to all of us, in all times and in all places.  Music is the only means whereby we feel these emotions in their universality. 
-H.A. Overstreet


Music is your own experience, your own thoughts, your wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn. They teach you there’s a boundary line to music. But, man, there’s no boundary line to art.
-Charles Parker, Jr.

Any musician who says he is playing better either on tea, the needle, or when he is juiced, is a plain straight liar . . . You can miss the most important years of your life, the years of possible creation.
-Charles Parker, Jr. (1903 – 1992) US singer, In “Hear Me Talkin’ to Ya,” by Nat Shapiro and Nat Hentoff, 1955.

Man is but a reed, the weakest in nature, but he is a thinking reed.
-Blaise Pascal

All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music.
-Walter Pater

People who go into the arts are often hurt people. Many are manic-depressive. Some have tried suicide and some have succeeded. It’s just part of the game. We are people who are oversensitive. That’s why we’re in this business, because of our need to communicate.
-Mandy Patinkin

Some teachers should be put in prison for the way they either take advantage of women in their classes or destroy fragile egos. Be careful who you ask to help you when you’re in the arts.
-Mandy Patinkin (read here

There was just something about it that caught me up. I sat up and held my breath and looked around and wondered if anyone else realized what was going on. When I talk about the music flowing, I mean it almost literally. I could almost perceive it coming off the stage the rolling over the first few rows as the next line of notes pushed it further along. I honestly found myself wondering if they were going to play long enough for it to reach my row. It didn’t. They stopped and moved on. It sounds melodramatic to describe it that way, but that is pretty much how I felt. If I was being melodramatic, I would continue on saying I was writhing in ecstasy or that I fell into a deep depression at the loss when they finished. I didn’t feel either way. They moved on, I moved on.
-Joe Patti (blogger here)

I want to be famous everywhere.
-Luciano Pavarotti

You don’t need any brains to listen to music.
-Luciano Pavarotti

The singular most important goal for a performing artist is to see how they are doing. How am I doing? I have nobody to tell me. I’m basically alone. A lot of your friends are not going to tell you what they think, because they want to make sure they’re your friends.
Not many people like it when they get criticism. Of course, if you have someone who does tell you and you do have a rapport, that’s great. But don’t rely on it. You have to rely on yourself.

-Itzhak Perlman

Today’s concert was less loud than the New Pornographers, for sure. And orchestral music is more complex and more developed than pop, but the rules of a three-minute pop song are so different. Both forms create great music.
-Steve Pick (DJ and music critic)

Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.

The only way to hear great music is live, and we must fight tooth and nail to make sure that live music is available, and appreciated, by coming generations.
– Pliable over at the overgrown path.
(The quote is found in this blog entry.)

By itself, the question of the liturgy’s essence and the standards of the reform has brought us back to the question of music and its position in the liturgy. And as a matter of fact one cannot speak about worship at all without also speaking of the music of worship.
-Pope Benedict XVI (the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger)

In these few sentences we find set forth the fundamental principles of liturgical music. Faith comes from hearing God’s word. And whenever God’s word is translated into human words, there remains something unspoken and unutterable, which calls us to silence – into a stillness which ultimately allows the Unutterable to become song and even calls upon the voices of the cosmos to assist in making audible what had remained unspoken. And that implies that church music, originating in the word and in the silence heard in that word, presupposes a constantly renewed listening to the rich plenitude of the Logos.
-Pope Benedict XVI (the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger)

I have a sweet tooth for song and music. This is my Polish sin.
-Pope John Paul II (1920-2005)

What every true artist wants, really wants, is to be paid.
-Terry Pratchett, Soul Music

My mother had to explain that one couldn’t compose a Liszt rhapsody because it was a piece of music that Liszt himself had composed.
-Sergei Prokofiev

Of course I have used dissonance in my time, but there has been too much dissonance. Bach used dissonance as good salt for his music. Others applied pepper, seasoned the dishes more and more highly, till all healthy appetites were sick and until the music was nothing but pepper.
-Sergei Prokofiev

Art is a kind of illness.
-Giacomo Puccini

Inspiration is an awakening, a quickening of all man’s faculties, and it is manifested in all high artistic achievements.
-Giacomo Puccini



Musical compositions, it should be remembered, do not inhabit certain countries, certain museums, like paintings and statues.  The Mozart Quintet is not shut up in Salzburg:  I have it in my pocket.
-Henri Rabaud

Parsifal – the kind of opera that starts at six o’clock and after it has been going three hours, you look at your watch and it says 6:20.
-David Randolph

All my friends are intelligent, but our musical tastes do not necessarily intersect. So what? They don’t think I?m a snob because I get more out of classical music than any other variety, and I don’t think they’re uncultured idiots because they prefer something else. We have achieved peaceful coexistence without pretending that we’re alike in our aesthetic needs and choices.
-James Reel

I made it a point to tune in on intermission conversations with notepad in hand. I heard the word sciatica 17 times.
-Alan Rich

