- Music, the greatest good that mortals know,
And all of heaven we have below.
1672–1719 English poet, dramatist, and essayist: ‘A Song for St Cecilia's Day’ (1694)
- Please do not shoot the pianist. He is doing his best.
printed notice in a dancing saloon
Impressions of America ‘Leadville’ (c.1882–3): Oscar Wilde
- Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.
also found in the form ‘Talking about music…’: attributed to Elvis Costello, David Bowie, Frank Zappa, and many others, but of unknown origin
- All music is folk music, I ain't never heard no horse sing a song.
New York Times 7 July 1971 1901–71 American singer and jazz musician: in
- Blessed Cecilia, appear in visions
To all musicians, appear and inspire:
Translated Daughter, come down and startle
Composing mortals with immortal fire.
Anthem for St Cecilia's Day (1941) pt. 1 1907–73 English poet:
- Good music is that which penetrates the ear with facility and quits the memory with difficulty.
c.1950; in New York Times 9 March 1961 1879–1961 English conductor: speech,
- There are two golden rules for an orchestra: start together and finish together. The public doesn't give a damn what goes on in between.
Beecham Stories (1978) 1879–1961 English conductor: Harold Atkins and Archie Newman
- Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy. 1770–1827 German composer: remark to Bettina von Arnim, letter from Bettina von Arnim to Goethe, 28 May 1810
- Music…can name the unnameable, and communicate the unknowable.
The Unanswered Question (1976) 1918–90 American composer, conductor, and pianist:
- Music has charms to sooth a savage breast.
The Mourning Bride (1697) act 1, sc. 1 1670–1729 English dramatist:
- The whole problem can be stated quite simply by asking, ‘Is there a meaning to music?’ My answer to that would be, ‘Yes.’ And ‘Can you state in so many words what the meaning is?’ My answer to that would be, ‘No.’
What to Listen for in Music (1939) 1900–90 American composer, pianist, and conductor:
- Extraordinary how potent cheap music is.
Private Lives (1930) act 1 1899–1973 English dramatist, actor, and composer:
- It is only that which cannot be expressed otherwise that is worth expressing in music.
Sackbut September 1920 ‘At the Crossroads’ 1862–1934 English composer: in
- There is music in the air.
Sir Edward Elgar (1905) ch. 4 1857–1934 English composer: R. J. Buckley
- If she can stand it, I can. Play it!
usually misquoted as ‘Play it again, Sam’; earlier in the film Ingrid Bergman says, ‘Play it, Sam. Play As Time Goes By.’
Casablanca (1942 film); spoken by Humphrey Bogart; see Hupfeld 1909–2001, 1909–52, and 1902–95 American screenwriters:
- The hills are alive with the sound of music,
With songs they have sung for a thousand years.
The hills fill my heart with the sound of music,
My heart wants to sing ev'ry song it hears.
1895–1960 American songwriter: ‘The Sound of Music’ (1959 title-song in show)
- What then is music?…It exists between thought and phenomenon, like a twilight medium, it stands between spirit and matter, related to and yet different from both; it is spirit, but spirit governed by time; it is matter, but matter that can manage without space.
On the French Stage: Intimate letters to August Lewald (1857) 1797–1856 German poet:
- A musician, if he's a messenger, is like a child who hasn't been handled too many times by man, hasn't had too many fingerprints across his brain.
Life Magazine (1969) 1942–70 American rock musician: in
- The first requirement for a composer is to be dead.
Je suis compositeur (1951) 1892–1955 Swiss composer:
- Classic music is th'kind that we keep thinkin'll turn into a tune.
Comments of Abe Martin and His Neighbors (1923) 1868–1930 American humorist:
- Beauty in music is too often confused with something that lets the ears lie back in an easy chair.
Introduction to Contemporary Music (1963) 1874–1954 American composer: Joseph Machlis
- Music is life.
American National Biography (online edition) 1874–1954 American composer: quoted in
- Of music Dr Johnson used to say that it was the only sensual pleasure without vice.
European Magazine (1795) 1709–84 English poet, critic, and lexicographer: in
- Too beautiful for our ears, and much too many notes, dear Mozart.
of The Abduction from the Seraglio (1782)
Life of Mozart (1798) 1741–90 Austrian monarch, Holy Roman Emperor: attributed; Franz Xaver Niemetschek
- A carpenter's hammer, in a warm summer noon, will fret me into more than midsummer madness. But those unconnected, unset sounds are nothing to the measured malice of music.
Essays of Elia (1823) ‘A Chapter on Ears’ 1775–1834 English writer:
- Down the road someone is practising scales,
The notes like little fishes vanish with a wink of tails,
1907–63 British poet, born in Belfast: ‘Sunday Morning’ (1935)
- The symphony must be like the world. It must embrace everything. 1860–1911 Austrian composer: remark to Sibelius, Helsinki, 1907
- 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.
Melodies and Memories (1925) 1861–1931 Australian operatic soprano:
- Music is spiritual. The music business is not.
Times 6 July 1990 1945– Irish singer, songwriter, and musician: in
- Melody is the essence of music. I compare a good melodist to a fine racer, and counterpoints to hack post-horses. 1756–91 Austrian composer: remark to Michael Kelly, 1786
- We are the music makers,
We are the dreamers of dreams…
We are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.
1844–81 English poet: ‘Ode’ (1874)
- Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom. If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn.
Hear Me Talkin' to Ya (1955) 1920–55 American jazz saxophonist: Nat Shapiro and Nat Hentoff
- Music begins to atrophy when it departs too far from the dance; that poetry begins to atrophy when it gets too far from music.
The ABC of Reading (1934) ‘Warning’ 1885–1972 American poet:
- The notes I handle no better than many pianists. But the pauses between the notes—ah, that is where the art resides!
Chicago Daily News 11 June 1958 1882–1951 Austrian-born pianist: in
- I am delighted to add another unplayable work to the repertoire. I want the Concerto to be difficult and I want the little finger to become longer. I can wait.
of his Violin Concerto
Introduction to Contemporary Music (1963) 1874–1951 Austrian-born American composer: Joseph Machlis
- If music be the food of love, play on.
Twelfth Night (1601) act 1, sc. 1, l. 1 (Oxford Standard Authors ed.) 1564–1616 English dramatist:
- Hell is full of musical amateurs: music is the brandy of the damned.
Man and Superman (1903) act 3 1856–1950 Irish dramatist:
- Improvisation is too good to leave to chance.
Observer 30 December 1990 1942– American singer and songwriter: in
- I don't know whether I like it, but it's what I meant.
on his 4th symphony
Bodley Head History of Western Music (1974) 1872–1958 English composer: Christopher Headington
- You just pick a chord, go twang, and you've got music. 1957–79 British rock musician: attributed