Ned Rorem


American Pulitzer Prize-Winning Composer, Diarist and Author

Author Quotes

To start writing about your life is, from one standpoint, to stop living it. You must avoid adventures today so as to make time for registering those of yesterday.

Why, after all, must everyone like music? That they are missing something is just the lover's opinion.

All men are forced into one of two categories: those with eleven fingers and those without.

An artist doesn't necessarily have deeper feelings than other people, but he can express these feelings. He is like everyone else-only more so! He speaks with a Formal Sigh.

Artists-by definition innocent-don't steal. But they do borrow without giving back.

Greatness is not the effect of which inspiration is the cause. We are all inspired, but we are all not great.

I am a pretty good pianist innately, but don't practice much. I don't play in public more than once or twice a year. There's a big difference between being a composer and being a performer. If I sit down to play one of my pieces with a singer, I learn the piano part as if someone else has written it. There are certain pieces I've written for my own hands, knowing that I was later going to play them in public. Other works which were not written for my hands I've had to learn later on. I'd be thinking, "My God, why did this person write these notes?" And I don't feel that I have the right to change those notes, or simplify them. Still, I am my own ideal pianist.

It's not evil that's ruining the earth, but mediocrity. The crime is not that Nero played while Rome burned, but that he played badly.

People tell me it's not fair to edit a diary; if you edit, it isn't really a diary. In other words they are making the rules after the fact. I write my diary according to the way I write my diary. It's like saying that it's unfair to revise a piece of music or to have a sense of pride. Even though, of course, a diary is not the same as a novel, but then, again, it is. Everything's fiction.

Perfection is no more a requisite to art than to heroes. Frigidaires are perfect. Beauty limps. My frigidaire has had to be replaced.

Sooner or later you've heard all your best friends have to say Then comes the tolerance of real love.

The economy has everything to do with the shape of a work of art, and nothing to do with the quality. If the National Endowment for the Arts closes, we are still going to have art, but it won't be the same way. The great amounts of money in Russia before the Revolution made luxuriant ballet possible; it stopped right after World War One. Stravinsky didn't write the "Rite of Spring" any more; he wrote L'Histoire du Soldat for seven instruments. No one's going to write a big Mahler symphony today because it'll only be played once every ten years if it's played at all.

America is the only country in the whole world that is embarrassed by art. The minute art is mentioned, it becomes a conspiracy. Like Mappelthorpe and the NEA. With all of this discouragement, a composer is not even a despised pariah, because in order to be despised he has to exist ¥ a composer doesn't even exist in the ken of the intellectual public. The irony is that there are more young composers around than there ever were before.

Love is a mystery which, when solved, evaporates. The same holds for music.

Humor is the ability to see three sides to one coin.

Music is the sole art which evokes nostalgia for the future.

If music could be translated into human speech, it would no longer need to exist.

Artists, by definition innocent, don't steal. But they do borrow without giving back.

There are no fascinating people, only their works are fascinating.

We endow our poor lovers with godly traits, and then destroy them for being mortal.

Divine fires do not blaze each day, but an artist functions in their afterglow hoping for their recurrence.

Art means to dare - and to have been right.

Arguably, no artist grows up: If he sheds the perceptions of childhood, he ceases being an artist.

The hardest of all the arts to speak of is music, because music has no meaning to speak of.

Inspiration could be called inhaling the memory of an act never experienced.

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American Pulitzer Prize-Winning Composer, Diarist and Author