Music is moonlight in the gloomy night of life.
-Jean Paul Richter

Music is the poetry of the air. 
-Jean Paul Richter

Dear Puccini, if this time you have not succeeded in hitting the nail squarely on the head, I will change my profession and sell salami!
-Giulio Ricordi (Puccini’s publisher) after seeing the score for La Bohème

I believe that heaven and earth will tremble when it is performed.
-Ries (Beethoven’s student, on Beethoven’s Third Symphony)

I had no idea of the historical evolution of the civilized world’s music and had not realized that all modern music owes everything to Bach.
-Nikolai Andreevich Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)

As an artist I come to sing, but as a citizen, I will always speak for peace, and no one can silence me in this.
-Paul Robeson

You had been showing such remarkable restraint. Haydn would have thought that he’d tanked.
-David Robertson (From a SLSO blog entry talking to students who were unable to hold back applause after the second movement Haydn’s 103rd Symphony.

Music should never be harmless.
-Robbie Robertson

Anxiety is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.
-Arthur Somers Roche

I’ll probably pay more attention to the musicians in the pit than the stars because they’re the closest you’re going to get to normal people in the audience.
-Chris Rock (commenting on how he’ll assess his performance at the Academy Awards show)

You don’t train for only the 100-meter dash and you don’t practice only the excerpts. When I prepared for auditions, I spent most of my time each day on scales and exercises to be my best in basic musicianship, and only a half-hour or so on the actual excerpts I’d be playing.
Jim Rogers (contrabassoonist, commenting on auditions)

Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practiced every day.
-Jim Rohn (1887 – 1982) Polish-US virtuoso pianist

I was shocked by how few opportunities there were for students to hear genuine oboe-laden country music.
-Maggie Ronan, Pomona student

I don’t go to concerts much. I’ve heard everything. When I do go to movies, I walk out half the time. As for literature, I’ve read everything.
-Ned Rorem, composer

It was nothing compared with Paris Hilton.
-Ned Rorem, composer (bemoaning his 80th birthday celebration which included concerts of his music around the world)

Berger points out that Puccini, despite his popularity, creates discomfort in this hyper-stylized, ironic age, because he deals in direct emotion, avoids ideology and moralism, and often favors characters “of no major consequence,” except insofar as they mirror the audience. Puccini confounds opera directors who have no interest in ordinary people; he almost affronts the cool professionalism of the average young opera singer.
-Alex Ross

Give me a laundry list and I’ll set it to music.
-Gioacchino Antonio Rossini

What a good thing it isn’t music.
-Rossini, commenting on Berlioz’ Symphonie fantastique

There is too much emphasis on technical perfection nowadays, and not enough on what music is actually about — irony, joy, human suffering, love.
-Mstislav Rostropovich

Ah, music. A magic beyond all we do here!
-J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, 1997

Can we ever know each other even a little without the arts?
-Gabrielle Roy


What do you get when you play country music backwards? You get your girl back, your dog back, your pick-up back, and you stop drinking.
-Louis Saaberda

I always felt that one day I would have to make the change in my own life, bite the bullet and see what it is to be a composer who conducts rather than the other way around.
-Esa-Pekka Salonen

I went to work one morning, and outside my door was Cindy Crawford in a black bra, and I thought that very clearly the building is making progress in integrating itself into various layers of our culture.
-Esa-Pekka Salonen

You know, in some ways conducting is counter-intuitive. It’s like winter driving in Finland – if you skid, the natural reaction is to fight with the wheel and jam on the brakes, which is the quickest way to get killed. What you have to do is let go, and the car will right itself. It’s the same when an orchestra loses its ensemble. You have to resist the temptation to semaphore, and let the orchestra find its own way back to the pulse.
-Esa-Pekka Salonen

Do you think that I would stand there with my violin in my hand and listen while the oboe plays the only melody in the entire piece?
-Pablo de Sarasate (1844-1908. The violinist’s reason for refusing to play the Brahms’ Violin Concerto)

For 37 years I’ve practiced 14 hours a day, and now they call me a genius.
-Pablo de Sarasate (Spanish violinist and composer. 1844-1908)

I am far superior to you, but my well-known modesty forbids me to say so.
-Eric Satie

Every theater is an asylum, but an opera theatre is the ward for incurables.
-Franz Schalk (Viennese conductor)

As much as I love Beethoven and Mozart, the greatest is Bach. And they would be the first to agree. For me, to play Bach is a matter of hygiene. It’s like taking a shower.
-Andras Schiff

I plan my life in a systematic way, and I waited until the age of 50 to start playing the 32 Beethoven sonatas. … Beethoven is not for children. Maybe the notes are not a problem, but the content is, so I wanted to wait for that. I now understand a lot of things I had no idea about 20 years ago.
-Andras Schiff

I know two kinds of audiences only – one coughing, and one not coughing.
-Artur Schnabel (1882-1951) Austrian-American pianist, composer

It is not music’s function to express rational necessities.
-Artur Schnabel, Music and the Line of Most Resistance

Sunshine can burn you, food can poison you, words can condemn you, pictures can insult you; music cannot punish — only bless.
-Artur Schnabel (Music and the Line of Most Resistance)

For me, music is always the language which permits one to converse with the Beyond.
-Robert Schumann

In order to compose, all you need to do is remember a tune that nobody else has thought of.
-Robert A. Schumann

You should never be too much involved… otherwise, you suffer and you can’t sing. This is what happened in the very first years I sang Madame Butterfly.
-Renata Scotto

And there, where the high dome reflects my voice back onto me and onto all those people underneath and bounces it back upwards and sideways and into the stone and outside to the woods and back into the skies, and there, where my soul, and all of our souls, feel like they are being heard; there, I am thankful again.
– Rinat Shaham

It is my soul that calls upon my name:
How silver-sweet sound lovers’ tongues by night,
Like softest music to attending ears!

