Music is an art form that involves sounds and silence. Music may be used for artistic or aesthetic, communicative, entertainment, or ceremonial purposes. The definition of what constitutes music varies according to culture and social context.
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- What is called music today is all too often only a disguise for the monologue of power. However, and this is the supreme irony of it all, never before have musicians tried so hard to communicate with their audience, and never before has that communication been so deceiving. Music now seems hardly more than a somewhat clumsy excuse for the self-glorification of musicians and the growth of a new industrial sector.
- Jacques Attali, in Classic Essays on Twentieth-Century Music (1996), p. 122
- Ancient belief in a cosmos composed of spheres, producing music as angels guided them through the heavens, was still flourishing in Elizabethan times. ...There is a good deal more to Pythagorean musical theory than celestial harmony. Besides the music of the celestial spheres (musica mundana), two other varieties of music were distinguished: the sound of instruments...(musica instrumentalis), and the continuous unheard music that emanated from the human body (musica humana), which arises from a resonance between the body and the soul. ...In the medieval world, the status of music is revealed by its position within the Quadrivium—the fourfold curriculum—alongside arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy. Medieval students... believed all forms of harmony to derive from a common source. Before Boethius' studies in the ninth century, the idea of musical harmony was not considered independently of wider matters of celestial or ethical harmony.
- Our sensitivity to changes of pitch ... is underused in musical sound. Western music, in particular, is based on scales that use pitch changes that are at least twenty times bigger than the smallest changes that we could perceive. If we used our discriminatory power to full, we could generate an undulating sea of sound that displayed continuously changing frequency rather like the undersea sonic songs of dolphins and whales.
- Someday you will be a man,
And you will be the leader of a big old band.
Many people coming from miles around
To hear you play your music when the sun go down
Maybe someday your name will be in lights
Saying Johnny B. Goode tonight.
- Oh, that I were
The viewless spirit of a lovely sound,
A living voice, a breathing harmony,
A bodiless enjoyment—born and dying
With the blest tone which made me!
- Our music has sprung from the patient, incessant, and progressive penetration into the law of resonance, that is to say, from the successive exploitation of the octave, the fifth and the fourth (ninth to twelfth century), the third (thirteenth to sixteenth century), the seventh (seventeenth and eighteenth century), the major ninth, the augmented fifth, and the perfect eleventh (nineteenth and twentieth centuries) . . . . this evolution . . . . constitutes, at the same time, the only true justification of the musical art.
- The Evolution of Music, Alfredo Casella, quoted in Miller, Horace Alden (1930). New Harmonic Devices, p. 96.
- Love is the only bow on Life's dark cloud. It is the morning and the evening star. It shines upon the babe, and sheds its radiance on the quiet tomb. It is the mother of art, inspirer of poet, patriot and philosopher. It is the air and light of every heart — builder of every home, kindler of every fire on every hearth. It was the first to dream of immortality. It fills the world with melody — for music is the voice of love. Love is the magician, the enchanter, that changes worthless things to Joy, and makes royal kings and queens of common clay. It is the perfume of that wondrous flower, the heart, and without that sacred passion, that divine swoon, we are less than beasts; but with it, earth is heaven, and we are gods.
- We get nearer to the Lord through music than perhaps through any other thing except prayer.
- "Music" includes sounds wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats.
- In order for music to free itself, it will have to pass over to the other side — there where territories tremble, where the structures collapse, where the ethoses get mixed up, where a powerful song of the earth is unleashed, the great ritornelles that transmutes all the airs it carries away and makes return.
- Music is like a mirror in front of you. You're exposing everything, but surely that's better than suppressing. … You have to dig deep and that can be hard for anybody, no matter what profession. I feel that I need to actually push myself to the limit to feel happy with the endresult.
- Enya, as quoted in "Everyone thinks I'm so shockable", an interview with Neil McCormick in The Telegraph (24 November 2005).
- It appears to me that the subject of music, from Machaut to Boulez, has always been its construction. Melodies of 12-tone rows just don't happen. They must be constructed. … To demonstrate any formal idea in music, whether structure or stricture, is a matter of construction, in which the methodology is the controlling metaphor of the composition... Only by 'unfixing' the elements traditionally used to construct a piece of music could the sounds exist in themselves—not as symbols, or memories which were memories of other music to begin with.
- Morton Feldman, quoted in Kostelanetz, Richard (editor) and Joseph Darby (editor). Classic Essays on Twentieth-Century Music. ISBN 0028645812.
- The emphasis of study upon a particular aspect of music is in itself ideological because it contains implications about the music's value.
- Green, Lucy (1999). "Ideology". Key Terms in Popular Music and Culture. ISBN 0631212639.
- Music has no subject beyond the combinations of notes we hear, for music speaks not only by means of sounds, it speaks nothing but sound.
