Aphorisms & Quotes

“I feel as if I’ve been weeping over sins that I have never committed and mourning over tragedies that were not my own.” —Oscar Wilde, after playing Chopin

“Life can’t be all bad when for ten dollars you can buy all the Beethoven sonatas and listen to them for ten years.” —William F. Buckley, Jr.

“You can tell the history of jazz in four words: Louis Armstrong. Charlie Parker.” —Miles Davis

“Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” —Plato

“Music is another planet.” —Alphonse Daudet

“After silence, that which comes closest to expressing the inexpressible is music.” —Aldous Huxley

“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

“I write music like a sow piddles.” —Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

“Mozart encompasses the entire domain of musical creation, but I’ve got only the keyboard in my poor head.” —Frederic Chopin

“One must speak the truth about the past, or not speak at all.” —Dmitri Shostakovich

“The typical rock fan isn’t smart enough to know when he’s being dumped on. —Frank Zappa

“I just played John Cage’s 4:33 really fast. It only took 3:58.” —Jeffrey Reid Baker

“I spent yesterday listening to serialism and atonality. Today I was introduced to ‘musique concrete’ Tomorrow I will commit suicide. I need the lift.” —Jeffrey Reid Baker

“Art is not an end in itself, but a means of addressing humanity.” —Modeste Mussorgsky

“In art, spontaneity must always be calculated.” —Ned Rorem

“What the world needs is more geniuses with humility, there are so few of us left.” —Oscar Levant

“A drummer is a musician’s best friend.” —from a Martin Mull album.

“He’d be better off shoveling snow.” —Richard Strauss on Arnold Schoenberg.

“I would like to hear Elliot Carter’s Fourth String Quartet, if only to discover what a cranky prostate does to one’s polyphony.” —James Sellars

“Exit in case of Brahms.” —Philip Hale’s proposed inscription over the doors of Boston Symphony Hall

“Why is it that whenever I hear a piece of music I don’t like, it’s always by Villa-Lobos?” —Igor Stravinsky

“His music used to be original. Now it’s aboriginal.” —Sir Ernest Newman on Igor Stravinsky

“If he’d been making shell-cases during the war it might have been better for music.” —Maurice Ravel on Camille Saint-Saens

“He has an enormously wide repertory. He can conduct anything, provided it’s by Beethoven, Brahms or Wagner. He tried Debussy’s La Mer once. It came out as Das Merde.” —Anonymous Orchestra Member on George Szell

“Madam, you have between your legs an instrument capable of giving pleasure to thousands and all you can do is scratch it.” —Sir Thomas Beecham to a lady cellist.

“After I die, I shall return to earth as a gatekeeper of a bordello and I won’t let any of you enter.” —Arturo Toscanini to the NBC Orchestra

“We cannot expect you to be with us all the time, but perhaps you could be good enough to keep in touch now and again.” —Sir Thomas Beecham to a musician during a rehearsal

“Jack Benny played Mendelssohn last night. Mendelssohn lost.” —Anonymous

“Her voice sounded like an eagle being goosed.” —Ralph Novak on Yoko Ono

“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

“One can’t judge Wagner’s opera Lohengrin after a first hearing, and I certainly don’t intend hearing it a second time.” —Gioacchino Rossini

“I liked the opera very much. Everything but the music.” —Benjamin Britten on Stravinsky’s The Rakes’ Progress

“Her singing reminds me of a cart coming downhill with the brake on.” —Sir Thomas Beecham on an unidentified soprano in Die Walküre

“Wagner’s music has beautiful moments but some bad quarters of an hour.” —Rossini

“Richard Wagner’s music is better than it sounds.” —Mark Twain

“The present day composer refuses to die.” —Edgar Varese

“Beethoven had an ear for music.” —anonymous

“The clarinet is a musical instrument the only thing worse than which is two.” —The Devil’s Dictionary, by Ambrose Bierce

The great German conductor Hans von Bülow detested two members of an orchestra, who were named Schultz and Schmidt. Upon being told that Schmidt had died, von Buelow immediately asked, “Und Schultz?”

Someone commented to Rudolph Bing, manager of the Metropolitan Opera, that George Szell is his own worst enemy. “Not while I’m alive, he isn’t!” said Bing.

When told that a soloist would need six fingers to perform his concerto, Arnold Schoenberg replied, “I can wait.”