-Shakespeare (Spoken by Romeo in Romeo and Juliet)

The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils;
The motions of his spirit are as dull as night,
And his affections dark as Erebus;
Let no such man be trusted.
-William Shakespeare (The Merchant of Venice. Act. v. Sc. 1.)

“We never played specially for Saddam and of course were not playing now for the Americans. We play for anyone who wants to come and hear us,” he said. “This is music.”
-Hisham Sharaf

A little-known fact about a symphony orchestra: the oboe must first sound a particular note for the other instruments to tune accordingly. In the global economy, the United States plays the oboe, setting the tone. And from what you read these days in the editorial pages, you would think that tone is a dirge, defined by the sour twin notes of a “massive” trade and fiscal deficit and the alarming sound of a “record low” savings rate, “sky high” oil prices and a “budding housing bubble.”
-Ruchir Sharma (in a Newsweek article)

Eternal vigilance is the price of good intonation.
-Leonard Sharrow

Give me the artist who breathes it like a native, and goes about his work in it as quietly as a common man goes about his ordinary business. Mozart did so; and that is why I like him. Even if I did not, I should pretend to; for a taste in his music is a mark of caste among musicians, and should be worn, like a tall hat, by the amateur who wishes to pass for a true Brahmin.
-George Bernard Shaw

[Musicians] talk of nothing but money and jobs. Give me businessmen every time. They really are interested in music and art.
Jean Sibelius, explaining why he rarely invited musicians to his home.

Pay no attention to what the critics say; there has never been a statue set up in honor of a critic.
-Jean Sibelius

While others were engaged in manufacturing cocktails, I offered the public pure cold water.
-Jean Sibelius

Just sing it. Don’t prove you can sing it. I know you can, you know you can. So just do it, because if you try to prove it, you’ll lose.
-Beverly Sills, to Carol Vaness

Dancing is silent poetry.

My personal hobbies are reading, listening to music, and silence.
-Edith Sitwell

Wagner did not like the saxophone; he said it sounds like the word Reckankreuzungsklankwerkzeuge.
-Nicolas Slonimsky in “A Thing or Two About Music”

Practice puts your brains in your muscles.
-Sam Snead (1912 – 2002) US golfer

I have a theory that there is something abnormal about children who like to practice instruments They are either geniuses or, more often, completely untalented. I certainly did not like to practice, and the teacher who hit me, and the view of the park, did not help to improve my attitude.
-Georg Solti

I prefer neurotic people. I like to hear rumblings beneath the surface.
-Stephen Sondheim

An artist is a person who lives in the triangle which remains after the angle which we may call common sense has been removed from this four-cornered world.
-Natsume Soseki, The Three-Cornered World

Pieces of music are wormholes, which we can enter to escape our normal experience of time.
Robert Spano

Music must rank as the highest of the arts — more than any other, it ministers to human welfare.
-Herbert Spencer

A musician may suddenly reach a point at which pleasure in the technique of art entirely falls away, and in some moment of inspiration, he becomes the instrument through which music is played.
-Edwin Diller Starbuck

I love Beethoven, especially the poems.
– Ringo Starr (1940) English musician, drummer

Learning music by reading about it is like making love by mail.
-Issac Stern

There are more bad musicians than there is bad music.
-Issac Stern

[Too many musicians are] too involved with doing and not listening.
-Ray Still (Masterclass, April 2004)

Demand more of yourself.
-Ray Still (Masterclass, April 2004)

In order to play musically you have to learn the art of exaggerating.
-Ray Still (Masterclass, April 2004)

Those pushups … get away from them! … you need those muscles mushy!
-Ray Still (Masterclass, April 2004)

Notes, usually to be musical, have to move in or out. They don’t sound like clarinets!
-Ray Still (Masterclass, April 2004)

Music is for the people. For all of us, the dumb, the deaf, the dog & jays, handclappers, dancing moon watchers, brainy puzzlers, abstracted whistlers, finger-snapping time keepers, crazy, weak, hurt, weed keepers, the strays.
The land of music is everyone’s nation – her tune, his beat, your drum one song, one vote.