- We must ask whether a cross-cultural musical universal is to be found in the music itself (either its structure or function) or the way in which music is made. By 'music-making,' I intend not only actual performance but also how music is heard, understood, even learned.
- Dane Harwood (1976:522). "Universals in Music: A Perspective from Cognitive Psychology", Ethnomusicology 20, no. 3:521-33.
- The human attitude of which classical music is the expression is always the same; it is always based on the same kind of insight into life and strives for the same kind of victory over blind change. Classical music as gesture signifies knowledge of the tragedy of the human condition, affirmation of human destiny, courage, cheerful serenity.
- A chord is by no means an agglomeration of intervals. It is a new unit which, although dependent on the formative power of the single interval, is felt as being self-existent and as giving to the constituent intervals meanings and functions which they otherwise would not have.
- Elected Silence, sing to me
- And beat upon my whorlèd ear,
- Pipe me to pastures still and be
- The music that I care to hear.
- We can no longer maintain any distinction between music and discourse about music, between the supposed object of analysis and the terms of analysis.
- Bruce Horner (1999). "Discourse". Key Terms in Popular Music and Culture. ISBN 0631212639.
- Itaque sine Musica nulla disciplina potest esse perfecta, nihil enim sine illa. Nam et ipse mundus quadam harmonia sonorum fertur esse conpositus, et coelum ipsud sub harmoniae modulatione revolvi.
- And without music there can be no perfect knowledge, for there is nothing without it. For even the universe itself is said to have been put together with a certain harmony of sounds, and the very heavens revolve under the guidance of harmony.
- Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae Bk. 3, ch. 17, sect. 1; p. 137. Translations and page-numbers are taken from Ernest Brehaut An Encyclopedist of the Dark Ages: Isidore of Seville (New York: B. Franklin,  1964). Bk. 3, ch. 17, sect. 1; p. 137.
- Language addresses itself to the ear. No other medium does this. The ear is the most spiritually determined of the senses. That I believe most men will admit. Aside from language, music is the only medium that addresses itself to the ear. Herein is again an analogy and a testimony concerning the sense in which music is a language. … Language has time as its element; all other media have space as their element. Music is the only other one that takes place in time. … Music exists only in the moment of its performance, for if one were ever so skillful in reading notes and had ever so lively an imagination, it cannot be denied that it is only in an unreal sense that music exists when it is read. It really exists only being performed. This might seem to be an imperfection in this art as compared with the others whose productions remain, because they have their existence in the sensuous. Yet this is not so. It is rather a proof of the fact that music is a higher, or more spiritual art.
- But music moves us, and we know not why;
We feel the tears, but cannot trace their source.
Is it the language of some other state,
Born of its memory ? For what can wake
The soul's strong instinct of another world,
- We would liken music to Aladdin’s lamp — worthless in itself, not so for the spirits which obey its call. We love it for the buried hopes, the garnered memories, the tender feelings, it can summon with a touch.
- Hey Jude, don't make it bad
Take a sad song and make it better
Remember to let her into your heart
Then you can start to make it better
- The story of your brain on music is the story of an exquisite orchestration of brain regions, involving both the oldest and newest parts of the human brain, and regions as far apart as the cerebellum in the back of the head and the frontal lobes just behind your eyes. It involves a precision choreography... between logical prediction systems and emotional reward systems. ...it reminds us of other music we have heard, and it activates memory traces of emotional times of our lives. Your brain on music is all about... connections.
- So much of the research on musical expertise has looked for accomplishment in the wrong place, in the facility of the fingers rather than the expressiveness of emotion.
- Daniel Levitin, This is Your Brain on Music (2006)
- Music, or any art form... has to strike the right balance between simplicity and complexity.
- We're blues people. And blues never lets tragedy have the last word.
- Most people have music in the center of their lives. I believe my work sheds light on how music affects us and why it is so influential.
- Of what use is musical knowledge? Here is one idea. Each child spends endless days in curious ways; we call this play. A child stacks and packs all kinds of blocks and boxes, lines them up, and knocks them down. … Clearly, the child is learning about space! ...how on earth does one learn about time? Can one time fit inside another? Can two of them go side by side? In music, we find out!
- Listening to music engages the previously acquired personal knowledge of the listener.
- We must see that music theory is not only about music, but about how people process it. To understand any art, we must look below its surface into the psychological details of its creation and absorption.
- Music makes things in our minds, but afterward most of them fade away. What remains? ...perhaps what we learn is not the music itself but a way of hearing it.
