Quotations about the Power and Beauty of Music

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I recently gave a lecture at Santa Monica College to a group of students about my love of music, how it connects people, and why it transcends cultural and linguistic barriers. Music is and has always been a universal language, and the enthusiasm of the assembled crowd that day inspired me.

I also just finished teaching another music salon in my home, where a small group of participants came together to listen to all kinds of music. It feels so gratifying to share music with a bunch of melomanes who enjoy focused listening sessions minus all the distractions of daily life. (The French word melomane means music lover. We have no precise equivalent in English; the closest would probably be “musicophile.”)

For me, music has always been the most powerful art form, and over the years I’ve collected sayings by great musicians, composers, writers, and philosophers about the power and beauty of music. These come from many different sources, many of which I’ve forgotten or lost track of. Nevertheless, I want to share them with you. Some of these quotations about music are centuries old, but they’re still just as true as when these great minds originally penned them.

Photo by PeterTea (CC BY-ND 2.0) via Flickr(The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

“In the house of lovers, the music never stops, the walls are made of songs and the floor dances. Where words fail, music speaks.” — Rumi

“Without music, life would be a mistake.” — Nietzsche

“Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” — Plato

“Music, sweet music, has captured my soul.” — Jimi Hendrix

“One good thing about music, when the music hits, you feel no pain.” — Bob Marley

“If music be the food of love, play on, give me excess of it.” — Shakespeare

“Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosopy, it is the wine of a new procreation, and I am Bacchus who presses out this glorious wine for men and makes them drunk with the spirit.” — Beethoven

“We don’t play to be seen. I’m addicted to music, not audiences.” — Miles Davis

“Music is no different than opium. Music affects the human mind in a way that makes people think of nothing but music and sensual matters. Music is a treason to the country, a treason to our youth, and we should cut out all this music and replace it with something instructive.” — Ayatola Khomeini

“Music is liquid architecture;  architecture is frozen music.” — Goethe

“All art constantly aspires to the condition of music.” — Walter Pater

“If you hit a wrong note, the next one determines if it’s good or bad.” — Miles Davis

“Music is a torch with which to see where beauty lies.” — Atahualpa Yupanqui (Argentine poet & musician who introduced nueva canción.)

“The only truth is music.” — Jack Kerouac

“There are two means of refuge from the misery of life—music and cats.” — Albert Schweitzer

“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music. — Albert Einstein

“Music was my refuge.  I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.” — Maya Angelou

“Where words fail, music speaks.” — Hans Christian Andersen

“I was born with music inside me. Music was one of my parts. Like my ribs, my kidneys, my liver, my heart.  Like my blood. It was a force already within me when I arrived on the scene. It was a necessity for me—like food or water.” — Martin Luther

“Beautiful music is the art of the prophets that can calm the agitations of the soul;  it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us.” — Martin Luther

“If a composer could say what he had to say in words he would not bother trying to say it in music.” — Gustav Mahler

“The wise musicians are those who play what they can master.” — Duke Ellington

“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.” — Aldous Huxley

“Music happens to be an art form that transcends language.” — Herbie Hancock

“Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” — Berthold Auerbach

“Music is the shorthand of emotion.” — Leo Tolstoy

“Music can change the world because it can change people.” — Bono

“Music in the soul can be heard by the universe.” — Lao Tzu

“Music is the explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.” —Billy Joel

Banner photo of Roberto Fonseca performing at WOMADelaid in 2014 by Beaver on the Beats (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) via Flickr.