-Eric Stokes

A painter paints his pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence. We provide the music, and you provide the silence.
-Leopold Stokowski (1882?1977) English-born, American conductor, reprimanding talkative audience, May 11, 1967

On matters of intonation and technicalities I am more than a martinet˘I am a martinetissimo.
-Leopold Stokowski

If Beethoven had been killed in a plane crash at the age of 22, it would have changed the history of music … and of aviation.
-Tom Stoppard

Isn’t this awfully long?
-Richard Strauss, comment made to the first violinist while conducting a performance of his own Der Rosenkavalier

I was able to compose it, but I’m not able to conduct it yet.
-Richard Strauss, after trying to conduct a rehearsal of Elektra

Never look at the trombones, it only encourages them.
-Richard Strauss

Art is the opposite of chaos. Art is organized chaos.
-Igor Stravinsky

I haven’t understood a bar of music in my life; but I have felt it.
-Igor Stravinsky

I was born out of due time in the sense that by temperament and talent I should have been more suited for the life of a small Bach, living in anonymity and composing regularly for an established service and for God.
-Igor Stravinsky

Many people seem obsessed with the idea that I do not desire to express emotion in my music.
They are completely mistaken.
The emotion is there all right˘I myself feel it and express it, and for those who cannot or will not share it, I can only suggest that they consult a psychiatrist!

-Igor Stravinksy

My music is best understood by children and animals.
-Igor Stravinsky

Too many pieces of music finish too long after the end.
-Igor Stravinsky

The trouble with music appreciation in general is that people are taught to have too much respect for music; they should be taught to love it instead.
-Igor Stravinsky

Only in the pathetic museum world of classical music would anyone complain about a girl being semi-naked on an album cover.
-Pete Su

Teaching music is not my main purpose. I want to make good citizens. If children hear fine music from the day of their birth and learn to play it, they develop sensitivity, discipline and endurance. They get a beautiful heart.
-Shinichi Suzuki

But what makes an orchestra thrive is a combination of many factors. The music director matters most.
-Mark Swed (found here)

Practice is the best of all instructors.
-Syrus (Publilius Syrus)

Conductors must give unmistakable and suggestive signals to the orchestra?not choreography to the audience.
-George Szell


For forty years I have play the oboe, and still I never know what is coming out. It is a perpetual anxiety. But maybe this is good—I have never the time to get myself bored.
-Marcel Tabuteau

I am very moody when I cook. I cook according to the way I feel at the
moment. A little of this, a little of that, and almost always a coupcon of
garlic. I never proceed by the rules.

-Marcel Tabuteau

I have played for many famous conductors during my life. The better the conductor, the more the one hates him! Of all the many conductors that I have played for, I liked Ormandy the best.
-Marcel Tabateau (1887-1966)

Say, even a mummy couldn’t play deader than that!
-Marcel Tabuteau (1887-1966)

…you must play for the little fellow in the last row of the balcony who only has fifty cents to pay for a ticket.
-Marcel Tabuteau, Interview with Laila Storch, To the World’s Oboists, Volume II, March 1974

Your playing is like salt water taffy. You see all the beautiful colors, red, yellow, blue, but they all taste the same.
-Marcel Tabuteau

If Beethoven were alive today, he would be a video-game composer. Beethoven was about getting his music to the masses. This music is pounded into people.
-Tommy Tallarico (Composer of video game music. Article here.)

Personally, as a gamer, I’d rather see Mario and Solid Snake up on screen, instead of the oboe player.
– Tommy Tallarico, VGL executive producer, and games composer

Inspiration is a guest that does not willingly visit the lazy.
-Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (attributed)

I sit down to the piano regularly at nine-o’clock in the morning and Mesdames les Muses have learned to be on time for that rendezvous.
-Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, quoted in Schafer, British Composers in Interview (1963)

I like the plot of The Nutcracker – not at all.
-Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky

A self-respecting artist must not fold his hands on the pretext that he is not in the mood.
-Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Truly there would be reason to go mad were it not for music.
-Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky

I have a sneaking feeling that the institution of the classical-music concert as we know it has just about run its course˘and I won’t be sorry to see it go. It’s way past time for a change.
-Terry Teachout

I should also mention that the Neue Galerie is piping music into the galleries where “Klee and America” is hanging, a practice for which vulgar is not even close to the word. Yes, I like Schumann’s Carnaval, but I’m damned if I know why anybody thinks the paintings of Paul Klee profit from being viewed with Carnaval playing in the background.
-Terry Teachout

It’s not a popular view among my colleagues, but I think most of the best critics—not all, but most—have had at least some professional experience in at least one of the arts about which they write. I know I try to write not as a lofty figure from on high, smashing stone tablets over the heads of ballerinas and prima donnas, but as someone who has spent his entire adult life immersed in the world of art, both as a critic and as a practitioner. I was also fortunate to have served my apprenticeship as a critic in a middle-sized city, because it taught me that criticism is not written in a vacuum. It touches real people, people of flesh and blood, and sometimes it hurts them. If you don’t know that?and I mean really know it?you shouldn’t be a critic. And you?re more likely to know it when you’ve lived and worked in a city small enough that there’s a better-than-even chance of your meeting the people you write about at intermission.
-Terry Teachout

I used to think the oboe wasn’t a nice sounding instrument, but this has changed my mind! Guess I shouldn’t judge from the synthesised version on my keyboard lol
-“thelightisahead” – read at youtube

You are requesting that I take the young Salzburger into your service. I don’t know nor do I believe that you would need a composer or useless people. If that would give you pleasure, I don’t want to keep you from it. What I am saying is to prevent you from being burdened with useless people and give titles to them. Having people like that in your service degrades such service, when they are going around the world like beggars.
-Empress Maria Theresa, Germany (In response to her son’s, the Archduke Ferdinand, request for advice on offering Mozart a position at the court of Milan.)