- All aspects of musical practice may be disengaged, and privileged, in order to give birth to new forms of variation: variations on the relationships between the composer and the performer, between the conductor and the performer, between the performers, between the performer and the listener, variations upon gestures, variations on silence that end in a mute music that is still music because it preserves still something of the musical totality of the tradition...all elements belonging to the total musical fact may be seperated and taken as a strategic variable of musical production. This autonomization serves as true musical experimentation: little by little, the individual variables that make up a total musical fact are brought to light. Any particular music then appears as one that has made a choice among these variables, and that has privileged a certain number of them. Under these conditions, musical analysis would have to begin by recognizing the strategic variables characteristic of a given musical system: musical invention and musical analysis lend each other mutual aid.
- Jean Molino quoted in Jean-Jacques Nattiez, Abbate, Carolyn (translator) (1987 (original), 1990 (translation)). Music and Discourse: Toward a Semiology of Music. pp. 42–43. ISBN 0691027145.
- Being in a band is really great when you're 20. When you're 30, it's kind of 'Spinal Tap,' and when you're 40, it's just pathetic.
- If we compel the composer to write in terms of what the listener is able to hear, we flirt with the danger of freezing the evolution of musical language, whose progressive development comes about through transgressions of a given era's perceptual habits."
- The main thing is not to lose your identity and to continue working ... You have a quartet. That is such joy! You can forget everything else in the world. I'm playing a lot of chamber music these days. Tomorrow we were going to give the first performance of two trios, but because of the mourning, all concerts have been canceled.
- Musical training is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul; on which they mightily fasten, imparting grace, and making the soul of him who is rightly educated graceful, or of him who is ill-educated ungraceful.
- Plato, The Republic, Book 3
- In this day and time you can't even get sick; you are strung-out! Well by God, I'll tell you something, friend: I have never been strung-out in my life, except on music!
- Doctor: It plays music. What's the point of that? Oh, with music, you can dance to it, sing with it, fall in love to it. Unless you're a Dalek of course. Then it's all just noise.
- Doctor WhoEvolution of the Daleks written by Helen Raynor
- I might as well endeavour to perswade, that the Sun is a glorious, and beneficial Planet; as take pains to Illustrate Musick with my imperfect praises; for every reasonable Mans own mind will be its Advocate. Musick, belov'd of Heaven, for it is the business of Angels; Desired on Earth as the most charming Pleasure of Men. The world contains nothing that is good, but what is full of Harmonious Concord, nor nothing that is evil, but is its opposite, as being the ill favour'd production of Discord and Disorder. I dare affirm, those that love not Musick (if there be any such) are Dissenters from Ingenuity, and Rebels to the Monarchy of Reason.
- Humphrey Salter (1683). The Genteel Companion.
- The term 'chromatic' is understood by musicians to refer to music which includes tones which are not members of the prevailing scale, and also as a word descriptive of those individually non-diatonic tones.
- J. Shir-Cliff (1965). Chromatic Harmony. New York: The Free Press. ISBN 0029286301.
- As a society built upon the very ideals of ecumenicalism and catholicity, as the leading technological and industrial nation of our time, and as the principal nexus between European high art and the musics of other classes and cultures, America stands at the forefront of the music of tomorrow.
- The effect of music is so very much more powerful and penetrating than is that of the other arts, for these others speak only of the shadow, but music of the essence.
- This art is music. It stands quite apart from all the others. In it we do not recognize the copy, the repetition, of any Idea of the inner nature of the world. Yet it is such a great and exceedingly fine art, its effect on man's innermost nature is so powerful, and it is so completely and profoundly understood by him in his innermost being as an entirely universal language, whose distinctness surpasses even that of the world of perception itself, that in it we certainly have to look for more than that exercitium arithmeticae occultum nescientis se numerare animi [exercise in arithmetic in which the mind does not know it is counting] which Leibniz took it to be.
- Arthur Schopenhauer, The World As Representation: Second Aspect, Vol. I, Ch. III as translated by Eric F. J. Payne (1958).
- Orsino: If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken and so die.
- We give our souls to our music. We put our lives on the fucking wax and the labels treat us like shit.
- Earl Simmons, on the Backstreet Boys and label problems, as quoted in XXL Magazine.
- Sometimes even in the habitual course of life, the reality of this world disappears all at once, and we feel ourselves in the middle of its interests as we should at a ball, where we did not hear the music; the dancing that we saw there would appear insane.
- Germaine de Staël, De l'Allemagne (1813) Information gathered from the Quote Investigator.
- [S]o far as music ever had a "meaning" beyond the immediate and exquisite value of the sound-pattern itself, its "meaning" must be simply an emotional attitude. It could never speak directly about the objective world, or "the nature of existence"; but it might create a complex emotional attitude which might be appropriate to some feature of the objective world, or to the universe as a whole.
- It was music, more than anything else, that led the Pythagoreans to believe that the universe is a harmonious place governed by numbers.
