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Music

  • ... [her] musical genius, the least sane of all gifts, put her in touch with the greater mysteries of the Universe ...

  • I feel as if I had never seen a violin before. It looks like a fabulous creature-phantom-fox spirit — wedded to the human-turned head and the left shoulder and the hands. As if something had been missing when man was created, and now he has found his needed thing — his needed voice for uttering his strangest cry by his lonely spirit.

  • The one Bach piece I learnt made me feel I was being repeatedly hit on the head with a teaspoon.

  • Musicians are divided into two classes — those who like to hear themselves play and those who like to hear themselves sing.

  • ... the past-that-might-have-been, and the future-that-was-to-be, stretched behind and before her, as is strangely often the case when we are listening to music.

  • ... there are two kinds of music — good music and bad music. Good music is music that I want to hear. Bad music is music that I don't want to hear.

  • A musical audience is at best uninspiring, at worst definitely drab. ... Respectability hangs like a pall over the orchestra and the boxes; a sort of sterile sobriety ill-fitted to the passionate geometry of music.

  • Surely the hold of great music on the listener is precisely this: that the listener is made whole; and at the same time part of an image of infinite grace and grandeur which is creation.

  • What good is music? None ... and that is the point. To the world and its states and armies and factories and Leaders, music says, 'You are irrelevant'; and, arrogant and gentle as a god, to the suffering man it says only, 'Listen.' For being saved is not the point. Music saves nothing. Merciful, uncaring, it denies and breaks down all the shelters, the houses men build for themselves, that they may see the sky.

  • It had never occurred to me before that music and thinking are so much alike. In fact you could say music is another way of thinking, or maybe thinking is another kind of music.

  • It is extraordinary how music sends one back into memories of the past ...

  • ... the writer must resist this temptation [to quote] and do his best with his own tools. It would be most convenient for us musicians if, arrived at a given emotional crisis in our work, we could simply stick in a few bars of Brahms or Schubert. Indeed many composers have no hesitation in so doing. But I have never heard the practice defended; possibly because that hideous symbol of petty larceny, the inverted comma, cannot well be worked into a musical score.

  • Record company execs eat their young, I swear to God.

  • While I listened, music was to my soul what the atmosphere is to my body; it was the breath of my inward life. I felt, more deeply than ever, that music is the highest symbol of the infinite and holy. ... With renewed force I felt what I have often said, that the secret of creation lay in music. 'A voice to light gave being.' Sound led the stars into their places ...

  • ... scales are the grammar of music.

  • The music paled like a candle and went out ...

  • ... the conductor obeyed all too literally the proverbial mandate. His right hand rarely knew what his left hand did ...

  • ... Mozart is everyone's tea, pleasing to highbrows, middlebrows and lowbrows alike, though they probably all get different kinds of pleasure from him.

  • Music my rampart, and my only one.

  • Sweet sounds, oh, beautiful music, do not cease!

  • ... without music I should wish to die.

  • I find that I never lose Bach. I don't know why I have always loved him so. Except that he is so pure, so relentless and incorruptible, like a principle of geometry.

  • As oil will find its way into crevices where water cannot penetrate, so song will find its way where speech can no longer enter.

  • There is no phase of the Italian mind that has not found expression in its music.

  • No composer has yet caught this rhythm of America — it is too mighty for the ears of most.

  • I was no more musical than a muskrat ...

  • I think of music as fuel, its spectrum of energy governed by tempi, volume, and heart.

  • ... good music is wine turned to sound.

  • I dream of songs. I dream they fall down through the centuries, from my distant ancestors, and come to me. I dream of lullabies and sea shanties and keening cries and rhythms and stories and backbeats.

  • I wish I could write librettos for the rest of my life. It is the purest of human pleasures, a heavenly hermaphroditism of being both writer and musician. No wonder that selfish beast Wagner kept it all to himself.

  • As for the slow movement, I thought it would never end. It was like being in such a slow train with so many stops that one becomes convinced that one has passed one's station.

  • ... what can wake / The soul's strong instinct of another world, / Like music?

  • People always sound so proud when they announce they know nothing of music.

  • The judgment of music, like the inspiration for it, must come slow and measured, if it comes with truth.

  • ... the new modern music puzzled her. It made her think but it did not make her feel ...

  • ... music is not technique and melody, but the meaning of life itself, infinitely sorrowful and unbearably beautiful.