Music is the effort we make to explain to ourselves how our brains work. We listen to Bach transfixed because this is listening to a human mind.
-Lewis Thomas

I would send the complete works of Johann Sebastian Bach. -pause- But that would be boasting.
-Lewis Thomas (Response when asked what message he would choose to send from Earth to outer space.)

We are a spectacular, splendid manifestation of life. We have language. We have affection. We have genes for usefulness, and usefulness is about as close to a ‘common goal’ of nature as I can guess at. And finally, and perhaps best of all, we have music.
-Lewis Thomas

Part of my big message with all this is that if you are alive, you know all you need to know about the message of classical music, because more than any other music, it is about the way life really is.
-Michael Tilson Thomas

The Music Business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.
-Hunter S. Thompson

I’ve never known a musician who regretted being one. Whatever deceptions life may have in store for you, music itself is not going to let you down.
-Virgil Thomson, composer and music critic

I never learned to verbalize an abstract musical concept. No thank you. The whole point of being a serious musician is to avoid verbalization whenever you can.
-Virgil Thomson, composer and music critic

Men profess to be lovers of music, but for the most part they give no evidence in their opinions and lives that they have heard it.
-Henry David Thoreau

Music is the shorthand of emotion.
-Leo Tolstoy

At the concert in the afternoon two very interesting things were performed. One was a fantasia, King Lear; the other was a quartette dedicated to the memory of Bach. Both were new and in the new style, and Levin was eager to form an opinion of them. After escorting his sister-in-law to her stall, he stood against a column and tried to listen as attentively and conscientiously as possible. He tried not to let his attention be distracted, and not to spoil his impression by looking at the conductor in a white tie, waving his arms, which always disturbed his enjoyment of music so much, or the ladies in bonnets, with strings carefully tied over their ears, and all these people either thinking of nothing at all or thinking of all sorts of things except the music. He tried to avoid meeting musical connoisseurs or talkative acquaintances, and stood looking at the floor straight before him, listening.
-Leo Tolstoy (Anna Karenina, Part 7, Chapter 5

I worry that the person who thought up Muzak may be thinking up something else.
-Lily Tomlin

Why waste money on psychotherapy when you can listen to the B Minor Mass?
-Michael Torke

-Arturo Toscanini, to his orchestra

I liked the idea of working with community orchestras. They’re there because they really want to play music, not make a lot of money.
-Joan Tower (composer)

I am writing better Stephen Sondheim songs than even Stephen Sondheim is writing.
-Pete Townshend

It is a paradoxical but profoundly true and important principle of life that the most likely way to reach a goal is to be aiming not at that goal itself but at some more ambitious goal beyond it.
Arnold Toynbee (1889 – 1975)



Wagner used to read the libretti of his operas to his friends; I am glad I was not there.
-Ralph Vaughan Williams

I adore art… when I am alone with my notes, my heart pounds and the tears stream from my eyes, and my emotion and my joys are too much to bear.
-Giuseppe Verdi

It may be a good thing to copy reality; but to invent reality is much, much better.
-Giuseppe Verdi, 1876

Of all composers, past and present, I am the least learned. I mean that in all seriousness, and by learning I do not mean knowledge of music.
-Giuseppe Verdi, 1869

“What if analysis makes me a normal person,” he has wondered, “and I can’t be an artist anymore?”
-Rolando Villazón, tenor who is in psychoanalysis

Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer. Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance… a lack of harmony and proportion is more readily seen.
-Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)

Anything that is too stupid to be spoken is sung.
-Francois Marie Arouet Voltaire (1694-1778)

Music nowadays is merely the art of executing difficulties, and in the end that which is only difficult ceases to please.
-Voltaire, Candide

The Opera is nothing but a public gathering place where we assemble on certain days without precisely knowing why.
-Voltaire (1732)

If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph: “The only proof he needed for the existence of God was music.”
-Kurt Vonnegut


Achievements, seldom credited to their source, are the result of unspeakable drudgery and worries.
-Richard Wagner (born May 22, 1813)

Whatever my passions demand of me, I become for the time being — musician, poet, director, author, lecturer or anything else.
-Richard Wagner, letter to Liszt

Already too loud!
– Bruno Walter, at his first rehearsal with an American orchestra, upon seeing the players reaching for their instruments.

