Musicians, Poets, Playwrights, Novelists, Artists, Filmmakers, Philosophers, Mystics, and Scientists on Music





“Music is the mediator between the life of the senses and the life of the spirit.” ―Beethoven


“Music is an outburst of the soul.” ―Frederick Delius


“What is Music? How do you define it? Music is a calm moonlit night, the rustle of leaves in Summer. Music is the far off peal of bells at dusk! Music comes straight from the heart and talks only to the heart: it is Love! Music is the Sister of Poetry and her Mother is sorrow!” —Sergei Rachmaninoff


“A painter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence.” —Leopold Stokowski


“I’ve never known a musician who regretted being one. Whatever deceptions life may have in store for you, music itself is not going to let you down.” —Virgil Thompson


“Music is your own experience, your own thoughts, your wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won't come out of your horn. They teach you there’s a boundary line to music. But, man, there's no boundary line to art.” —Charlie Parker


“My music is the spiritual expression of what I am — my faith, my knowledge, my being...When you begin to see the possibilities of music, you desire to do something really good for people, to help humanity free itself from its hangups.... I want to speak to their souls.” ―John Coltrane


“Music is powerful. As people listen to it, they can be affected. They respond.” ―Ray Charles


“The true beauty of music is that it connects people. It carries a message, and we, the musicians, are the messengers.” ―Roy Ayers


“Music is the emotional life of the most people.” ―Leonard Cohen


“I think what we like about music—and what we like about art in general—is that enterprise that stops our minds from spinning. Because we're always all over the place. A good song, a good lyric is a movie: it will just focus and calm and confer significance on this completely bewildering reality that all of us live in.” ―Leonard Cohen


“I've always held the song in high regard because songs have got me through so many sinks of dishes and so many humiliating courting events.” ―Leonard Cohen


“There are always meaningful songs for somebody. People are doing their courting, people are finding their wives, people are making babies, people are washing their dishes, people are getting through the day, with songs that we may find insignificant. But their significance is affirmed by others. There’s always someone affirming the significance of a song by taking a woman into his arms or by getting through the night. That’s what dignifies the song. Songs don’t dignify human activity. Human activity dignifies the song.” ―Leonard Cohen


“I’ve always said music should make you laugh, make you cry or make you think.” ―Kenny Rogers

“Information is not knowledge.

Knowledge is not wisdom.

Wisdom is not truth.

Truth is not beauty.

Beauty is not love.                                                                                                                                 

Love is not music.

Music is THE BEST.” 

―Frank Zappa


“The Ultimate Rule ought to be: 'If it sounds GOOD to you, it's bitchin'; if it sounds BAD to YOU, it's shitty. The more your musical experience, the easier it is to define for yourself what you like and what you don't like. American radio listeners, raised on a diet of _____ (fill in the blank), have experienced a musical universe so small they cannot begin to know what they like.” ―Frank Zappa, The Real Frank Zappa Book


“… songs, to me, were more important than just light entertainment. They were my preceptor and guide into some altered consciousness of reality. Some different republic, some liberated republic…” “I was always fishing for something on the radio. Just like trains and bells, it was part of the soundtrack of my life. I moved the dial up and down and Roy Orbison's voice came blasting out of the small speakers. His new song, “Running Scared,” exploded into the room…His songs had songs within songs.” ―Bob Dylan, Chronicles, Volume One


“We need magic, and bliss, and power, myth, and celebration and religion in our lives, and music is a good way to encapsulate a lot of it.” ―Jerry Garcia


“I have always been resistant to doctrine, and any spirituality I had experienced thus far in my life had been much more abstract and not aligned with any recognized religion. For me, the most trustworthy vehicle for spirituality had always proven to be music. It cannot be manipulated, or politicized, and when it is, that becomes immediately obvious.” ―Eric Clapton


“I found my God in music and the arts, with writers like Hermann Hesse, and musicians like Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, and Little Walter. In some way, in some form, my God was always there, but now I have learned to talk to him.” ―Eric Clapton