  • No one really understood music unless he was a scientist, her father had declared, and not just a scientist, either, oh, no, only the real ones, the theoreticians, whose language was mathematics.

  • ... Mozart eliminates the idea of haste from life. His airs could not lag as they make their journey through the listener's attention; they are not the right shape for loitering. But it is as true that they never rush, they are never headlong or helter-skelter, they splash no mud, they raise no dust.

  • ... Miss Beevor had made her playing at once much better and much worse, by giving her resolute fingers greater power to express her misunderstanding of sound.

  • ... music is a missionary effort to colonize earth for imperialistic heaven.

  • Music is part of human life and partakes of the human tragedy. There is much more music in the world than is allowed to change into heard sounds and prove its point.

  • Music melts all the separate parts of our bodies together.

  • Writing more and more to the sound of music, writing more and more like music. Sitting in my studio tonight, playing record after record, writing, music a stimulant of the highest order, far more potent than wine.

    • Anaïs Nin,
    • 1935, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, vol. 2 ()
  • Jazz is the music of the body.

    • Anaïs Nin,
    • 1947, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, vol. 5 ()
  • ... jazz is the expression of America's romantic self, its sensual potency, its lyrical force.

    • Anaïs Nin,
    • 1957, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, vol. 6 ()
  • ... notes fly so much farther than words. There is no other way to reach the infinite.

    • Anaïs Nin,
    • 1976, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, vol. 7 ()
  • In music I feel most deeply the passing of things.

    • Anaïs Nin,
    • 1976, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, vol. 7 ()
  • ... we were none of us musical, though Miss Jenkyns beat time, out of time, by way of appearing to be so.

  • Going to the opera, like getting drunk, is a sin that carries its own punishment with it, and that a very severe one.

    • Hannah More,
    • letter to her sister (1775), in William Roberts, ed., Memoirs of the Life and Correspondence of Mrs. Hannah More, vol. 1 ()
  • Only dead people need loud music, you know.

  • The music sounded flat — it had the kind of depth that comes from bitterness, not wonder.

  • Oh, yes, of course I like music, too. Very much. It's so pleasant of an evening, especially when made by your friends at home. I often say I like it better than cards. Though I must say I do like a good game of bridge.

  • Almost anything is enough to keep alive someone who wishes nothing for himself but time to write music ...

  • Oh, la la la, / this music swims back to me.

    • Anne Sexton,
    • "Music Swims Back to Me," To Bedlam and Part Way Back ()
  • Music is the universal language ... it brings people closer together.

    • Ella Fitzgerald,
    • in "100 American Women of Accomplishment," Harper's Bazaar ()
  • I stole everything I ever heard, but mostly I stole from the horns.

    • Ella Fitzgerald,
    • in Barbara McDowell and Hana Umlauf, Woman's Almanac ()
  • Everybody wants to know about my style and how it came about. It's no big secret. It's the way I feel.

  • ... I'd crack up without my music. It's the best company you can have, really. It don't say 'no' or 'maybe,' or ask no questions.

  • I'm never so aware of my immortal soul as when I hear music.

  • The music was my friend, my lover, my family.

  • Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the spaces between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.

  • My people had used music to soothe slavery's torment or to propitiate God, or to describe the sweetness of love and the distress of lovelessness, but I knew no race could sing and dance its way to freedom.

  • All riddles are blues, / And all blues are sad, / And I'm only mentioning / Some blues I've had.

    • Maya Angelou,
    • "A Good Woman Feeling Bad," Shaker, Why Don't You Sing? ()
  • Always in the black spirituals there's that promise that things are going to be better, by and by.

  • If morning-glories had come out of the horn instead of those sounds, Josie would not have felt a more astonished delight. She was pierced with pleasure.

  • Miss Eckhart worshiped her metronome. She kept it, like the most precious secret in the teaching of music, in a wall safe.

  • On his side of the bed Mr. Judson began to conduct a full-scale orchestra, and every instrument had sat out in the rain.

  • I am always thirsting for beautiful, beautiful, beautiful music. I wish I could make it. Perhaps there isn't any music on earth like what I picture to myself.

    • Olive Schreiner,
    • 1878, in S.C. Cronwright-Schreiner, ed., The Letters of Olive Schreiner 1876-1920 ()
  • A writer's heart, a poet's heart, an artist's heart, a musician's heart is always breaking. It is through that broken window that we see the world; more mysterious, beloved, insane, and precious for the sparkling and jagged edges of the smaller enclosure we have escaped.

