Words

about music, concerts, the arts in Canada, and more. A collection of essays and blogs (which I’ve embedded here all in one place).

Famous composer quotes

…composers whose words inspire…

  • "The listener must be gripped and whether he likes it or not, drawn into the flight path of the sounds without special training being necessary. The sensual shock must be just as forceful as when one hears a clap of thunder or looks into a bottomless abyss." — Iannis Xenakis

  • "Works of art make rules; rules do not make works of art." — Claude Debussy

  • "The point is that even if music can arouse in us associations with the rich world of human feelings, in different people these associations will be different. Hence a simple conclusion: it is unimportant whether the composer writes his work under the influence of extra-musical impulses, whether it is related in his consciousness or subconsciousness to some cycle of events, or whether he himself plans to express something which could be said in words. All this belongs to the field of sources of musical inspiration, but for me it never becomes the ultimate goal. And that is why, just like so many other composers, I could not answer enquiry about the concrete meaning of my music. Just as I could not say what is the meaning of Debussy’s preludes or Bach’s partitas. But isn’t it part of the great attraction of music that what is says cannot be expressed in any other way?" — W. Lutoslawski

  • "Now there is no taboo; everything is allowed. But one cannot simply go back to tonality, it’s not the way. We must find a way of neither going back nor continuing the avant-garde. I am in a prison: one wall is the avant-garde, the other wall is the past, and I want to escape." — Gyorgy Ligeti

  • “My freedom thus consists in my moving about within the narrow frame that I have assigned to myself for each one of my undertakings. I shall go even further: my freedom will be so much the greater and more meaningful the more narrowly I limit my field of action and the more I surround myself with obstacles. Whatever diminishes constraint diminishes strength. The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees oneself of the claims that shackle the spirit.” — Igor Stravinsky, Poetics of Music

  • “Too bad people can't always be playing music, maybe then there wouldn't be any more wars.” ― Margot Benary-Isbert, Rowan Farm

  • “Without music, life would be a mistake.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols

  • "Music is the arithmetic of sounds as optics is the geometry of light." — Claude Debussy

  • “Without music to decorate it, time is just a bunch of boring production deadlines or dates by which bills must be paid.” ― Frank Zappa, Real Frank Zappa Book

  • "I cannot conceive of music that expresses absolutely nothing." — Bela Bartok

  • “The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.” ― Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart "Music is the silence between the notes." — Claude Debussy

  • "When you look at the scores of young composers, very often you don’t have time to look at the scores completely. But the most important moment is the first change. The composer comes and establishes an idea that everybody understands. Everybody can have an idea. Everybody. The problem is to have a second one. This is a greater problem. And the major problem is to know where and when to bring in this second idea. And very often, you realize after a few pages that he is not a musician. He does the wrong thing." — Gerard Grisey