Fear has always been my greatest motivator — fear of making a fool out of myself. Performers — we have all sorts of anxiety dreams: standing up in front of an orchestra and realizing that you have a trombone in your hands, the wrong instrument. Or sitting at a piano — I hardly play the piano — and having to perform the Grieg piano concerto.”
-Geraldine Walther (Violist, Takács Quartet)

Tenors are noble, pure and heroic and get the soprano, if she has not tragically expired before the final curtain. But baritones are born villains in opera. Always the heavy and never the hero-that’s me.
-Leonard Warren (American operatic baritone. 1911-1960)

Because of Mozart, it’s all over after age seven.
-Wendy Wasserstein, playwright (The Heidi Chronicles, The Sisters Rosensweig)

When people ask me if musical theatre should be taught in music colleges, I reply that there is no need. All anyone needs to study is the second act of La Boheme because it is the most tightly constructed piece of musical theatre that there is. It is practically director-proof: you can’t stage it badly because it just works too well. If you can write La Boheme, you can write anything. I would also recommend studying Britten’s Peter Grimes.
-Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber

We all drew on the comfort which is given out by the major works of Mozart, which is as real and material as the warmth given up by a glass of brandy.
-Rebecca West (Black Lamb and Grey Falcon)

I always play music that I like. If you don’t play music that you like, it sounds like it. It’s easy to learn something and then play it. But if you don’t really love it, what have you got?
-Earl Wild

I like Wagner’s music better than any other music. It is so loud that one can talk the whole time without people hearing what one says. That is a great advantage.
-Oscar Wilde

Music is the art which is most nigh to tears and memory.
-Oscar Wilde

Musical people are so absurdly unreasonable. They always want one to be perfectly dumb at the very moment when one is longing to be absolutely deaf.
-Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) Anglo-Irish playwright, author Mabel Chiltern, in “An Ideal Husband,” Act 2

No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did he would cease to be an artist.
-Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) Irish poet, novelist, dramatist and critic

Of course the music is a great difficulty. You see, if one plays good music, people don’t listen, and if one plays bad music people don’t talk.
-Oscar Wilde

The critic has to educate the public; the artist has to educate the critic.
-Oscar Wilde, letter to the editor of the Scots Observer (1890)

As often as I talk tough about not caring what the critics (official and otherwise) say about our season, I have to admit that by the end of every summer I’m exhausted by the whole subject. Truth is, when the press is good, we all have to use it as one of the public faces of our organizations. Who of us is above sprinkling annual reports and brochures with quotes from favorable reviews? (The same goes for individual performers – press packers, websites, bios…) And if all our press turned bad, we’d be in serious trouble with all our stakeholders. So we persist in caring. Or at least paying attention. Yet it’s essential not to truly believe any of it, good or bad. Face it. Any of us worth our salt knows when something works and when it doesn’t.
-Kim Pensinger Witman

If I could have been a classical pianist or an opera singer, I might have thrown conscience to the wind.
-Helen Woodson (61 year old imprisoned anti-violence activist)

Perhaps one of the most ridiculous instruments to play is the oboe.
-Cooper Wright

I know the price of success: dedication, hard work, and an unremitting devotion to the things you want to see happen.
-Frank Lloyd Wright



In dreams begin responsibility.
-William Butler Yeats


The formula for success is simple: practice and concentration then more practice and more concentration.
-Babe Didrikson Zaharias (1914 – 1956) US sportswoman, golfer

Practice, which some regard as a chore, should be approached as just about the most pleasant recreation ever devised.
-Babe Didrikson Zaharias (1914 – 1956) US sportswoman, golfer

A composer is a guy who goes around forcing his will on unsuspecting air molecules, often with the assistance of unsuspecting musicians.
Frank Zappa (1940 – 1993) US singer, guitarist, philosopher, actor, The Real Frank Zappa Book, ch. 8 (1989; written with Peter Occhiogrosso).

“Conducting” is when you draw “designs” in the nowhere – with your stick, or with your hands — which are interpreted as “instructional messages” by guys wearing bow ties who wish they were fishing.
-Frank Zappa

Some people crave baseball — I find this unfathomable — but I can easily understand why a person could get excited about playing a bassoon.
-Frank Zappa

The manner in which Americans “consume” music has a lot to do with leaving it on their coffee tables, or using it as wallpaper for their lifestyles, like the score of a movie–it’s consumed that way without any regard for how and why it’s made.
-Frank Zappa (1940?1994) Interview in, “The Real Frank Zappa Book,” ch. 11 (1989)

Without music to decorate it, time is just a bunch of boring production deadlines or dates by which bills must be paid.
-Frank Zappa

Theatre is the oldest of the performing arts and has survived many crises before now. People coming together in a real space to watch a performance is an artform that cannot be killed off.
-Marie Zimmerman

The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work.
-Émile Zola

They don’t induct you into the ARIA Hall of Fame for playing the oboe.
-Bernard Zuel


Music, particularly the kind we heard here, really does soothe the savage beast,” said one prisoner.
-Said by a prisoner who attended a concert of Mozart music

Not since the controversial film version of the equally controversial novel A Clockwork Orange revived interest in the chap Alex and his “Ludwig Van” droogs has classical music been rising so steadily on the barometer of cool. While we may be a long way from downloads of Chopin outnumbering those of Coldplay, the entertainment and lifestyle landscape is becoming increasingly peppered with classical music, played by (and for) the hip crowd.
-From Wave Magazine

Now comes the question: What is your endgame, O wooer of the tambourine? Do you shake her for her sex appeal? Have you seen men playing tambourines on stage, using them to attract painted women in short skirts, and decided that you, too, would like to use the tambourine to attract a painted lady of your own? Then you love the tambourine for all the wrong reasons. Lay her down gently and walk away. You are among the undeserving.