  • No matter how hard times are, people still want music.

  • My guitar and singing was my way of crying.

  • I'm the saxophone / that wails all night / outside your bedroom window.

    • Grace Bauer,
    • "So You Want to Hear the Blues," in Emilie Buchwald and Ruth Roston, eds., Mixed Voices ()
  • Jazz exemplifies artistic activity that is at once individual and communal, performance that is both repetitive and innovative, each participant sometimes providing background support and sometimes flying free.

  • ... gospel singing ... is the rawest, sweetest, uninhibited and exquisite sounds a person can make or hear. It isn't music, it's an entire experience you feel and live. A sound to rise you up again.

  • All music, even if its occasion be a gay one, renders us pensive.

  • The memories which come to us through music are not accompanied by any regrets; for a moment music gives us back the pleasures it retraces, and we feel them again rather than recollect them.

  • ... nothing recalls the past like music ...

  • Music revives the recollections it would appease.

  • Superior music is purity itself; it clears the air.

  • ... to deny that music powerfully influences our thoughts and conduct is either ignorant or a deliberate lie. Anyone who listens to music has been moved by it. It's music, that's the point.

  • Music is my personal addiction. So much of everything I've done has only been to open more doors for the music itself. It all gets back to the fact that I am, first of all, a songwriter and a singer.

    • Dolly Parton,
    • in Leonore Fleischer, Dolly: Here I Come Again ()
  • Music, I suppose, will be the thing that sustains me in the time of my life when I am too old for sex and not quite ready to meet God. It has always been an essential part of me.

  • Everything you ever had, everything you ever lost. It's all there in the trumpet — pain and hate and trouble and peace and quiet and love.

    • Ann Petry,
    • "Solo on the Drums," in '47 Magazine of the Year ()
  • From out the peaceful hollow of its throat / such music pours as I am unaware / how to devise. I did not think these things. / It is the reed that sings.

    • Alice Smith,
    • "It Is the Reed," There Will Come Another Spring: Collected Poems of Alice Smith ()
  • She often thought that it would be a perfect arrangement to arrive just in time for the encores, which were usually short and easy on the ear, with the familiar quality of quotations. Not that she wasn't musical — she had had eight long years of piano — it was simply that after a certain point, everything sounded alike.

  • Whiskey and music, I reflected, especially when taken together, made time fly incredibly fast.

  • I can't tell my future, so I'm going to tell my past.

    • Ma Rainey,
    • "Last Minute Blues," in Will Friedwalk, Jazz Singing ()
  • [Advice to Bessie Smith:] Let your soul do the singin'.

    • Ma Rainey,
    • in Studs Terkel, Giants of Jazz ()
  • A tune's like a staircase — walk up on it.

    • Ma Rainey,
    • in Studs Terkel, Giants of Jazz ()
  • Jazz was home. It created a hunger within me.

    • Dianne Reeves,
    • in Pamela Johnson, "Dianne Reeves," Essence ()
  • ... music is the most abstract of all the arts.

  • ... music figures largely in the life of the race. We see not only that it beguiles the simplest labor or leisure, but that it is thought worthy to occupy the attention of men on the most important occasions of their lives. They are christened and married and prayed over and marched to war and celebrated and buried to music, as if in some fashion well-ordered sound was the appropriate accompaniment of all the activities of the human family.

  • Music stays in the air. / It travels at the speed of breath / at the sound of light. / It is never not heard. / It can wait centuries if it has to.

  • For words are wearisome and worn, while the arabesques of music are forever new.

  • [On Johann Sebastian Bach:] A divine sewing machine.

    • Colette,
    • in Leonard Louis Levinson, ed., Bartlett's Unfamiliar Quotations ()
  • When music fails to agree to the ear, to soothe the ear and the heart and the senses, then it has missed its point.

  • It is our job only to make the music. The audience that should hear it will be brought to our music at the right time.

  • ... Alan said that as a musician he was a good basketball player.

  • For her there were three kinds of composers: the poor ones, the great ones, and Bach.

  • Sugar! My voice is strong, smooth, and sweet. I will make you feel like dancing. Close your eyes and listen. My voice feels like feet skipping on cool wet sand, like running under a waterfall, like rolling down a hill. My voice climbs and rocks and dips and flips with the sounds of congas beating and trumpets blaring. Boom boom boom! Beat the congas. Clap clap clap! Go the hands. Shake shake shake! Go the hips. I am the Queen of Salsa and I invite you to come dance with me.

