Nadia Boulanger Quotes

I’ve been a woman for a little over 50 years and have gotten over my initial astonishment. As for conducting an orchestra, that’s a job where I don’t think sex plays much part.

To study music, we must learn the rules. To create music, we must break them.

Nothing is better than music; when it takes us out of time, it has done more for us than we have the right to hope for: it has broadened the limits of our sorrowful life, it has lit up the sweetness of our hours of happiness by effacing the pettinesses that diminish us, bringing us back pure and new to what was, what will be, what music has created for us.

The essential conditions of everything you do must be choice, love, passion.

False notes can be forgiven, false music cannot.

Nadia Boulanger

The art of music is so deep and profound that to approach it very seriously only is not enough. One must approach music with a serious rigor and, at the same time, with a great, affectionate joy.

It is so much easier to rest contented with what we have already acquired than to change ever so slightly those routine but profound habits of thought and feeling which govern our life, and by which we live so blissfully. This mental inertia is, perhaps, our greatest enemy. Insidiously it leads us to assume that we can renew our lives without renewing our habits.

It is nothing to succeed if one has not taken great trouble, and it is nothing to fail if one has done the best one could.

Life is denied by lack of attention, whether it be to cleaning windows or trying to write a masterpiece.

Without discipline, there can be no freedom.

Do nothing for effect. Do it for truth.

Nadia Boulanger

Do not take up music unless you would rather die than not do so.

Loving a child doesn’t mean giving in to all his whims; to love him is to bring out the best in him, to teach him to love what is difficult.

Nothing is better than music; when it takes us out of time, it has done more for us than we have the right to hope for.

Great art likes chains. The greatest artists have created art within bounds. Or else they have created their own chains.

Words created divergencies between beings, because their precise meanings put an opinion around the idea. Music only retains the highest and purest substance of the idea, since it has the privilege of expressing all, whilst excluding nothing.

There is nothing boring in life except ourselves.

[On being asked how it felt to be the first female conductor of the Boston Symphony:] I’ve been a woman for a little more than fifty years, and I’ve gotten over my original astonishment.

Music was not invented by the composer, but found.

It is one thing to be gifted and quite another thing to be worthy of one’s own gift.

Art is not emotion. Art is the medium in which emotion is expressed.

Without order there can be no inner satisfaction. Without inner satisfaction there can be no freedom. Without freedom there is no joy.

The history of harmony is the history of the development of the human ear, which has gradually assimilated, in their natural order, the successive intervals of the harmonic series.

Without a strong cup to carry the emotion, it is only a curiosity. Great art can come to us only in strong cups. Without emotion, there is nothing to carry.

A great work is made out of a combination of obedience and liberty.