Do not feel alone. Most are undeserving. But if you are pure of heart and prove yourself worthy of her considerable charms, the tambourine will treat you well. This, however, is a long, hard road, and the journey down this path requires great seriousness of purpose and commitment. If you decide that you are incapable of such things, then you should seriously consider the oboe. That is an instrument for the true vulgarian.

-From The Onion (read the rest here)

The Eifel Tower broadcasting station was opening with the first strains of a concert of classical music when a Yankee voice remarked: “Classical music is no good. Let me give you some real music.” Then the ether was shattered with Casey Jones. The police are after the joker and have already determined “approximately” where he lives. The gendarmes describe him as having “a disjointed sense of humor.”
Time, March 31, 1923

The nature of this melodic instrument par excellence, being poorly suited to virtuosity, gives rise fatally to monotony; this is a pitfall that not all composers are able to avoid.
-L’Art musical, 19/48 (1880): 338 found in the book The Oboe by Geoffrey Burgess and Bruce Haynes

The oboe player has a long, pale cheek
His lips are thin, his visage lank and weak.
His hair is curly; on his sad face
‘merit unrecognized’ you clearly trace
Crafty and sly, he loves a quiet beer
His instrument above all things is dear . . .

– Music Magazine: March, 1882

The principal oboe player is arguably the third most important musician in an orchestra, right behind the music director and concertmaster (principal first violinist). It’s the oboist who tunes the orchestra at the beginning of every concert (with that familiar, plaintive “A” tone). And it’s that player who leads the other wind players with her instrument’s instantly recognizable nasal sound.
-From an article in The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Throughout this first movement – and throughout the symphony – the Concertgebouw’s solo players were amazingly good: the bassoonist, the oboist, the clarinetist (actually, more than one). The oboist played so beautifully, his instrument almost didn’t sound like an oboe. (My apologies to oboists all over.)
-From a review in the New York Sun, February 16, 2006

“Well, Someone’s Gotta Play Oboe,” Screams Frustrated Band Teacher”
-Headline found at The Onion


Amateurs practice until they get it right. Professionals practice until they can’t get it wrong.

An oboist trained in Chicago
Could play nothing faster than largo.
He tried a new reed
Which gained him no speed.
So now he plays tuba in Fargo.


Bach gave us God’s Word. Mozart gave us God’s laughter. Beethoven gave us God’s fire. God gave us Music that we might pray without words.
-Unknown (Quote from outside an old opera house)

Classical music must be reborn with every generation. The legacy of past composers is irrelevant if the genre isn≠t embraced by young listeners.

Every theater is a lunatic asylum, but opera is the ward for incurables.
-Unknwon (Quote attributed to a friend of Franz Liszt)

I don’t play the flaute!
-Anonymous Flutist (who happens to be a colleague of mine) responding to a person asking her if he should say “flautist” or “flutist”.

It is easier to understand a nation by listening to its music than by learning its language.

Opera, for me at least, is not something I warm to easily. Puccini, of course, is filled with great and beautiful melodies, and his musical style is very much in keeping with what I enjoy. Mr. Lloyd Webber also enjoys Puccini’s melodies, and has paid homage to them several times, most notably in The Phantom of The Opera, in which a famous strain of music from La Fanciulla del West is quoted note for note in Music of The Night. I am somewhat ashamed to say that I’ve never cottoned to Verdi, nor have I rayoned or nyloned to him either. Same with the operas of Mozart. My first experience with opera (if I have written about this previously please forgive me, but I am senile) came about in a funny way. I was, as a teen, very fond of the play The Crucible by Mr. Arthur Miller. One day, while browsing at Phil Harris Records in Hollywood, California, I saw a boxed set of LPs that said The Crucible. I, of course, immediately assumed it was a spoken word album of the play, but when I picked it up I discovered it was, in fact, an American opera adapted from the play by composer Robert Ward. Now, remember, I was young, I didn’t know from opera and I didn’t know from Robert Ward. But being the impetuous youth I was I purchased it. And do you know what? It was glorious, filled with exquisitely beautiful music. I became a life-long fan of Mr. Ward, and actually got to meet him several years ago. You’ll be happy to know that my close personal friend, Mr. Stephen Sondheim, is also a fan of Mr. Ward. The good news is that The Crucible is available on CD on the Albany label, which you will find under “Ward” (not B.J.) in the classical section of your music store. It’s worth seeking out.
-Author unknown, but found here

Play the music, not the instrument.