“[The music is about ] for the purpose of getting people to an excitement level. They feel something, they feel emotions. They're going to go home after that concert and remember it. Maybe they got something out of the experience rather than intellectualizing about what songs mean which is the whole head trip.” ―Van Morrison


“Hearing the blues changed my life.” ―Van Morrison


“I've always listened to jazz or folk or blues. I was always listening to the prophets.” ―Van Morrison


“What I like is natural music. It’s like I was born with a gift to do something naturally, which I have no choice but to follow-up on. My responsibility is to fulfill what that natural thing is. The thing that I dislike about pop rock Top 40 music is that it’s not natural. It gets out of being natural. Or else I simply can’t see the naturalness of it. I can see more naturalness in basic blues, basic R & B, basic rock ‘n’ roll…. If you're a pop singer, you don't need to evolve. You just get a set together, have some hit songs and play them over and over.” ―Van Morrison


“It's the emotion ... each word has got a connotation and symbolism and the thing is finding what’s behind the word-what meaning it has and what emotion. I'm really into vocal repetition as a definite art form.” ―Van Morrison


“We're [with Robbie Robertson] jazz musicians. The context may be rock 'n' roll but it's still jazz. It's jazz and that means improvisation ... you play a tune the way it feels and you play it differently every time. It can never be the same.” ―Van Morrison


“Jazz goes into folk music, into rock music. Jazz is in practically everything except classical music where they're reading the same music all the time, the same way, the same tempo every night.” ―Van Morrison


“Songwriters write songs, but they really belong to the listener.” ―Jimmy Buffett, A Pirate Looks at Fifty


“Music is very spiritual, it has the power to bring people together.” ―Edgar Winter


“I believe 100 percent in the power and importance of music.” ―James Taylor


“The best music ... is essentially there to provide you something to face the world with.” ―Bruce Springsteen


“I think that is what film and art and music do; they can work as a map of sorts for your feelings.” ―Bruce Springsteen


“Like so many of my generation, I can landmark my life with songs.” ―Sting


“But at times words can be a dangerous addition to music—they can pin it down. Words imply that the music is about what the words say, literally, and nothing more. If done poorly, they can destroy the pleasant ambiguity that constitutes much of the reason we love music. That ambiguity allows listeners to psychologically tailor a song to suit their needs, sensibilities, and situations, but words can limit that, too. There are plenty of beautiful tracks that I can’t listen to because they’ve been ruined.” ―David Byrne


“Music enriches people’s lives in the same way paintings and literature do. Everybody deserves that.” ―Victoria Wood


“The hell with the rules. If it sounds right, then it is.” ―Eddie Van Halen


“I don't meditate in any formal way, but I often lie in bed or find myself in nature and enter into that state of quiet where I get images, feelings, or melodies.” ―Julian Lennon


“I think music is the greatest art form that exists, and I think people listen to music for different reasons, and it serves different purposes. The best songs are the ones that make you feel something.” ―Eddie Vedder


“Music is a way to dream together and go to another dimension.” ―Cecilia Bartoli


“I think that music, beats, melody, sound are a natural part of our DNA, our vibe. It's just a part of the cycle of our lives, we're born, we have eyes, we have music.” ―Ziggy Marley


“I'm definitely a fan of juxtaposition. Using the most beautiful line to say the most horrific thing. I think one of the main things in songwriting is definitely friction between the words and the melody.” ―Rufus Wainwright


“Music helps you find the truths you must bring into the rest of your life.” ―Alanis Morissette


“No matter who we are, no matter what our circumstances, our feelings and emotions are universal. And music has always been a great way to make people aware of that connection. It can help you open up a part of yourself and express feelings you didn't know you were feeling. It's risky to let that happen. But it's a risk you have to take-because only then will you find you're not alone.” ―Josh Groban


 “A great song should lift your heart, warm the soul and make you feel good.” ―Colbie Caillat ( USA Today declared the California girl a vital part of “a new wave of troubadours luring fans of all ages into a peaceful, easy feeling.”)