- Ian Stewart, Another Fine Math You’ve Got Me Into (1992) p. 236
- Our musical alphabet is poor and illogical. Music, which should pulsate with life, needs new means of expression, and science alone can infuse it with youthful vigor. Why, Italian Futurists, have you slavishly reproduced only what is commonplace and boring in the bustle of our daily lives. I dream of instruments obedient to my thought and which with their contribution of a whole new world of unsuspected sounds, will lend themselves to the exigencies of my inner rhythm.
- Edgard Varese, quoted in Kostelanetz, Richard (editor) and Joseph Darby (editor). Classic Essays on Twentieth-Century Music. ISBN 0028645812.
- One day I said to myself that it would be better to get rid of all that—melody, rhythm, harmony, etc. This was not a negative thought and did not mean that it was necessary to avoid them, but rather that, while doing something else, they would appear spontaneously. We had to liberate ourselves from the direct and peremptory consequence of intention and effect, because the intention would always be our own and would be circumscribed, when so many other forces are evidently in action in the final effect.
- And they are singing as if a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one was able to master that song but the hundred and forty-four thousand, who have been bought from the earth.
Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations
- Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 535-41.
- Music religious heat inspires,
It wakes the soul, and lifts it high,
And wings it with sublime desires,
And fits it to bespeak the Deity.
- Music exalts each joy, allays each grief,
Expels diseases, softens every pain,
Subdues the rage of poison, and the plague.
- John Armstrong, The Art of Preserving Health (1744), Book IV, line 512.
- That rich celestial music thrilled the air
From hosts on hosts of shining ones, who thronged
Eastward and westward, making bright the night.
- God is its author, and not man; he laid
The key-note of all harmonies; he planned
All perfect combinations, and he made
Us so that we could hear and understand.
- The rustle of the leaves in summer's hush
When wandering breezes touch them, and the sigh
That filters through the forest, or the gush
That swells and sinks amid the branches high,—
'Tis all the music of the wind, and we
Let fancy float on this æolian breath.
- "Music hath charms to soothe the savage beast,"
And therefore proper at a sheriff's feast.
- And sure there is music even in the beauty, and the silent note which Cupid strikes, far sweeter than the sound of an instrument; for there is music wherever there is harmony, order, or proportion; and thus far we may maintain the music of the spheres.
- Sir Thomas Browne, Religio Medici (1642), Part II, Section IX. Use of the phrase "Music of the Spheres" given by Bishop Martin Fotherby, Athconastrix, p. 315. (Ed. 1622). Said by Bishop John Wilkins, Discovery of a New World, I. 42. (Ed. 1694).
- Yet half the beast is the great god Pan,
To laugh, as he sits by the river,
Making a poet out of a man.
The true gods sigh for the cost and the pain—
For the reed that grows never more again
As a reed with the reeds of the river.
- Her voice, the music of the spheres,
So loud, it deafens mortals' ears;
As wise philosophers have thought,
And that's the cause we hear it not.
- For discords make the sweetest airs.
- Soprano, basso, even the contra-alto
Wished him five fathom under the Rialto.
- Music arose with its voluptuous swell,
Soft eyes look'd love to eyes which spake again,
And all went merry as a marriage bell.
- There's music in the sighing of a reed;
There's music in the gushing of a rill;
There's music in all things, if men had ears:
Their earth is but an echo of the spheres.
- And hears thy stormy music in the drum!
- Merrily sang the monks in Ely
When Cnut, King, rowed thereby;
Row, my knights, near the land,
And hear we these monkes' song.
- Attributed to King Canute, Song of the Monks of Ely, in Spens, History of the English People, Historia Eliensis (1066). Chambers' Encyclopedia of English Literature.
- Music is well said to be the speech of angels.
- When music, heavenly maid, was young,
While yet in early Greece she sung,
The Passions oft, to hear her shell,
Throng'd around her magic cell.
- In notes by distance made more sweet.
- In hollow murmurs died away.
- Music has charms to soothe a savage breast,
To soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.
I've read that things inanimate have moved,
And, as with living souls, have been inform'd,
By magic numbers and persuasive sound.
- And when the music goes te-toot,
The monkey acts so funny
That we all hurry up and scoot
To get some monkey-money.
M-double-unk for the monkey,
M-double-an for the man;
M-double unky, hunky monkey,
Ever since the world began
Children danced and children ran
When they heard the monkey-man,
The m-double-unky man.
- Water and air He for the Tenor chose,
Earth made the Base, the Treble Flame arose,
To th' active Moon a quick brisk stroke he gave,
To Saturn's string a touch more soft and grave.
The motions strait, and round, and swift, and slow,
And short and long, were mixt and woven so,
Did in such artful Figures smoothly fall,
As made this decent measur'd Dance of all.
And this is Musick.
- With melting airs, or martial, brisk, or grave;
Some chord in unison with what we hear
Is touch'd within us, and the heart replies.
- William Cowper, The Task (1785), Book VI. Winter Walk at Noon, line 3.
