Russian Composer and Pianist
Dmitri Shostakovich, fully Dmitri Dmitrievich Shostakovich
Russian Composer and Pianist
Jewish folk music has made a most powerful impression on me. I never tire of delighting in it, it's multifaceted, it can appear to be happy while it is tragic. It's almost always laughter through tears. This quality of Jewish folk music is close to my ideas of what music should be. There should always be two layers in music. Jews were tormented for so long that they learned to hide their despair. They express despair in dance music.
People knew about Babi Yar before Yevtushenko's poem, but they were silent. And when they read the poem, the silence was broken. Art destroys silence.
Real music is always revolutionary, for it cements the ranks of the people; it arouses them and leads them onward.
The Allies enjoyed my music, as though trying to say: Look how we like Shostakovich's symphonies, and you still want something more from us, a second front or something.
A creative artist works on his next composition because he is not satisfied with his previous one. When he loses a critical attitude toward his own work, he ceases to be an artist.
The majority of my symphonies are tombstones.
A great piece of music is beautiful regardless of how it is performed. Any prelude or fugue of Bach can be played at any tempo, with or without rhythmic nuances, and it will still be great music. That's how music should be written, so that no-one, no matter how philistine, can ruin it.
The most uninteresting part of the biography of a composer is his childhood. All those preludes are the same and the reader hurries on to the fugue.
For some reason, people think that music must tell us only about the pinnacles of the human spirit, or at least about highly romantic villains. Most people are average, neither black nor white. They're gray. A dirty shade of gray. And it's in that vague gray middle ground that the fundamental conflicts of our age take place.
The real geniuses know where their writing has to be good and where they can get away with some mediocrity.
I always try to make myself as widely understood as possible, and if I don't succeed I consider it's my own fault.
The withering away of illusions is a long and dreary process, like a toothache. But you can pull out a tooth. Illusions, dead, continue to rot within us. And stink. And you can't escape them. I carry all of mine around with me.
I don't think that either self-deprecation or self-aggrandizement is among the defining qualities of an artistâ€¦Beethoven could have been forgiven if his symphonies had gone to his head. Gretchaninoff could also be forgiven if his Dobrinya Nikititch went to his head. But neither one could be forgiven for writing a piece that was amoral, servile, the work of a flunky.
What can be considered human emotions? Surely not only lyricism, sadness, tragedy? Doesn't laughter also have a claim to that lofty title? I want to fight for the legitimate right of laughter in "serious" music.
I feel eternal pain for those who were killed by Hitler, but I feel no less pain for those killed on Stalin's orders. I suffer for everyone who was tortured, shot, or starved to death.
What you have in your head, put down on paper. The head is a fragile vessel.
I live in the USSR, work actively and count naturally on the worker and peasant spectator. If I am not comprehensible to them I should be deported.
When a man is in despair, it means that he still believes in something.
I think it is clear to everyone what happens in the Fifth. The rejoicing is forced, created under threat, as in Boris Godunov. It's as if someone were beating you with a stick and saying, "Your business is rejoicing, your business is rejoicing," and you rise, shaky, and go marching off, muttering, "Our business is rejoicing, our business is rejoicing."
You ask if I would have been different without "Party guidance"? Yes, almost certainly. No doubt the line I was pursuing when I wrote the Fourth Symphony would have been stronger and sharper in my work. I would have displayed more brilliance, used more sarcasm, I could have revealed my ideas openly instead of having to resort to camouflage.
I write music, it's performed. It can be heard, and whoever wants to hear it will. After all, my music says it all. It doesn't need historical and hysterical commentaries. In the long run, any words about music are less important than the music.
If they cut off both hands, I will compose music anyway holding the pen in my teeth.
In conversation with Flora Litvinova, 1970; cited from Elizabeth Wilson Shostakovich: A Life What do
It's about the people, who have stopped believing because the cup of evil has run over.