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date: 08 December 2023


  1. Music, the greatest good that mortals know,
    And all of heaven we have below.
    Joseph Addison 1672–1719 English poet, dramatist, and essayist: ‘A Song for St Cecilia's Day’ (1694)
  2. Please do not shoot the pianist. He is doing his best.
    printed notice in a dancing saloon
    Anonymous: Oscar Wilde Impressions of America ‘Leadville’ (c.1882–3)
  3. Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.
    also found in the form ‘Talking about music…’
    Anonymous: attributed to Elvis Costello, David Bowie, Frank Zappa, and many others, but of unknown origin
  4. All music is folk music, I ain't never heard no horse sing a song.
    Louis Armstrong 1901–71 American singer and jazz musician: in New York Times 7 July 1971
  5. Blessed Cecilia, appear in visions
    To all musicians, appear and inspire:
    Translated Daughter, come down and startle
    Composing mortals with immortal fire.
    W. H. Auden 1907–73 English poet: Anthem for St Cecilia's Day (1941) pt. 1
  6. Good music is that which penetrates the ear with facility and quits the memory with difficulty.
    Thomas Beecham 1879–1961 English conductor: speech, c.1950; in New York Times 9 March 1961
  7. 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.
    Thomas Beecham 1879–1961 English conductor: Harold Atkins and Archie Newman Beecham Stories (1978)
  8. Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy.
    Ludwig van Beethoven 1770–1827 German composer: remark to Bettina von Arnim, letter from Bettina von Arnim to Goethe, 28 May 1810
  9. Music…can name the unnameable, and communicate the unknowable.
    Leonard Bernstein 1918–90 American composer, conductor, and pianist: The Unanswered Question (1976)
  10. Music has charms to sooth a savage breast.
    William Congreve 1670–1729 English dramatist: The Mourning Bride (1697) act 1, sc. 1
  11. 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.’
    Aaron Copland 1900–90 American composer, pianist, and conductor: What to Listen for in Music (1939)
  12. Extraordinary how potent cheap music is.
    Noël Coward 1899–1973 English dramatist, actor, and composer: Private Lives (1930) act 1
  13. It is only that which cannot be expressed otherwise that is worth expressing in music.
    Frederick Delius 1862–1934 English composer: in Sackbut September 1920 ‘At the Crossroads’
  14. There is music in the air.
    Edward Elgar 1857–1934 English composer: R. J. Buckley Sir Edward Elgar (1905) ch. 4
  15. 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.’
    Julius J. Epstein 1909–2001, Philip G. Epstein 1909–52, and Howard Koch 1902–95 American screenwriters: Casablanca (1942 film); spoken by Humphrey Bogart; see Hupfeld
  16. 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.
    Oscar Hammerstein II 1895–1960 American songwriter: ‘The Sound of Music’ (1959 title-song in show)
  17. 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.
    Heinrich Heine 1797–1856 German poet: On the French Stage: Intimate letters to August Lewald (1857)
  18. 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.
    Jimi Hendrix 1942–70 American rock musician: in Life Magazine (1969)
  19. The first requirement for a composer is to be dead.
    Arthur Honegger 1892–1955 Swiss composer: Je suis compositeur (1951)
  20. Classic music is th'kind that we keep thinkin'll turn into a tune.
    Frank McKinney (‘Kin’) Hubbard 1868–1930 American humorist: Comments of Abe Martin and His Neighbors (1923)
  21. Beauty in music is too often confused with something that lets the ears lie back in an easy chair.
    Charles Ives 1874–1954 American composer: Joseph Machlis Introduction to Contemporary Music (1963)
  22. Music is life.
    Charles Ives 1874–1954 American composer: quoted in American National Biography (online edition)
  23. Of music Dr Johnson used to say that it was the only sensual pleasure without vice.
    Samuel Johnson 1709–84 English poet, critic, and lexicographer: in European Magazine (1795)
  24. Too beautiful for our ears, and much too many notes, dear Mozart.
    of The Abduction from the Seraglio (1782)
    Joseph II 1741–90 Austrian monarch, Holy Roman Emperor: attributed; Franz Xaver Niemetschek Life of Mozart (1798)
  25. 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.
    Charles Lamb 1775–1834 English writer: Essays of Elia (1823) ‘A Chapter on Ears’
  26. Down the road someone is practising scales,
    The notes like little fishes vanish with a wink of tails,
    Louis MacNeice 1907–63 British poet, born in Belfast: ‘Sunday Morning’ (1935)
  27. The symphony must be like the world. It must embrace everything.
    Gustav Mahler 1860–1911 Austrian composer: remark to Sibelius, Helsinki, 1907
  28. 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.
    Nellie Melba 1861–1931 Australian operatic soprano: Melodies and Memories (1925)
  29. Music is spiritual. The music business is not.
    Van Morrison 1945–  Irish singer, songwriter, and musician: in Times 6 July 1990
  30. Melody is the essence of music. I compare a good melodist to a fine racer, and counterpoints to hack post-horses.
    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 1756–91 Austrian composer: remark to Michael Kelly, 1786
  31. We are the music makers,
    We are the dreamers of dreams…
    We are the movers and shakers
    Of the world for ever, it seems.
    Arthur O'Shaughnessy 1844–81 English poet: ‘Ode’ (1874)
  32. Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom. If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn.
    Charlie Parker 1920–55 American jazz saxophonist: Nat Shapiro and Nat Hentoff Hear Me Talkin' to Ya (1955)
  33. Music begins to atrophy when it departs too far from the dance; that poetry begins to atrophy when it gets too far from music.
    Ezra Pound 1885–1972 American poet: The ABC of Reading (1934) ‘Warning’
  34. The notes I handle no better than many pianists. But the pauses between the notes—ah, that is where the art resides!
    Artur Schnabel 1882–1951 Austrian-born pianist: in Chicago Daily News 11 June 1958
  35. 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
    Arnold Schoenberg 1874–1951 Austrian-born American composer: Joseph Machlis Introduction to Contemporary Music (1963)
  36. If music be the food of love, play on.
    William Shakespeare 1564–1616 English dramatist: Twelfth Night (1601) act 1, sc. 1, l. 1 (Oxford Standard Authors ed.)
  37. Hell is full of musical amateurs: music is the brandy of the damned.
    George Bernard Shaw 1856–1950 Irish dramatist: Man and Superman (1903) act 3
  38. Improvisation is too good to leave to chance.
    Paul Simon 1942–  American singer and songwriter: in Observer 30 December 1990
  39. I don't know whether I like it, but it's what I meant.
    on his 4th symphony
    Ralph Vaughan Williams 1872–1958 English composer: Christopher Headington Bodley Head History of Western Music (1974)
  40. You just pick a chord, go twang, and you've got music.
    Sid Vicious 1957–79 British rock musician: attributed