- The soft complaining flute
In dying notes discovers
The woes of hopeless lovers,
Whose dirge is whisper'd by the warbling lute.
- Music sweeps by me as a messenger
Carrying a message that is not for me.
- 'Tis God gives skill,
But not without men's hands: He could not make
Antonio Stradivari's violins
- Our 'prentice, Tom, may now refuse
To wipe his scoundrel master's shoes;
For now he's free to sing and play
Over the hills and far away.
- But Bellenden we needs must praise,
Who as down the stairs she jumps
Sings o'er the hill and far away,
Despising doleful dumps.
- Distracted Jockey's Lamentation, Pills to Purge Melancholy.
- Tom he was a piper's son,
He learned to play when he was young;
But all the tune that he could play
Was "Over the hills and far away."
- Distracted Jockey's Lamentation, Pills to Purge Melancholy found in The Nursery Rhymes of England by Halliwell Phillips.
- When I was young and had no sense
I bought a fiddle for eighteen pence,
And all the tunes that I could play
Was, "Over the Hills and Far Away."
- Old Ballad, in the Pedlar's Pack of Ballads and Songs.
- Blasen ist nicht flöten, ihr müsst die Finger bewegen.
- Jack Whaley had a cow,
And he had nought to feed her;
He took his pipe and played a tune,
And bid the cow consider.
- Old Scotch and North of Ireland ballad. Lady Granville uses it in a letter. (1836).
- Where through the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault
The pealing anthem swells the note of praise.
- Thomas Gray, Elegy in a Country Church Yard, Stanza 10.
- He stood beside a cottage lone,
And listened to a lute,
One summer's eve, when the breeze was gone,
And the nightingale was mute.
- Why should the devil have all the good tunes?
- Rowland Hill, Sermons. In his biography by E. W. Broome, p. 93.
- Music was a thing of the soul—a rose-lipped shell that murmured of the eternal sea—a strange bird singing the songs of another shore.
- From thy dead lips a clearer note is born
Than ever Triton blew from wreathéd horn.
Ridetur chorda qui semper oberrat eadem.
- The musician who always makes a mistake on the same string, is laughed at.
- Horace, Ars Poetica (18 BC), 355.
- Play uppe, play uppe, O Boston bells!
Ply all your changes, all your swells,
Play uppe "The Brides of Enderby."
- When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.
- Ere music's golden tongue
Flattered to tears this aged man and poor.
- The silver, snarling trumpets 'gan to chide.
- Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear'd,
Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone.
- I even think that, sentimentally, I am disposed to harmony. But organically I am incapable of a tune.
- A velvet flute-note fell down pleasantly,
Upon the bosom of that harmony,
And sailed and sailed incessantly,
As if a petal from a wild-rose blown
Had fluttered down upon that pool of tone,
And boatwise dropped o' the convex side
And floated down the glassy tide
And clarified and glorified
The solemn spaces where the shadows bide.
From the warm concave of that fluted note
Somewhat, half song, half odour forth did float
As if a rose might somehow be a throat.
- Music is in all growing things;
And underneath the silky wings
Of smallest insects there is stirred
A pulse of air that must be heard;
Earth's silence lives, and throbs, and sings.
- Writ in the climate of heaven, in the language spoken by angels.
- Yea, music is the Prophet's art
Among the gifts that God hath sent,
One of the most magnificent!
- When she had passed, it seemed like the ceasing of exquisite music.
- He is dead, the sweet musician!
* * * *
He has moved a little nearer
To the Master of all music.
- Who, through long days of labor,
And nights devoid of ease,
Still heard in his soul the music
Of wonderful melodies.
- Such sweet compulsion doth in music lie.
- Can any mortal mixture of earth's mould
Breathe such divine enchanting ravishment?
- Ring out ye crystal spheres!
Once bless our human ears,
If ye have power to touch our senses so;
And let your silver chime
Move in melodious time;
And let the base of Heaven's deep organ blow,
And with your ninefold harmony,
Make up full consort to the angelic symphony.
- There let the pealing organ blow,
To the full voiced quire below,
In service high, and anthems clear,
As may with sweetness, through mine ear,
Dissolve me into ecstasies,
And bring all heaven before mine eyes.
- Untwisting all the chains that tie the hidden soul of harmony.
- As in an organ from one blast of wind
To many a row of pipes the soundboard breathes.
- And in their motions harmony divine
So smoothes her charming tones, that God's own ear
- Mettez, pour me jouer, vos flûtes mieux d'accord.
- If you want to play a trick on me, put your flutes more in accord.
- Molière, L'Etourdi, Act I. 4.
- La musique celeste.
- The music of the spheres.
- Montaigne, Book I, Chapter XXII.
- If the pulse of the patriot, soldier, or lover,
Have throbb'd at our lay, 'tis thy glory alone;
I was but as the wind, passing heedlessly over,
And all the wild sweetness I wak'd was thy own.