“You have to, take a deep breath. and allow the music to flow through you. Revel in it, allow yourself to awe. When you play allow the music to break your heart with its beauty.” ―Kelly White





Poets & Playwrights


“Many say that life entered the human body by the help of music, but the truth is that life itself is music.” ―Hafiz (Sufi poet)   


“Such sweet compulsion doth in music lie.” ―John Milton


“I listen'd, motionless and still;

And, as I mounted up the hill,

The music in my heart I bore,

Long after it was heard no more.” 

―William Wordsworth


“Music, when soft voices die, vibrates in the memory.” ―Percy Bysshe Shelley


“The world is full of poetry. The air is living with its spirit; and the waves dance to the music of its melodies, and sparkle in its brightness.” ―James Gates Percival


“Music is the universal language of mankind.” ―Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


“If I could dwell where Israfel hath dwelt and he where I he might not sing so wildly well a mortal melody while a bolder note then this might swell from my lyre in the sky.” ―Edgar Allan Poe

“Love is the key-note of the universe—The theme, the melody.” ―Henry Abbey


“When old words die out on the tongue, new melodies break forth from the heart; and where the old tracks are lost, new country is revealed with its wonders.” ―Rabindranath Tagore


“Music is the purest form of art ... therefore true poets, they who are seers, seek to express the universe in terms of music.... The singer has everything within him. The notes come out from his very life. They are not materials gathered from outside…. Music fills the infinite between two souls.” —Rabindranath Tagore


“The earth has its music for those who will listen,

Its bright variations forever abound;

With all the wonders that God has bequeathed us,

There is nothing that thrills like the magic of sound.”

—George Santayana 


“THAT crazed girl improvising her music.

Her poetry, dancing upon the shore,

Her soul in division from itself

Climbing, falling She knew not where,

Hiding amid the cargo of a steamship,

Her knee-cap broken, that girl I declare

A beautiful lofty thing, or a thing

Heroically lost, heroically found.


No matter what disaster occurred

She stood in desperate music wound,

Wound, wound, and she made in her triumph

Where the bales and the baskets lay

No common intelligible sound

But sang, 'O sea-starved, hungry sea.” 

―W.B. Yeats


“Music, my rampart and my only one.” ―Edna St. Vincent Millay


“Each time a dancer moves devoutly or a composer faithfully searches the silence for the veiled melodies, eternity is engaged.” ―Maya Angelou


“The man that hath no music in himself, Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds, Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils; The motions of his spirit are dull as night, And his affections dark as Erebus. Let no such man be trusted. Mark the music.” ―William Shakespeare


“There’s not the smallest orb which thou behold’st. But in his motion like an angel sings.” ―William Shakespeare


“Their savage eyes turned to a modest gaze by the sweet power of music.” ―William Shakespeare





Novelists & Writers


“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.” ―Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship


“Oh music! Thou who bringest the receding waves of eternity nearer to the weary heart of man as he stands upon the shores and longs to cross over! Art thou the evening breeze of life, or the morning air of the future one?” ―Jean Paul (Johann Paul Friedrich Richter) 


“Without music, life would be a blank to me.” ―Jane Austen, Emma


“See deep enough, and you see musically; the heart of nature being everywhere music.…”  ―Thomas Carlyle


“Music is well said to be the voice of Angels.” ―Thomas Carlyle 


“Music is perpetual, and only the hearing is intermittent…. Music does bring people together. It allows us to experience the same emotions. People everywhere are the same in heart and spirit.” —Henry David Thoreau


“When I hear music, I fear no danger. I am invulnerable. I see no foe. I am related to the earliest times, and to the latest.” ―Henry David Thoreau


“Life seems to go on without effort when I am filled with music.” ― George Eliot


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


“A strange art—music—the most poetic and precise of all the arts, vague as a dream and precise as algebra.” ―Guy de Maupassant


“Music is the art which is most nigh to tears and memory.” —Oscar Wilde


“—‘Do you remember what Darwin says about music? He claims that the power of producing and appreciating it existed among the human race long before the power of speech was arrived at. Perhaps that is why we are so subtly influenced by it. There are vague memories in our souls of those misty centuries when the world was in its childhood.’ 

