- The composer makes plans, music laughs.
- After all, Jews invented psychiatry to help other Jews become Gentiles.
- It appears to me that the subject of music, from Machaut to Boulez, has always been its construction. Melodies of 12-tone rows just don't happen. They must be constructed....To demonstrate any formal idea in music, whether structure or stricture, is a matter of construction, in which the methodology is the controlling metaphor of the composition...Only by 'unfixing' the elements traditionally used to construct a piece of music could the sounds exist in themselves--not as symbols, or memories which were memories of other music to begin with.
- ...The tragedy of music is that it begins with perfection.
- For years I said if I could only find a comfortable chair I would rival Mozart.
- My teacher Stefan Wolpe was a Marxist and he felt my music was too esoteric at the time. And he had his studio on a proletarian street, on Fourteenth Street and Sixth Avenue. . . . He was on the second floor and we were looking out the window, and he said, 'What about the man on the street?' At that moment . . . Jackson Pollock was crossing the street.
- [Regarding indeterminacy]'...I think this interest had to do with his interest in painting. He used to put sheets of graph paper on the wall, and work on them like paintings. Slowly his notation would accumulate, and from time to time he'd stand back to look at the overall design. For him it had less to do with belief in chance: it was more function than anything else. He would talk about different weights of sound - and that was simply the easiest way to express them. Pitches didn't really matter, as there were so many other controls, and he used chance without its interfering with expression. What Cage admired in him and what they had most in common was heroism - trusting in performers, despite the risk that they might destroy the thing completely. Unless the performer committed himself to the pieces, they could be horrible, and it was their very dangerousness which made them so beautiful. Cage's were beautiful in the same way, just because you never knew what would come next.' - Christian Wolff, Composer and Pianist
- Quoted from a conversation with Victor Schonfield, director of 'Music now' in London, published in Music and Musicians, London, May 1969. [Cues, pp66-68]
- '...We met in 1950, through John Cage, when I was sixteen and he in his early twenties. We were all doing work that was clearly different, newly different - from one another, but joined by our delight in each other's work (and by John Cage's organizing the concerts of it and a few musicians, David Tudor centrally, playing it), and by its difference from any other we knew. I still find mysterious his way of putting the music together, or rather of erasing any traces of a sense of its having been put together: it's just there. How does he do it? He's the only composer I know whose work seems made in a way that cannot be accounted for, explained, by any other means than the impossible one of becoming that composer oneself. He talked wonderfully, sharply, outrageously, but that wasn't quite his music. One thinks of the disparity of his large, strong presence and the delicate, hypersoft music, but in fact he too was, among other things, full of tenderness and the music is, among other things, as tough as nails.' - Christian Wolff, Composer and Pianist
- Written in 1987 at the request of Gisela Gronemeyer and Reinhard Oehlschlagel, first published in German in MusikTexte 22, Koln, December 1987. [Cues, pp364-368]