- "This must be music," said he, "of the spears,
For I am cursed if each note of it doesn't run through one!"
- The harp that once through Tara's halls
The soul of music shed,
Now hangs as mute on Tara's walls,
As if that soul were fled.
- If thou would'st have me sing and play
As once I play'd and sung,
First take this time-worn lute away,
And bring one freshly strung.
- And music too—dear music! that can touch
Beyond all else the soul that loves it much—
Now heard far off, so far as but to seem
Like the faint, exquisite music of a dream.
- Thomas Moore, Lalla Rookh (1817), The Veiled Prophet of Khorassan.
- 'Tis believ'd that this harp which I wake now for thee
Was a siren of old who sung under the sea.
- She played upon her music-box a fancy air by chance,
And straightway all her polka-dots began a lively dance.
- Apes and ivory, skulls and roses, in junks of old Hong-Kong,
Gliding over a sea of dreams to a haunted shore of song.
- There's a barrel-organ carolling across a golden street
In the city as the sun sinks low;
And the music's not immortal; but the world has made it sweet
And fulfilled it with the sunset glow.
- We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;
World-losers and world-forsakers,
Of whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.
- One man with a dream, at pleasure,
Shall go forth and conquer a crown
And three with a new song's measure
Can trample a kingdom down.
- How light the touches are that kiss
The music from the chords of life!
- He touched his harp, and nations heard, entranced,
As some vast river of unfailing source,
Rapid, exhaustless, deep, his numbers flowed,
And opened new fountains in the human heart.
- What woful stuff this madrigal would be
In some starv'd hackney sonnetteer, or me!
But let a Lord once own the happy lines,
How the wit brightens! how the style refines!
- Light quirks of music, broken and uneven,
Make the soul dance upon a jig to Heav'n.
- By music minds an equal temper know,
Nor swell too high, nor sink too low.
* * * * *
Warriors she fires with animated sounds;
Pours balm into the bleeding lover's wounds.
- Hark! the numbers soft and clear,
Gently steal upon the ear;
Now louder, and yet louder rise
And fill with spreading sounds the skies.
- In a sadly pleasing strain
Let the warbling lute complain.
- Seated one day at the organ,
I was weary and ill at ease,
And my fingers wandered idly
Over the noisy keys.
I do not know what I was playing,
Or what I was dreaming then,
But I struck one chord of music
Like the sound of a great Amen.
- We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.
- Above the pitch, out of tune, and off the hinges.
- Sie zog tief in sein Herz, wie die Melodie eines Liedes, die aus der Kindheit heraufklingt.
- It sank deep into his heart, like the melody of a song sounding from out of childhood's days.
- Jean Paul Richter, Hesperus, XII.
- The soul of music slumbers in the shell,
Till waked and kindled by the Master's spell;
And feeling hearts—touch them but lightly—pour
A thousand melodies unheard before!
- And it will discourse most eloquent music.
- You would play upon me; you would seem to know my stops; you would pluck out the heart of my mystery; you would sound me from my lowest note to the top of my compass.
- Orpheus with his lute made trees,
And the mountain-tops that freeze,
Bow themselves, when he did sing:
To his music, plants and flowers
Ever sprung; as sun and showers,
There had made a lasting spring.
- Everything that heard him play,
Even the billows of the sea,
Hung their heads, and then lay by;
In sweet music is such art:
Killing care and grief of heart
Fall asleep, or, hearing, die.
- How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank!
Here will we sit and let the sounds of music
Creep in our ears: soft stillness, and the night
Becomes the touches of sweet harmony.
- There's not the smallest orb which thou behold'st
But in his motion like an angel sings,
Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubins;
Such harmony is in immortal souls;
But, whilst this muddy vesture of decay
Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.
- Therefore the poet
Did feign that Orpheus drew trees, stones and floods;
Since nought so stockish, hard and full of rage,
But music for the time doth change his nature.
- The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils.
- Music do I hear?
Ha! ha! keep time: how sour sweet music is,
When time is broke and no proportion kept!
- Preposterous ass, that never read so far
To know the cause why music was ordain'd!
Was it not to refresh the mind of man,
After his studies or his usual pain?
- This music crept by me upon the waters,
Allaying both their fury and my passion
With its sweet air.
- If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
That strain again! it had a dying fall:
O, it came o'er my ear like the sweet sound
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odour.
- Song like a rose should be;
Each rhyme a petal sweet;
For fragrance, melody,
That when her lips repeat
The words, her heart may know
What secret makes them so.
Love, only Love.
- Musick! soft charm of heav'n and earth,
Whence didst thou borrow thy auspicious birth?
Or art thou of eternal date,
Sire to thyself, thyself as old as Fate.
- See to their desks Apollo's sons repair,
Swift rides the rosin o'er the horse's hair!
