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A collection of quotes and thoughts by Aaron Copland on music, criticism, philosophy, meaning, expression, human, songs, spirit, insult, opinion, art and listen.

26 Inspiring Quotes By Aaron Copland That Will Tug At Your Heartstrings

Quick Facts

Also Listed In

Famous As
Composer, teacher, writer

Born On
14 November 1900 AD

Died On
01 January 1970 AD

Born In
Brooklyn

Died At Age
69

Aaron Copland was an American music composer, music conductor, writer and music teacher, widely regarded as one of the greatest music composers from the United States. As a matter of fact, he is called the ‘Dean of American Composers’ and that is an epithet that he  earned through years of devotion to his craft. Copland is particularly well-known for his simplistic style of music that came to be known as ‘populist’ compositions and the bulk of his work composed in the 1930s and 1940s followed that template. Some of his most renowned works include ‘Rodeo’, ‘Third Symphony’, ‘Billy the Kid’, ‘Fanfare of the Common Man’ and ‘Appalachian Spring’ among many others. On the other hand, he also travelled all over the world for musical performances and dazzled people in far off lands with his music. Copland has also done some film scores but his fame primarily lies in the populist style and those works are enjoyed by music enthusiasts all over the world to this day. Throughout his long life and career, Copland provided plenty of sound bites and expressed his thoughts on a variety of subjects. Here is a collection of Aaron Copland’s most notable thoughts and quotes that you would surely enjoy. 

If one were asked to name one musician who came closest to composing without human flaw, I suppose general consensus would choose Johann Sebastian Bach...

- Aaron Copland

Mozart tapped the source from which all music flows, expressing himself with a spontaneity and refinement and breathtaking rightness.

- Aaron Copland

I adore extravagance but I abhor waste.

- Aaron Copland

When I speak of the gifted listener, I am thinking of the nonmusician primarily, of the listener who intends to retain his amateur status. It is the thought of just such a listener that excites the composer in me.

- Aaron Copland

I don't compose. I assemble materials.

- Aaron Copland

A great symphony is a man-made Mississippi down which we irresistibly flow from the instant of our leave-taking to a long forseen destination.

- Aaron Copland

Composers tend to assume that everyone loves music. Surprisingly enough, everyone doesn’t.

- Aaron Copland

If you want to know about the Sixties, play the music of The Beatles.

- Aaron Copland

The main thing is to be satisfied with your work yourself. It's useless to have an audience happy if you are not happy.

- Aaron Copland

Music that is born complex is not inherently better or worse than music that is born simple.

- Aaron Copland

You compose because you want to somehow summarize in some permanent form your most basic feelings about being alive, to set down some sort of permanent statement about the way it feels to live now, today.

- Aaron Copland

The greatest moments of the human spirit may be deduced from the greatest moments in music.

- Aaron Copland

Most people use music as a couch; they want to be pillowed on it, relaxed and consoled for the stress of daily living. But serious music was never meant to be soporific.

- Aaron Copland

Every symphony, for example, is a sonata for orchestra; every string quartet is a sonata for four strings; every concerto a sonata for a solo instrument and orchestra.

- What to Listen for in Music, Aaron Copland

If a literary man puts together two words about music, one of them will be wrong.

- Aaron Copland

But I have always suspected that one could substitute the Minuet of Haydn’s 98th symphony for the Minuet in Haydn’s 99th symphony without sensing a serious lack of coherence in either work.

- What to Listen for in Music, Aaron Copland

Listening to the Fifth Symphony of Ralph Vaughan Williams is like staring at a cow for 45 minutes.

- Aaron Copland

So long as the human spirit thrives on this planet, music in some living form will accompany and sustain it and give it expressive meaning.

- Aaron Copland

The whole problem can be stated quite simply by asking, 'Is there a meaning to music?' My answer would be, 'Yes.' And 'Can you state in so many words what the meaning is?' My answer to that would be, 'No'.

- What to Listen for in Music, Aaron Copland

Inspiration may be a form of super-consciousness, or perhaps of subconsciousness—I wouldn't know. But I am sure it is the antithesis of self-consciousness.

- Aaron Copland

To stop the flow of music would be like the stopping of time itself, incredible and inconceivable.

- Aaron Copland

For me, the most important thing is the element of chance that is built into a live performance. The very great drawback of recorded sound is the fact that it is always the same. No matter how wonderful a recording is, I know that I couldn't live with it--even of my own music--with the same nuances forever.

- Aaron Copland

Mozart in his music was probably the most reasonable of the world's great composers. It is the happy balance between flight and control, between sensibility and self-discipline, simplicity and sophistication of style that is his particular province... Mozart tapped once again the source from which all music flows, expressing himself with a spontaneity and refinement and breath-taking rightness that has never since been duplicated.

- Aaron Copland

The inspired moment may sometimes be described as a kind of hallucinatory state of mind: one half of the personality emotes and dictates while the other half listens and notates. The half that listens has better look the other way, had better simulate a half attention only, for the half that dictates is easily disgruntled and avenges itself for too close inspection by fading entirely away.

- Aaron Copland

There is something about music that keeps its distance even at the moment that it engulfs us. It is at the same time outside and away from us and inside and part of us. In one sense it dwarfs us, and in another we master it. We are led on and on, and yet in some strange way we never lose control.

- Aaron Copland

You may be sitting in a room reading this book. Imagine one note struck upon the piano. Immediately that one note is enough to change the atmosphere of the room - proving that the sound element in music is a powerful and mysterious agent, which it would be foolish to deride or belittle.

- Aaron Copland