Igor Stravinsky


Stravinsky 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.

“My music is best understood by children and animals.”

“My childhood was a period of waiting for the moment when I could send everyone and everything connected with it to hell.”

“The trouble with music appreciation in general is that people are taught to have too much respect for music. They should be taught to love it instead.”

“I have learned throughout my life as a composer chiefly through my mistakes and pursuits of false assumptions, not my exposure to founts of wisdom and knowledge.”

“My music is cheap. It’s my name that is expensive.”

“Too many pieces of music finish too long after the end.”

“I know that the twelve notes in each octave and the variety of rhythms offer me opportunities that all of human genius will never exhaust.”

“Music praises God. Music is well or better able to praise him than the building of the church and all its decoration. It is the Church’s greatest ornament.”

“Lesser artists borrow, great artists steal.”

“To listen is an effort and just to hear has no merit. A duck hears also.”

“I haven’t understood a bar of music in my life, but I have felt it.”

“In order to create there must be a dynamic force, and what force is more potent than love?”

“Film music should have the same relationship to the film drama that somebody’s piano playing in my living room has to the book I am reading.”

“To continue on one path is to go backward.”

Igor Stravinsky on Rachmaninov: “He was a six and a half foot scowl.”

“I live neither in the past nor in the future. I am in the present. I cannot know what tomorrow will bring forth. I can only know what the truth is for me today. That is what I am called upon to serve, and I serve it in all lucidity.”

“I love ballet and am more interested in it than anything else…For the only form of scenic art that sets itself, as its cornerstone, the tasks of beauty, and nothing else, is ballet.”

“What gives the artist real prestige is his imitators.”

“Expression has never been an inherent property of music. That is by no means the purpose of its existence.”

“Art is the opposite of chaos. Art is organized chaos.”

“Music is the sole domain in which man realizes the present.”

“What is modern music anyway? I don’t care a damn about so-called modern music. You ask whether my style is modern. My style is my style, that’s all…”

“A cultural snob is someone who claims to be familiar with the incomprehensible.”

From the Boston Herald, February 9, 1924:

The Rite of Spring

Who wrote this fiendish Rite of Spring,

What right had he to write the thing,

Against our helpless ears to fling

Its crash, clash, cling, clang, bing, bang, bing?

And then to call it Rite of Spring,

The season when on joyous wing,

The birds melodious carols sing,

And harmony’s in everything!

He who could write the Rite of Spring,

If I be right, by right should swing!

Scènes de ballet is a score of between 16 and 18 minutes duration, written in 1944. It was commissioned by Billy Rose for a Broadway revue. The music occasioned one of the best-known Stravinsky anecdotes. Rose telegraphed Stravinsky: "YOUR MUSIC GREAT SUCCESS STOP COULD BE SENSATIONAL SUCCESS IF YOU WOULD AUTHORIZE ROBERT RUSSELL BENNETT RETOUCH ORCHESTRATION STOP BENNETT ORCHESTRATES EVEN THE WORKS OF COLE PORTER." To which Stravinsky telegraphed back: "SATISFIED WITH GREAT SUCCESS."

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