A Shelf of Musical Quotes

November 8, 2010 at 10:08 pm | Posted in Humor | 1 Comment

I’ve been collecting books since high school, which, after almost two decades, amounts to a lot books. They have provided entertainment, insight, and wisdom; they’ve been invaluable as reference sources; and they’ve helped me kill time. They’ve also been a huge pain in the but when I have to move.

I’ve always liked my book collection, and thought I knew it pretty well. But tonight, I think I’ve finally hit the point where my book collection has become too large, because tonight, I found a book on my shelf that I didn’t know I had: The Music Lover’s Quotation Book, edited by David Barber. Which is the only reason I bring it up now.

Everybody loves a good one-liner, so here are some quick musical quotations from this handy little reference book. Enjoy:

“I know only two tunes: one of them is Yankee Doodle and the other one isn’t.” This sounds like a Victor Borge quip, but it’s really from Ulysses S. Grant.

“In order to compose, all you need to do is remember a tune that nobody else has thought of.” Robert Schumann

“Music, to create harmony, must investigate discord.” Plutarch. I like this one because so many other ideas can be substituted for music and still make sense.

“Eunuch: A man who has had his works cut out for him.” Robert Byrne. I’m not entirely sure why this is in a book of musical quotations, unless the editor is confusing eunuchs and castrati. But it’s still a nice quote.

“Harpists spend 90 percent of their lives tuning their harps and 10 percent playing out of tune.” Igor Stravinsky

To be fair, Sergei Prokofiev called Stravinsky’s music “Bach on the wrong notes.”

And finally, Ambrose Bierce’s definition of piano, from his The Devil’s Dictionary: “Piano: A parlor utensil used for subduing the impenitent visitor. It is operated by depressing the keys of the machine and the spirits of the audience.”


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  1. One of my favorites: Rossini said “One can’t judge Wagner’s opera Lohengrin after a first hearing, and I certainly don’t intend to hear it a second time.”

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