Musicans, Among Others, On Music

[We received this as a forward from our friend Howard Stokar. Our gratitude to whoever put this assortment together. We recognize a couple. The rest is new to us. Priceless stuff! Ed.]

Howard Stokar

[April 2002.]


“I write [music] as a sow piddles.” — Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

“My sole inspiration is a telephone call from a producer.” — Cole Porter

“Don’t bother to look, I’ve composed all this already.” — Gustav Mahler, to Bruno Walter who had stopped to admire mountain scenery in rural Austria.

“I would rather play Chiquita Banana and have my swimming pool than play Bach and starve.” — Xavier Cugat

“[Musicians] talk of nothing but money and jobs. Give me businessmen every time. They really are interested in music and art.” — Jean Sibelius, explaining why he rarely invited musicians to his home.

“The amount of money one needs is terrifying…” — Ludwig van Beethoven

“Only become a musician if there is absolutely no other way you can make a living.” –Kirke Mecham, on his life as a composer.

“I am not handsome, but when women hear me play, they come crawling to my feet.” –Niccolo Paganini

“Of course I’m ambitious. What’s wrong with that? Otherwise you sleep all day.” –Ringo Starr

“Flint must be an extremely wealthy town: I see that each of you bought two or three seats.” — Victor Borge, playing to a half—filled house in Flint, Michigan.

“If one hears bad music it is one’s duty to drown it by one’s conversation.” — Oscar Wilde

“Critics can’t even make music by rubbing their back legs together.” — Mel Brooks

“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’t possibly hear the last movement of Beethoven’s Seventh and go slow.”
— Oscar Levant, explaining his way out of a speeding ticket.

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

“I love Beethoven, especially the poems.” — Ringo Starr

“If a young man at the age of twenty—three can write a symphony like that, in five years he will be ready to commit murder.” — Walter Damrosch on Aaron Copland.

“There are still so many beautiful things to be said in C major.” — Sergei Prokofiev

“I never use a score when conducting my orchestra…Does a lion tamer enter a cage with a book on how to tame a lion?” — Dimitri Mitropolous

“God tells me how the music should sound, but you stand in the way.” — Arturo Toscanini to a trumpet player.

“Already too loud!” — Bruno Walter at his first rehearsal with an American orchestra, on
seeing the players reaching for their instruments.

“I really don’t know whether any place contains more pianists than Paris, or whether you can find more asses and virtuosos anywhere.” — Frederic Chopin

“When she started to play, Steinway himself came down personally and rubbed his name off the piano.” — Bob Hope, on comedienne Phyllis Diller.

“Never look at the trombones, it only encourages them.” — Richard Strauss

“In opera, there is always too much singing.” — Claude Debussy

“Oh how wonderful, really wonderful opera would be if there were no singers!” –Gioacchino Rossini

“Movie music is noise. It’s even more painful than my sciatica.” — Sir Thomas Beecham

“I think popular music in this country is one of the few things in the twentieth century that have made giant strides in reverse.” — Bing Crosby

“Theirs [the Beatles] is a happy, cocky, belligerently resourceless brand of harmonic primitivism…In the Liverpudlian repertoire, the indulged amateurishness of the musical material, though closely rivaled by the indifference of the performing style, is actually surpassed only by the ineptitude of the studio production method. (Strawberry Fields suggests a chance encounter at a mountain wedding between Claudio Monteverdi and a jug band.)” — Glenn Gould

“It’s pretty clear now that what looked like it might have been some kind of counterculture is, in reality, just the plain old chaos of undifferentiated weirdness.” –Jerry Garcia


[Next Article: Walt’s Ratatouille 5.]