—‘That's a rather broad idea,' I remarked. 

—‘One's ideas must be as broad as Nature if they are to interpret Nature,’ he answered.” ―Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet


“The kingdom of music is not the kingdom of this world; it will accept those whom breeding and intellect and culture have alike rejected. The commonplace person begins to play, and shoots into the empyrean without effort, whilst we look up, marvelling how he has escaped us, and thinking how we could worship him and love him, would he but translate his visions into human words, and his experiences into human actions. Perhaps he cannot; certainly he does not, or does so very seldom.” ―E.M. Forster, A Room with a View


“My personal hobbies are reading, listening to music, and silence.” ―Edith Sitwell


“There is an hour of the afternoon when the plain is on the verge of saying something. It never says, or perhaps it says it infinitely, or perhaps we do not understand it, or we understand it and it is untranslatable as music.” ―Jorge Luis Borges


“When the songs of your heart start singing, you should listen ... for its harmony will bring you happiness and the melody is the voice of your true spirit.” ―Paulo Coelho


“With my ninth mind I resurrect my first and dance slow to the music of my soul made new.” ―Aberjhani, Visions of a Skylark Dressed in Black


“When we die, we will turn into songs, and we will hear each other and remember each other.” ―Rob Sheffield, Love Is a Mix Tape


“Our moments are music, and sometimes—just sometimes—we can catch them and put them into some lasting form. If we didn’t have music, I don’t think we could ever be truly happy, and if we didn’t have special moments, we would never find music.” ―David LevithanHow They Met, and Other Stories


“I love the relationship that anyone has with music ... because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out.... It's the best part of us probably....” ―Nick Hornby


“You can love a song, but you can form a bond with an album, a relationship that evolves as organically and beautifully as a marriage.” ―Jacob Hoye100 Greatest Albums 







“One day I must be able to improvise freely on the keyboard of colors: the row of watercolors in my paintbox.” ―Paul Klee


“To draw, you must close your eyes and sing.” —Pablo Picasso


“Love is friendship set to music.” ―Jackson Pollock





Filmmakers & Film Critics

“Music has a poetry of its own, and that poetry is called melody.” ― Joshua Logan


“My life was saved by Rock 'n' Roll. Because it was this kind of music that, for the very first time in my life, gave me a feeling of identity, the feeling that I had a right to enjoy, to imagine, and to do something. Had it not been for Rock 'n' Roll, I might be a lawyer now.” ―Wim Wenders 

“It’s [a film] a lot like music and it’s a little bit like painting, but it’s based on this mood the idea gives you.” ―David Lynch 

“I get a lot of inspiration from music, probably more than any other form. For me, music is the most pure form. It’s like another language. Whenever I start writing a script, I focus on music that sort of kickstarts my ideas or my imagination.” ―Jim Jarmusch 

“Film as dream, film as music. No art passes our conscience in the way film does, and goes directly to our feelings, deep down into the dark rooms of our souls.” ―Ingmar Bergman 


“When you listen to the music in this film [Despicable Me], it's working on the level of melody, but the other key element is lyrics. There are a number of songs in the film where the lyrics themselves are very much speaking to the essence of what Ted Geisel was setting out to do.” ―Christopher Meledandri (Film Producer)


“This is a visual whirlwind .... And it’s like six completely separate pictures mashed together. A lot of I’m Not There doesn’t really work on its story terms—and I don’t blame the actor. But if films are songs, this is one troubadour that travels its own stretch of Highway 61 in its own way. So, even though it’s a little vexing, I went for it.” ―Michael Phillips (Film Critic, Chicago Tribune) 







