Notable Quotes
Browse quotes by subject | Browse quotes by author


quotations about music

Music quote

What passion cannot Music raise and quell?

JOHN DRYDEN, St. Cecilia's Day

Music, the greatest good that mortals know,
And all of heaven we have here below.

JOSEPH ADDISON, A Song for St. Cecilia's Day

It was by music that the ancient kings gave elegant expression to their joy. By their armies and axes they gave the same to their anger.

CONFUCIUS, The Wisdom of Confucius

Music exists when rhythmic, melodic or harmonic order is deliberately created, and consciously listened to, and it is only language-using, self-conscious creatures ... who are capable of organizing sounds in this way, either when uttering them or when perceiving them. We can hear music in the song of the nightingale, but it is music that no nightingale has heard.

ROGER SCRUTON, Understanding Music

Such sweet compulsion doth in music lie.


Music without words means leaving behind the mind. And leaving behind the mind is meditation. Meditation returns you to the source. And the source of all is sound.


The inner nature of man is the province of music.

CONFUCIUS, The Wisdom of Confucius

It is one thing to get all the notes right; any number of unsocialized conservatory prodigies can do that. It is another thing to play the thoughts within the notes, the light around them, the darkness behind them, the silence at the end of the phrase. That is what inspires awe.

ALEX ROSS, "The Art of Fantasy," The New Yorker, Mar. 17, 2003

Music may appeal to crude and coarse feelings or to refined and noble ones; and in so far as it does the latter it awakens the higher nature and works an effect, though but a transitory effect, of a beneficial kind. But the primary purpose of music is neither instruction nor culture but pleasure; and this is an all-sufficient purpose.

HERBERT SPENCER, Facts and Comments

Though I am not endowed with an ear to seize those earthly harmonies, which to some devout souls have seemed, as it were, the broken echoes of the heavenly choir--I apprehend that there is a law in music, disobedience whereunto would bring us in our singing to the level of shrieking maniacs or howling beasts.


Music quote

For me, my voice and music was always an outlet. Growing up in an unstable environment and whatnot, music was my only real escape.

CHRISTINA AGUILERA, Rolling Stone, Aug. 24, 2006

I don't read music. And my mom is this classically trained person, and I went the other way. And I think it's helped me write songs that I wouldn't have written if I were going at the technical way. Because they go, "Oh, you can't go from this chord to that chord. It's not the way you're supposed to do it."

MARIAH CAREY, Larry King Live, Dec. 19, 2002

Music is organized sound, but the organization has to involve some element of the unexpected or it is emotionally flat and robotic. The appreciation we have for music is intimately related to our ability to learn the underlying structure of music we like--the equivalent to grammar in spoken or signed languages--and to be able to make predictions about what will come next. Composers imbue music with emotion by knowing what our expectations are and then very deliberately controlling when those expectations will be met, and when they won't. The thrills, chills, and tears we experience from music are the result of having our expectations artfully manipulated by a skilled composer and the musicians who interpret that music.

DANIEL J. LEVITIN, This Is Your Brain on Music

Music has charms to soothe the savage breast.

WILLIAM CONGREVE, The Mourning Bride

As I play the game of life
I try to make it better each and every day.
And when I struggle in the night
The magic of the music seems to light the way.

JOHN LENNON, Intuition

I think I should have no other mortal wants, if I could always have plenty of music. It seems to infuse strength into my limbs, and ideas into my brain. Life seems to go on without effort, when I am filled with music. At other times one is conscious of carrying a weight.

GEORGE ELIOT, The Mill on the Floss

Comparison with bird-song, conceived as an element in sexual display, give rise to the suggestion that music might have emerged through the process of sexual selection. Maybe by singing and dancing a man testifies to his reproductive fitness, and so conquers the female heart, or at any rate the female genes. Or maybe through music people spontaneously "move with" other tribal members, reinforcing the impulse towards altruistic cooperation. Or perhaps music originates in the lullaby--the sing-song with which mother and child seal the bond between them, so increasing the chances that the child will survive. Take any feature of music, boil it down until it is all but indistinguishable from a feature of animal noise, rewrite both in Darwinese and--hey presto--you have a perfectly formed functional explanation of the musical life.

ROGER SCRUTON, Understanding Music

Music is always migrating from its point of origin to its destiny in someone's fleeting moment of experience.

ALEX ROSS, preface, The Rest Is Noise

Modern music, headstrong, wayward, tragically confused as to what to say and how to say it, has mounted its horse, as the joke goes, and ridden off in all directions. If we require of an art that it be unified as a whole and expressed in a universal language known to all, if it must be a consistent symbolization of the era, then modern music is a disastrous failure. It has many voices, many symbolizations. It it known to one, unknown to another. But if an art may be as variable and polyvocal as the different individuals and emotional regions from which it comes in this heterogeneous modern world, then the diversity and contradiction of modern music may be acceptable.


I am in need of music that would flow
Over my fretful, feeling finger-tips,
Over my bitter-tainted, trembling lips,
With melody, deep, clear, and liquid-slow.
Oh, for the healing swaying, old and low,
Of some song sung to rest the tired dead,
A song to fall like water on my head,
And over quivering limbs, dream flushed to glow!

ELIZABETH BISHOP, "I Am in Need of Music"

Music is what feelings sound like.

Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.

MAYA ANGELOU, attributed, Women Know Everything!

Whenever humans come together for any reason, music is there: weddings, funerals, graduation from college, men marching off to war, stadium sporting events, a night on the town, prayer, a romantic dinner, mothers rocking their infants to sleep ... music is a part of the fabric of everyday life.

DANIEL J. LEVITIN, This Is Your Brain on Music

That's one of the great things about music. You can sing a song to 85,000 people and they'll sing it back for 85,000 different reasons.

DAVE GROHL, "Twenty years after In Utero, Nirvana's importance hasn't diminished", The Guardian, August 31, 2013

Musical training is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul.

PLATO, The Republic

For music, I must think, was given
To be of higher life a token,
The language by the angels spoken,
The native tongue of heaven!


The purpose of music is to release us from the tyranny of conscious thought.


The best music is the music that persuades us that there is no other music in the world.

ALEX ROSS, Listen to This

Browse Music Quotes II

Browse Music Quotes III

Music Trivia - a trivia quiz on music and musicians.

Read Edward MacDowell's essay on The Origin of Music


Life Quotes

Love Quotes

Death Quotes

God Quotes

Wisdom Quotes

Hope Quotes

Success Quotes

Women Quotes

Happiness Quotes

Shakespeare Quotes