Practicing is like cleaning your bathroom, you dread it, but while you are actually doing it you look back and think ‘I’ve accomplished so much’ and that is where the joy of practicing is- accomplishments.

Why do we teach music? Not because we expect you to major in music. Not because we expect you to play and sing all your life. Not so you can relax. But so you will be human. So you will recognize beauty. So you will be sensitive. So you will have something to cling to. So you will have more love, more compassion, more gentleness, more good, in short, more life. Of what value will it be to make a prosperous living unless you know how to live? That is why we teach music.


Nora Post: One of the most fascinating things you’ve said is that you feel the oboe is a lady.
Leon Goosens: Yes.
NP: And I feel that it’s definitely a man!
LG: Well, I suppose it depends upon your inclination … you notice the oboe is used on TV and on the radio whenever it’s something that is very romantic.
NP: Well, why does romanticism have to be something with women?
LG: Well, from the man’s point of view, of course it is.
NP: So you think the oboe is a woman because you’re a man, and I think it’s a man because I’m a woman! … That’s the only answer.
Evelyn Rothwell: Do you think that it can take on the characteristics of both?
LG: An androgynous oboe? I don’t know!

Conversation found in The Oboe, by Geoffrey Burgess and Bruce Haynes, p247

Musician: Do you want more vibration here?
Guest conductor Susanna Malkki: (pause) I want … (pause) I want it to be beautiful.

You know, if the sun was an oboe, what would you do?
Interviewer: Is that —
No, no. I was just making a funny little haiku. That was just a little joke. Well, it’s a half-joke. Because how would you hear it?

-Lou Reed (Velvet Underground)

After playing the violin for the cellist Gregor Piatgorsky, Albert Einstein asked, “Did I play well?”
You played relatively well,” replied Piatigorsky.

I totally fell asleep the last time I was at The Nutcracker. I fell asleep for a whole section of the second act.
-An adult Nutcracker attendee at our performance last night. Overheard on my way to the car.


Bartholomew ‘Bart’ Collins: “I don’t think the piano is my instrument.”
Dr. Terwilliker: “What other instruments are there, pray tell? Scratchy violins, screechy piccolos, nauseating trumpets, et cetera, et cetera?”

-From The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T.

You shouldn’t mix fairy tales with liverwurst and buttermilk.
-Betty, on White Christmas

He’s a musician. He can sleep curled up in a sink.

Terri Gross: What kept you going to high school and college, in spite of the success that you were having?
Booker T.: Well, I had not yet met my own standards, I wasn’t yet writing the music I was hearing in my mind; I had a classical background and a curiosity for all of the European greats that had written so much wonderful classical music and I needed to know how to arrange for the orchestra. I needed to know how to conduct … I just had to continue my education in order to imrpove myself as a musician.
T.G.: You know, having heard you play I never would have guessed that you were into classical music and I might not have known that you were as studious and serious sounding as you are.
BT: … I spent many hours listening to the old masters: everything from Bach, to Stravinsky, to Chopin; learning that music and learning how it was put together — and studying.
T.G.: You played a lot of different instruments when you were young … you played ukelele, oboe, saxophone, trombone, piano, organ, clarinet. Did having a working knowledge with all those instruments help you as a musician ….
BT: Yeah, I think it did … starting with oboe, which is a C instrument. I played that when I was in fourth grade because I was too young to play in the band and they wouldn’t let me in but no one else would play the oboe so I took that up and that’s how I got in the band in fourth grade ….

-Heard on Fresh Air with Terri Gross

Q: Is it true that all oboe players are virgins?
A: You know that might be true. I don’t know if it’s true, but I would understand why if it were.

-Branford Marsalis

“Cut it out! If I feel the need for that kind of abuse, I’ll go for a lesson with my oboe teacher!”
-Said by the “ubergeek” on Malcolm In the Middle

“Reviewers! What do they know?”
-A line from the Opera San Jose production of Die Fledermaus.

I’ve heard it said that every time a musician plays it’s an act of faith; will it be music or will it be noise?”
Heard on NPR on the segment Mongolian Reindeer Herders: A Vanishing Breed.

The Sonata is a composition that aims for true harmony.
-Radio Commercial

Marge: Aren’t you glad we got out of the house and came downtown for a little culture?
Homer: Peh. There butchering the classics. Could that bassoon have come in any more late?
Marge: Aw, come on, Homer, there’s lasers. you like lasers …
Homer: Laser effects, mirrored balls…John WIlliams must be rolling around in his grave.
[the music segues from “Star Wars” to “Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star”]
Hibbert: [chuckles] Devilishiously satirical! I wonder if anyone else got that.

The Simpsons


It is the responsibility of the musician to create heaven on earth and to create balance, peace and harmony in the environment.
-East Indian saying

Only the mediocre are always at their best.

Those who hear not the music think the dancers mad.
-A Chinese proverb

Thou may not attain perfection but neither are Thee excused from making the attempt.
-Quaker proverb


Q: How many oboe players does it take to change a light bulb?
A: One — but he/she may go through a dozen or so to find a bulb that’s just right.



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