  • 'At what point did rhythm & blues start becoming rock & roll?' 'When the white kids started to dance to it.'

  • Words created divergencies between beings, because their precise meanings put an opinion around the idea. Music only retains the highest and purest substance of the idea, since it has the privilege of expressing all, whilst excluding nothing.

  • As far as the execution is concerned ... the most frequent and most serious mistake is to follow the music instead of preceding it.

  • In music everything is prolonged, everything is edified, and when the enchantment has ceased, we are still bathed in its clarity; solitude is accompanied by a new hope between pity for ourselves — which makes us more indulgent and more understanding — and the certitude of finding something again, that which lives for ever in music.

  • Nothing is better than music; when it takes us out of time, it has done more for us than we have the right to hope for: it has broadened the limits of our sorrowful life, it has lit up the sweetness of our hours of happiness by effacing the pettinesses that diminish us, bringing us back pure and new to what was, what will be, what music has created for us.

  • ... your concert-goer, though he feed upon symphony as a lamb upon milk, is no true lover if he play no instrument. Your true lover does more than admire the muse; he sweats a little in her service.

  • ... one quality music, alone among the arts, possesses — a warm, a satisfying friendliness. All the other arts are lonely. We paint alone — my picture, my interpretation of the sky. My poem, my novel. But in music — ensemble music, not soloism — we share. No altruism this, for we receive tenfold what we give.

  • [On being asked how it felt to be the first female conductor of the Boston Symphony:] I've been a woman for a little more than fifty years, and I've gotten over my original astonishment.

    • Nadia Boulanger,
    • 1938, in Deborah G. Felder, The 100 Most Influential Women of All Time ()
  • A great work is made out of a combination of obedience and liberty.

    • Nadia Boulanger,
    • in Nadia Boulanger and Bruno Monsaingeon, Mademoiselle: Conversations With Nadia Boulanger ()
  • To study music, we must learn the rules. To create music, we must forget them.

    • Nadia Boulanger,
    • in Aaron Copland and Vivian Perris, Copland: 1900 Through 1942 ()
  • Music was not invented by the composer, but found.

  • The great conductor is always a despot by temperament and intractable in his ways. ... The artist is obliged to keep his laughter and tears to himself. If they want to emerge, in spite of himself, then he must hide them or unleash them in someone else.

  • False notes can be forgiven, false music cannot.

  • You should never listen to someone practice. That is their work and theirs alone.

  • Music, like life, is in constant evolution.

  • [On the music of Richard Strauss:] Too many notes!

  • Inside the piano there are a thousand irregularities: 'tis the nature of the beast. Despite it all, we continue to think we are hearing something beautiful, and so we are. Our ears, our hearts, forgive. Music could even be defined by what we happen to be forgiving at a particular time in history.

  • A piano is full of suppressed desires, recalcitrance, inhibition, conflict.

  • 'Sound' is a catch-all word which describes 'all that we hear,' in one lump, from music to noise. ... we consider the kingdom of our eyes far more complex, and would not dream of trying to sum it up in a word which would mean 'all that we see.'

  • Composing gives me great pleasure. ... There is nothing which surpasses the joy of creation, if only because through it one wins hours of self-forgetfulness, when one lives in a world of sound.

    • Clara Schumann,
    • 1853, in Berthold Litzmann, Clara Schumann: An Artist's Life, vol. 2 ()
  • Not all songs are religious, but there is scarcely a task, light or grave, scarcely an event, great or small, but it has its fitting song.

  • To the large extent that music can organize our perceptions of our own bodies and emotions, it can tell us things about history that are not accessible through any other medium.

  • ... the person who sings only the blues is like someone in a deep pit yelling for help ...

  • Blues are the songs of despair, but gospel songs are the songs of hope.

  • Gospel music in those days of the early 1930s was really taking wing. It was the kind of music colored people had left behind them down South and they liked it because it was just like a letter from home.

  • Great music has always been rooted in religion — when religion is understood as an attitude toward superhuman power and the mysteries of the universe.

  • ... music gives access to regions in the subconscious that can be reached in no other way.

  • If God exists / then music is his love for me.

  • Let music bless / all hopes, all loves, however odd. / Music, my joy, my full-scale God.