“The highest goal of music is to connect one’s soul to their Divine Nature, not entertainment.” ―Pythagoras


“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, Republic: Book III


“So when a man abandons to the sound of music, to play upon him and pour into his soul as it were through a funnel of his ears those sweet, soft, mournful strains of which we were just now speaking, and gives up all his time to the enchanted moanings of song, the effect at first on his energy and initiative of mind, if he has any, is to soften it as iron is softened in a furnace and is made workable instead of hard and unworkable ….” ―Plato, Republic: Book III


“I would teach children music, physics, and philosophy; but most importantly music, for the patterns in music and all the arts are the keys to learning.” ―Plato 


“Emotions of any kind can be evoked by melody and rhythm; therefore music has the power to form character.” ―Aristotle


“For feelings such as pity and fear, or enthusiasm, exist very strongly in some souls … some persons fall into a religious frenzy, whom we see disenthralled by the use of mystic melodies, which bring healing and purification to the soul…. The melodies of purification [catharsis] give an innocent pleasure to mankind.” ―Aristotle


“To the Greeks, the supreme function of music was to “praise the gods and educate the youth”. In Egypt … Initiatory music was heard only in Temple rites because it carried the vibratory rhythms of other worlds and of a life beyond the mortal.” ―Plutarch


“In ancient times music was the foundation of all the sciences. Education was begun with music with the persuasion that nothing could be expected of a man who was ignorant of music.” ―Cicero


“Ah, music, sacred tongue of God! I hear thee calling and I come.” ―Confucius


“Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.” ―Confucius


“Music is the melody whose text is the world.” ―Arthur Schopenhauer


“Between whom there is hearty truth, there is love; and in proportion to our truthfulness and confidence in one another, our lives are divine and miraculous, and answer to our ideal…. Friends do not live in harmony merely, as some say, but in melody.” ―Henry David Thoreau


“The end of a melody is not its goal: but nonetheless, had the melody not reached its end it would not have reached its goal either. A parable.” ―Friedrich Nietzsche


“I'm a bluesman moving through a blues-soaked America, a blues-soaked world, a planet where catastrophe and celebration—joy and pain sit side by side. The blues started off in some field, some plantation, in some mind, in some imagination, in some heart. The blues blew over to the next plantation, and then the next state. The blues went south to north, got electrified and even sanctified. The blues got mixed up with jazz and gospel and rock and roll.” ―Cornel West







“I have found in every word a certain musical value, a melody in every thought, harmony in every feeling, and I have tried to interpret the same things with clear and simple words to those who used to listen to my music.” ―Hazrat Inayat Khan (Sufi Musician)


“Life is a symphony, and the action of every person in this life is the playing of his particular part in the music.” ―Hazrat Inayat Khan


“… man is a musical being. His origin is in the spoken Word. By sound was he sustained and by music he evolved. One day he will recognize music as a vital factor in the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual evolution of the whole human race.” ―Corinne Heline


“People don’t realize, he said, how important it is to wake up every morning with a song in your heart.” ―Krishnamurti


“The song stands for a sense of joy in existence, a joy that is free of any good or bad choices.” ―Deepak Chopra







“In scientific thinking are always present elements of poetry. Science and music requires a thought homogeneous.” ―Albert Einstein


“It occurred to me by intuition, and music was the driving force behind that intuition. My discovery was the result of musical perception.” ―Albert Einstein (when asked about his theory of relativity)


“It struck me recently, that one should really consider the sequence of a protein molecule about to fold into a precise geometric form as a line of melody written in a canon form & so designed by Nature to fold back into itself, creating harmonic chords of interaction consistent with biological function.” ―Anfinsen (Biochemist/Nobel Prize Winner)


“Our bodies like rhythm and our brains like melody and harmony.” ―Daniel Levitin (Cognitive Psychologist, Neuroscientist, Musician, Record Producer)


“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 Levitin