- 'The phenomenon of music is given to us with the sole purpose of establishing an order in things, including, and particularly, the co-ordination between man [sic] and time.'
- Music's exclusive function is to structure the flow of time and keep order in it.
- 'One has a nose. The nose scents and it chooses. An artist is simply a kind of pig snouting truffles.'
- 'For I consider that music is, by its very nature, essentially powerless to express anything at all, whether a feeling, an attitude of mind, a 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. If, as is nearly always the case, music appears to express something, this is only an illusion and not a reality. It is simply an additional attribute which, by tacit and inveterate agreement, we have lent it, thrust upon it, as a label, a convention - in short, an aspect unconsciously or by force of habit, we have come to confuse with its essential being.'
- 'My music is best understood by children and animals.'
- 'The over-publicized bit about expression (or non-expression) was simply a way of saying that music is supra-personal and super-real and as such beyond verbal meanings and verbal descriptions. It was aimed against the notion that a piece of music is in reality a transcendental idea 'expressed in terms of' music, with the reductio ad absurdum implication that exact sets of correlatives must exist between a composer's feelings and his notation. It was offhand and annoyingly incomplete, but even the stupider critics could have seen that it did not deny musical expressivity, but only the validity of a type of verbal statement about musical expressivity. I stand by the remark, incidentally, though today I would put it the other way around: music expresses itself.'
- 'It is the transcendent (or 'abstract' or 'self-contained') nature of music that the new so called concretism--Pop Art, eighteen-hour slices-of-reality films, musique concrete--opposes. But instead of bringing art and reality closer together, the new movement merely thins out the distinction.'
- 'What I cannot follow are the manic-depressive fluctuations from total control to no control, from the serialization of all elements to chance.'
- 'Much of the music is a Merzbild, put together from whatever came to hand. I mean, for example...the Alberti-bass horn solo accompanying the Messenger. I also mean the fusion of such widely divergent types of music as the Folies Bergeres tune at No. 40 ('The girls enter, kicking') and the Wagnerian 7th-chords at Nos. 58 and 74.'
- 'Composers combine notes, that's all.'
- 'The trouble with music appreciation in general is that people are taught to have too much respect for music; they should be taught to love it instead.'
- 'Doomed to total failure in a deaf world of ignorance and indifference, he inexorably kept on cutting out his diamonds, his dazzling diamonds, of whose mines he had a perfect knowledge.'
- 'Afterwards, after the concert, I heard them say: 'Too much noise'. And I wanted to ask: 'Where, exactly?''
- 'Silence will save me from being wrong (and foolish), but it will also deprive me of the possibility of being right.'
- 'Harpists spend 90% of their time tuning their harps and 10% playing out of tune.'
- 'Music must be listened to; it is not enough to hear it. A duck hears also.'
- My childhood was a period of waiting for the moment when I could send everyone and everything connected with it to hell.
- 'Good composers don't borrow, they steal'