    • Gwen Harwood,
    • "A Scattering of Ashes," The Lion's Bride ()
  • He would dream / of his piano as if it were flesh.

    • Lola Haskins,
    • "The Prodigy," in Emilie Buchwald and Ruth Roston, eds., Mixed Voices ()
  • To play pianissimo / is to carry sweet words / to the old woman in the last dark row / who cannot hear anything else, / and to lay them across her lap like a shawl.

    • Lola Haskins,
    • "To Play Pianissimo," in Emilie Buchwald and Ruth Roston, eds., Mixed Voices ()
  • She leans with sparkling looks / Toward the dark wood, her strong / Hands work as gleaners should. / Then, as who would caress / A birdlike wordlessness, / She stoops — to drink the meaning / At the still brink of song.

    • Babette Deutsch,
    • "Piano Recital," The Collected Poems of Babette Deutsch ()
  • ... a few hours with Beethoven are more restful than sleep.

  • I've been an underdog most of my life. I was the class faggot who got bullied constantly. And I've had more shitty jobs than I care to remember. Add lots of transphobia to the mix, and voilà — that's the swamp world my songwriting comes from.

    • Shawna Virago,
    • in Anderson Illinshalf, "Outlaw on Stage: Shawna Virago Unplugged," Bitch ()
  • Like the brushing of swallows' wings against the willows — sweet, sweet music!

  • I love sex as much as I love music, and I think it's as hard to do.

  • Classical music has no message for me; popular music is a telegram.

    • Ruth Roye,
    • 1915, in Djuna Barnes, Interviews ()
  • I tell stories to music and, thank God, in tune.

  • I can't stand to sing the same song the same way two nights in succession, let alone two years or ten years. If you can, then it ain't music, it's close-order drill or exercise or yodeling or something, not music.

  • ... I am speech / beyond words' lettered reach ...

  • African music, though very old, is always being rediscovered in the West.

  • Jean turned the piano into a human voice, waking them out of sodden sleep. Just listening was living. Life filtered through tired bodies, bent backs. Heads lifted. Fear and worry fled from their eyes. For an instant, they breathed in a fullness of life denied them in life.

  • In the evenings the art of building gave way to that of music, which is architecture, too, though invisible.

  • ... as he talked his fingers caressed the strings of his guitar so that the very air about him seemed to breathe softly of music.

  • Music is not a science any more than poetry is. It is a sublime instinct, like genius of all kinds.

  • ... to Jack, his violin is comfort and relaxation. To his inky wife, it's time to put her head down the waste-disposal unit again.

  • Music has been my playmate, my lover, and my crying towel.

  • Music comes first from my heart, and then goes upstairs to my head where I check it out.

    • Roberta Flack,
    • in Terri L. Jewell, ed., The Black Woman's Gumbo Ya-Ya ()
  • ... music / I let it wake me / take me / Spin me around and make me / Uh get down.

  • I get way down in the music / Down inside the music ...

  • He's a professional musician. I mean, he can do it even when he's not in the mood.

    • Joyce Grenfell,
    • "Shirley's Girl Friend," "Stately As a Galleon" ()
  • Art is not national. It is international. Music is not written in red, white and blue; it is written with the heart's blood of the composer ...

  • I never like to play for myself, and that is why I don't own a grand piano. To play for yourself is like looking at yourself in a mirror. I like to practice; that is to work at a task. But to play there must be an audience. New things happen when you play for an audience. You don't know what will occur. You make discoveries with the music, and it is always the first time. It is an exchange, a communion.

  • Sometimes, when I play music, I feel as if I am giving life. ... It isn't just notes on the paper anymore: you are recreating the thought, transmitting it. It becomes shareable, but it can never be kept. You go through and at the same time you let go of the experience. That is part of the wonder of music: it can never be kept; it is ephemeral and at the same time enduring.

  • ... music hints at all that we cannot know but just dream of.

  • ... music is the most absorbing of all the arts. It absorbs the mind of the artist, whether creator or executant, to the exclusion of every other consideration outside his own immediate necessities or desires.

  • There are some composers — at the head of whom stands Beethoven — who not only do not know when to stop but appear to stop many times before they actually do.

  • Seated one day at the Organ, / I was weary and ill at ease, / And my fingers wandered idly / Over the noisy keys. / ... / But I struck one chord of music, / Like the sound of a great Amen.

