Igor Stravinsky: Obiter Dicta

Igor Stravinsky
Igor Stravinsky; drawing by David Levine

[1919] A true creator should not lose his time discoursing about the tendencies and consequences of his art….1 [1926] And I do not want to be a critic. I am in the world to create my own way….2

[1937] We do not know about the future. The future does not exist; it is something that will exist. One supposes it will exist. What will exist? The music that has always existed will always exist. If you ask me about the music of the future, I cannot say because this is music that does not yet exist….3 [1929] As for the past, I prefer to refrain from pronouncing on that, since it no longer exists. And I try to abstain from speaking of the present, not being certain of the justice of my judgments, since I am in them myself.4

[1926] What is “modern”? Who is modern? No doubt everyone now living and working considers himself modern. Of course, there are some who live with yesterday’s wigs on their heads. Yet they are exceptions. Most of us try to give, or to contribute, something fresh and new, man always being under the influence of growth…. In France one speaks of a “Compositeur de la musique,” which seems quite enough. In my passport, I have purposely put “inventor and composer of music” as my occupation. Thus a composer is not only an architect but also an inventor, and he should not build houses in which he cannot live. I fear that many such houses are being built today. After all, anybody can compose, and if one is even slightly talented, the absence of the “inventor” may be overlooked.5

[1948] The workmanship was much better in Bach’s time than it is now. One had first to be a craftsman. Now we have only “talent.” We do not have the absorption in detail, the burying of oneself [in craftsmanship] to be resurrected a great musician.6

[1936] There are different ways of loving and of “appreciating” music. One of them…I would call selfish love, that which asks music for general emotions such as joy, sorrow, the subjects of dreams…. But why not love music for itself? Why not love it as one loves a painting—for the good qualities of the painting, the design, the composition? Why not give music a value in itself, independent of sentiments and images?…Music does not need an adjuvant…. Nothing is more difficult to talk about than music, and the moment one leaves the ground of its technique, one plunges into a wave where one founders [“on plonge dans le vague et on divague“]. Robert Schumann, than whom few can have thought more deeply on the subject, concluded by declaring that in music nothing can be “proven.”7

[1926] That which is unnatural in form can be mystifying, which is the reason why one stands with some…

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