Dmitri Shostakovich


Shostakovich On Music and Life

Here are some famous and not-so-famous quotes by the composer, giving an idea of his views on music and musicians.

“Music is a means capable of expressing dark dramatism and pure rapture, suffering and ecstasy, fiery and cold fury, melancholy and wild merriment – and the subtlest nuances and interplay of these feelings which words are powerless to express and which are unattainable in painting and sculpture.”

“If they cut off both hands, I will compose music anyway holding the pen in my teeth.”

“Real music is always revolutionary, for it cements the ranks of the people; it arouses them and leads them onward.”

“When a man is in despair, it means that he still believes in something.”

“In the long run, any words about music are less important than the music.”

“What you have in your head, put down on paper. The head is a fragile vessel.”  

“Every piece of music is a form of personal expression for its creator...If a work doesn’t express the composers own personal point of view, his own ideas, then it doesn’t, in my opinion, even deserve to be born.”

“I write music, it’s performed. After all, my music says it all. It doesn’t need historical and hysterical commentaries.”

“A great piece of music is beautiful regardless of how it is performed. Any prelude or fugue of Bach can be played at any tempo, with or without rhythmic nuances, and it will still be great music. That's how music should be written, so that no-one, no matter how philistine, can ruin it.”

“A creative artist works on his next composition because he was not satisfied with his previous one.”

“The best way to hold on to something is to pay no attention to it. The things you love too much perish. You have to treat everything with irony, especially the things you hold dear. There's more of a chance then that they'll survive.”

“The majority of my symphonies are tombstones.”

“Music is good, not evil. Poetry is good, not evil. Primitive, but oh, so true!”

“We should think more about it, and accustom ourselves to the thought of death. We can't allow the fear of death to creep up on us unexpectedly. We have to make the fear familiar, and one way is to write about it. I don't think writing and thinking about death is characteristic only of old men. I think that if people began thinking about death sooner, they'd make fewer foolish mistakes.”

“Those who have ears to hear, will hear.”

“The real geniuses know where their writing has to be good and where they can get away with some mediocrity.”

“What can be considered human emotions? Surely not only lyricism, sadness, tragedy? Doesn't laughter also have a claim to that lofty title? I want to fight for the legitimate right of laughter in "serious" music.”

“Stravinsky the composer I worship. Stravinsky the thinker I despise.”