  • One of the tragedies of real life is that there is no background music.

  • Stravinsky's Cantata for mezzo-soprano, tenor, women's choir and five instruments, based on Tudor verses, is a mercilessly dull, wholly unleavened essay in boredom ... a triumph of musical vacuity over the literary vigor of its text ... The most invigorating sound I heard was a restive neighbor winding his watch.

    • Mildred Norton,
    • in Nicolas Slonimsky, Lexicon of Musical Invective ()
  • Music is playing inside my head / Over and over and over again, my friend / There's no end to the music ...

  • How pleasant it is to be ignorant! Not to know exactly who Mozart was, to ignore his origin, his influence, the details of his technique! To just let him lead one by the hand ...

    • Maria-Louisa Bombal,
    • "The Tree," in Zoila Nelken and Rosalie Torres-Rioseco, eds., Short Stories of Latin America ()
  • I look at people like musical instruments. I set people to music.

  • ... music became my refuge and then my salvation.

  • Rhythm is one of the principal translators between dream and reality. Rhythm might be described as, to the world of sound, what light is to the world of sight. It shapes and gives new meaning. Rhythm was described by Schopenhauer as melody deprived of its pitch.

  • ... music, that vast and inevitable structure.

  • I wish the Government would put a tax on pianos for the incompetent.

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • 1943, in John Lehmann and Derek Parker, eds., Selected Letters ()
  • ... the piano and I were now bound for life, partners, companions, mates. Nothing and no one would ever be quite that important again, not husband, not home, not family, not good reviews, not bad reviews.

    • Ruth Slenczynska,
    • in Ruth Slenczynska and Louis Biancolli, Forbidden Childhood ()
  • What would the world be like without men and music?

  • ... music sets up ladders, / it makes us invisible, / it sets us apart, / it lets us escape ...

  • Music is like a lover that I can't commit to, but I seem to always find myself in bed with.

  • It doesn't take long to sum up the major theses of most popular music: he loves me; he left me; I need him; I needed him, but now I need his best friend. Rather limited scope.

    • Holly Near,
    • in Elaine Hedges and Ingrid Wendt, In Her Own Image: Women Working in the Arts ()
  • Whenever new ideas emerge, songs soon follow, and before long the songs are leading.

    • Holly Near,
    • in Holly Near, with Derk Richardson, Fire in the Rain...Singer in the Storm ()
  • ... music alone can abolish differences of language or culture between two people and evoke something indestructible within them.

  • People always remember the tune they fell in love to.

  • ... the hymns were born in the fifteenth or sixteenth century or earlier, and listening to them was like licking an icicle: the same chill, the same purity.

  • Music keeps time and defies time, simultaneously.

  • Floyd made the horn stutter, then played it smooth. It keened and it wailed. It asked the people what their troubles were and blew them back to them. Floyd got out of the way and let his horn carry him out to the edges of himself. There wasn't anything that horn couldn't say.

  • I am the first instrument. I am the voice. I do not imitate other instruments. Other instruments imitate me.

  • Learning to conduct is a lot like being in boot camp using live ammo.

  • The god of music dwelleth out of doors.

  • 'What do blues do for you?' 'It helps me to explain what I can't explain.'

  • Music's a memory you can take with you.

    • Diane Nichols,
    • in Mary Unterbrink, Funny Women: American Comediennes, 1860-1985 ()
  • ... the one universal form of art is music.

  • All writers, musicians, artists, choreographers/dancers, etc., work with the stuff of their experiences. It's the translation of it, the conversion of it, the shaping of it that makes for the drama.

  • ... the relentless touring and endless repetition of the same songs over and over again promoted a creeping awareness that my music had begun to sound like my washing machine.

  • Someone once asked me why people sing. I answered that they sing for many of the same reasons the birds sing. They sing for a mate, to claim their territory, or simply to give voice to the delight of being alive in the midst of a beautiful day. Perhaps more than the birds do, humans hold a grudge. They sing to complain of how grievously they have been wronged, and how to avoid it in the future. They sing to help themselves execute a job of work. They sing so the subsequent generations won't forget what the current generation endured, or dreamed, or delighted in.

  • The essential elements of singing are voice, musicianship, and story. It is the rare artist who has all three in abundance.

  • ... I feel sorry for a culture that depends too much on delegating its musical expression to professionals. It is fine to have heroes, but we should do our own singing first, even if it is never heard beyond the shower curtain.