In unison their various tones to tune,
Murmurs the hautboy, growls the hoarse bassoon;
In soft vibration sighs the whispering lute,
Tang goes the harpsichord, too-too the flute,
Brays the loud trumpet, squeaks the fiddle sharp,
Winds the French-horn, and twangs the tingling harp;
Till, like great Jove, the leader, figuring in,
Attunes to order the chaotic din.
- Horace and James Smith, Rejected Addresses, The Theatre, line 20.
- So dischord ofte in musick makes the sweeter lay.
- Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene (1589-96), Book III, Canto II, Stanza 15.
- The gauger walked with willing foot,
And aye the gauger played the flute;
And what should Master Gauger play
But Over the Hills and Far Away.
- How her fingers went when they moved by note
Through measures fine, as she marched them o'er
The yielding plank of the ivory floor.
- It is the little rift within the lute
That by and by will make the music mute,
And ever widening slowly silence all.
- Music that brings sweet sleep down from the blissful skies.
- Music that gentlier on the spirit lies
Than tir'd eyelids upon tir'd eyes.
- I can't sing. As a singist I am not a success. I am saddest when I sing. So are those who hear me. They are sadder even than I am.
- Strange! that a harp of thousand strings
Should keep in tune so long.
- And with a secret pain,
And smiles that seem akin to tears,
We hear the wild refrain.
- I'm the sweetest sound in orchestra heard
Yet in orchestra never have been.
- Her ivory hands on the ivory keys
Strayed in a fitful fantasy,
Like the silver gleam when the poplar trees
Rustle their pale leaves listlessly
Or the drifting foam of a restless sea
When the waves show their teeth in the flying breeze.
- What fairy-like music steals over the sea,
Entrancing our senses with charmed melody?
- Mrs. M. C. Wilson, What Fairy-like Music.
- Music is a world within itself, with a language we all understand!
- Stevie Wonder, "Sir Duke"
- Where music dwells
Lingering, and wandering on as loth to die:
Like thoughts whose very sweetness yieldeth proof
That they were born for immortality.
- William Wordsworth, Ecclesiastical Sonnets, Part III. 63. Inside of King's Chapel, Cambridge.
- Soft is the music that would charm forever:
The flower of sweetest smell is shy and lowly.
- Sweetest melodies
Are those that are by distance made more sweet.
- The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.
- Thank you. If you appreciate the tuning so much, I hope you'll enjoy the playing more.
- Ravi Shankar tuning up before his performance on Sitar, Soundbite of "The Concert For Bangladesh"
Today, indie-rock, indie-folk, indie-dance, indie-hip-hop and even indie-classical are common terms used to describe the sonically discernible offshoots of an evolving genre once referred to as “indie”.
The term derives from “independent” – which is to say a record label operating independently from commercial, mainstream record companies. Such independent record labels existed long before the iconic labels of UK post-punk era music, such as Rough Trade and Creation.
Sam Phillips’ Sun Records and Berry Gordy’s Motown were independent labels in the 1950s and 60s; these auteurist founders often took on A&R, managerial, engineering and production duties as well as overseeing the manufacturing and distribution processes.
But Sun Records’ country and blues (Johnny Cash, B.B. King) and Motown’s soul canon (Smokey Robinson, The Jackson 5) were never described as indie. And that’s because, aesthetically, indie music has evolved to mean more than simply an association to an independent record label.
Indie as a defined musical genre descriptor emerged from post-punk, new wave and “alternative” music released on late-1970s UK independent labels.
Tony Wilson’s Factory Records, Daniel Miller’s Mute, Chris Parry’s Fiction and, perhaps most famously, Geoff Travis’s Rough Trade were all founded in 1978. From the beginning, indie’s musical aesthetics were hard to pin down; the dark, heavy, rhythm-centric intensity of Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures (Factory, 1979) was a musical world away from the synth-laden, upbeat electro-pop served up on Depeche Mode’s debut album Speak & Spell (Mute, 1981).
By the mid-1980s, Manchester band The Smiths (Rough Trade) came to exemplify indie both musically and culturally. Together, lead singer Morrissey’s observational, experiential and socio-political lyrics delivered in dead-pan, poetic monologues over Johnny Marr’s jangly, multi-textured, often tremolo and reverb-soaked guitar were an authentic, culturally-resonant antidote to superficial, major-label manufactured pop.
The Smiths’ albums Meat is Murder (Rough Trade, 1984) and The Queen is Dead (Rough Trade, 1986) are quintessentially indie records – benchmarks in sound, style and wider socio-cultural significance.
Despite much dance, electronica, metal and country musics released on independent labels from the 1980s onwards, indie has come to evoke non-commercially driven, song-led and guitar-oriented music embracing DIY aesthetics. It’s texturally lighter than classic rock, often featuring earnest, emotive and realist – borderline pessimist – lyrics with strong socio-political and arts references.
