Stravinsky on expression in music
In these extracts Stravinsky discusses the meaning of music.
Most people like music because it gives them certain emotions such as joy, grief, sadness, and image of nature, a subject for daydreams or – still better – oblivion from “everyday life”. They want a drug – dope -…. Music would not be worth much if it were reduced to such an end. When people have learned to love music for itself, when they listen with other ears, their enjoyment will be of a far higher and more potent order, and they will be able to judge it on a higher plane and realise its intrinsic value.
Igor Stravinsky, An Autobiography, 1935, Calder and Boyars ed., 1975, p.163.
I consider that music is, by its very nature, essentially powerless to express anything at all, whether a feeling, an attitude of mind, or psychological mood, a phenomenon of nature, etc….Expression has never been an inherent property of music. That is by no means the purpose of its existence.
Igor Stravinsky, An Autobiography, 1935, Calder and Boyars ed., 1975, p.53.
For the phenomenon of music is nothing other than a phenomenon of speculation…..The elements at which this speculation necessarily aims are those of sound and time…..consequently music is a chronologic art……All music is nothing more than a succession of impulses that converge toward a definite point of repose.
….my freedom thus consists in my moving about within the narrow frame that I have assigned myself for each of my undertakings.
I shall go even further: my freedom will be so much the greater and more meaningful the more narrowly I limit my field of action and the more I surround myself with obstacles…..The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one s self of the chains that shackle the spirit.
Igor Stravinsky, Poetics of Music, Harvard University Press, 1970 ed. (original edition 1942), pp. 35, 36 & 49.