  • Music has brought me some of the highest moments in my life. I don't even hear the music. I don't hear notes. I'm not even aware that someone has turned on a tape machine or that a record is playing — I'm in another world.

  • I worry that the person who thought up musak may be thinking up something else.

  • I liked Bach played the way people expect Chopin to be played, and vice versa.

  • In unison we rise and stand / And wish that we were sitting. / We listen to the music start, / And wish that it were quitting. / We pass our hymnal to a guest / or fake a smoker's cough; / We drop our pencils, lose our gloves, / Or take our glasses off. / We move our lips to keep in style, / Emitting awkward bleats, / And when the last 'Amen' is sung, / Sink gladly in our seats. / O Lord, who hearest every prayer / And saves us from our foes, / Deliver now Thy little flock / From hymns nobody knows.

  • These is old blues / and I sing em like any woman do. / These the old blues / and I sing em, sing em, sing em. Just like any woman do. / My life ain't done yet. / Naw. My song ain't through.

  • The blues records of each decade explain something about the philosophical basis of our lives as black people. ... Blues is a basis of historical continuity for black people. It is a ritualized way of talking about ourselves and passing it on.

  • The musician's enthusiasm greatly outweighed her talent.

  • Nobody can teach you how to sing the blues, you have to feel the blues.

  • Listening to music feels like a triumphant expedition into the Future; but into a Future which is happening now.

  • The power and magic of music lie in its intangibility and its limitlessness. It suggests images, but leaves us free to choose them and to accommodate them to our pleasure.

  • I hate the word practice. Practice breeds inurement. Instead of discovering, of distinguishing traits that are deeply hidden or merely veiled, one ends seeing nothing anymore. One ceases to be aware.

  • Blessed is he who invented recording! But what a pity that he was not born centuries earlier! Think only of all that we would be able to hear and therefore understand better. Oh, the unending research in libraries and museums, the readings and collations of texts, the maddening desire to know the truth!

  • Jazz is not a game of chance. Its sonorous disorder is only an appearance. It is an organized force obeying obscure laws, conforming to a secret technique, codified or not, and we discover that no one can become a virtuoso on the spur of the moment in this orchestra of 'noisemakers.'

  • Oh, well, you play Bach your way. I'll play him his.

  • I never practice, I always play.

  • Music is our myth of the inner life ...

  • Music is 'significant form,' and its significance is that of a symbol, a highly articulated, sensuous object, which by virtue of its dynamic structure can express the forms of vital experience which language is peculiarly unfit to convey. Feeling, life, motion and emotion constitute its import.

  • [On Rachmaninoff:] He was the most Russian of them all, like a cathedral in the snow. Holy, wintry, infinite, he was all the Russias.

  • blues ain't culture / they sounds of / oppression / against the white man's / shit.

  • Blues is to jazz what yeast is to bread — without it, it's flat.

  • The music was as much a gift as sunshine, as rain, as any blessing ever prayed for.

  • There is a magic burning in it, / Cutting its facets diamond clear, / And it alone calms me in minutes / When others do not dare come near.

  • She has the gaze / Of the gods / In her voice / Her song is / The wind / Set free.

    • Joyce Carol Thomas,
    • "Aretha," in Mickey Pearlman and Katherine Usher Henderson, A Voice of One's Own: Conversations With America's Writing Women ()
  • Music is the softest cushion in the world.

  • The flute continues to be a source of joy for Chloe ... she also plays the piccolo. As we only allow her to practice it when we aren't home or if the vacuum is running, we don't know if she is any good.

  • Songs're weird: they tell the future and they tell the past, but they can't seem to tell the difference.

  • Music was the incontrovertible proof of the existence of another world.

  • Music, once it is released by your hands, lives only for a moment before dying away, dispersing into waves moving through space. But the ephemerality of music is just the other face of its immortality.

  • Jazz music is an intensified feeling of nonchalance.

  • Being an intellectual creates a lot of questions and no answers. You can fill your life up with ideas and still go home lonely. All you really have that really matters are feelings. That's what music is to me.

  • When I'm singing I'm not thinking. I'm just closing my eyes and feeling, feeling good.

  • An artist needs a certain amount of turmoil and confusion.

    • Joni Mitchell,
    • in Joni Mitchell and Malka Marom, Joni Mitchell: Both Sides Now ()