Independent music recordists have also played a key role in constructing the sonically identifiable character of indie music. Record producer John Leckie (The Fall, The Stone Roses), Southern Records’ late founder John Loder (The Jesus and Mary Chain, PJ Harvey) and stateside recording engineer Steve Albini (Pixies, Throwing Muses) are three whose maverick recording methods shaped indie as a distinct musical contrast to constructed, polished mainstream pop.
Labels and genre
Independent record labels are barometers of musical authenticity because artists tend to retain more creative control over their musical and aesthetic direction than if signed to a major label. Subsequently, independent labels are historically and aesthetically aligned to niche genre, as the earlier examples of Sun and Motown illustrate.
The Jerry Dammers-founded 2-Tone label (The Specials, The Selecter, The Beat, Madness) was an essential disseminator of early 1980s ska-punk fusion. Independent US labels Def Jam (Run DMC, LL Cool J), Tommy Boy (De La Soul, Coolio) and Death Row (Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg) were synonymous with the “golden age” of 1980s and 1990s hip-hop.
Founded in 1986 by Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman in Seattle, Sub Pop (Sonic Youth, Mudhoney, Soundgarden) pioneered a heavier brand of US alternative indie. The label became synonymous with grunge music, largely due to the raw, distortion-laden sound of its most famous signing, Nirvana.
Relationship with commercial mainstream
The ways in which indie artists negotiate the commercial mainstream, while simultaneously retaining their authenticity, are as varied as they are challenging.
US band REM created a strong indie foundation – five albums released on the I.R.S. label between 1983-1987 – before signing a multi-million dollar deal with Warners in 1988. Nirvana managed a successful move from Sub Pop to DGC (Geffen/ Universal) in 1990 – an example of a band moving to a seemingly independent label that in reality was a major label subsidiary.
Major labels recognise independent “authenticity” as currency and as such, often “pass off” their major signings as independent. In the early 1990s, UK indie band Ned’s Atomic Dustbin released three albums to global critical acclaim on Furtive, an independent label created for the band by Sony.
Indie music reached a commercial peak in the mid-1990s, culminating in Britpop, a form of guitar-led indie-pop/rock songwriting referencing class politics and culture, delivered in strong, regional British accents.
Blur (Food), Pulp (Island) and, particularly, Oasis (Creation), transcended their independent roots and achieved global success on an unprecedented scale. Oasis alone sold more than 70 million albums. Post-Britpop, major labels viewed indie as viable music for the commercial mainstream.
Into the 2000s, Parlophone (EMI) signings Radiohead and Coldplay maintained a degree of independent “credibility”, despite the stadium tours, global distribution and chart successes usually ascribed to commercial pop artists.
In recent times, indie culture has been criticised as homogenised, snobby and decidedly lacking in the strong socio-political messages it was once renowned for. Musically, what used to be termed indie is now a multitude of subgenres.
In 2012, Pitchfork identified “indie-classical” as a subgenre, recognising a new movement of contemporary musicians, such as Jonny Greenwood (Radiohead) and Andrew W.K. shifting into experimental, classical performance and composition.
The stripped-back, lo-fi production aesthetics and traditional song form heard in the music of Fleet Foxes (Sub Pop) and Bon Iver (4AD) exemplify current, indie-folk subgenre. Today, indie music is most relevant when performed to festival crowds.
With their unique brand of art-indie, Montreal-based Arcade Fire (Merge) have played to global audiences in the hundreds of thousands. Abrasive, northern UK indie-rock band, Arctic Monkeys (Domino) are another example of an independent band to have won over festival scenes with their frantic, raw performances.
Today, indie does not simply mean independently released music, nor does it describe any single genre of music. It’s an all-encompassing terminology that describes general resistance to popular and mainstream culture, evoking realism, independence and authenticity.
Suggested further reading:
Rip it up and Start Again: Post Punk 1978-1984, by Simon Reynolds. Faber & Faber.
Murmur by J. Niimi [REM]. Bloomsbury Academic.
The Stone Roses and the Resurrection of British Pop, by John Robb. Random House.
My Magpie Eyes are Hungry for the Prize: The Creation Records Story, by David Cavanagh. Virgin Books.
Making Overtures – The Emergence of Indie Classical, by Jayson Greene. Pitchfork.
Suggested further listening:
Joy Division, Unknown Pleasures (Factory)
The Fall, Grotesque (Rough Trade)
REM, Murmur (I.R.S)
The Smiths, Hatful of Hollow (Rough Trade)
Pixies, Surfa Rosa (4AD)
The Stone Roses, The Stone Roses (Silvertone)
Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, God Fodder (Furtive/ Sony)
Oasis, Definitely Maybe (Creation)
Arctic Monkeys, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (Domino)
Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes (4AD)
Arcade Fire, The Suburbs (Merge)