If Ideas Had Shapes

A quoteblog ranging from philosophers in bathrobes to galaxy-rises

Tag: music

Lewis Thomas – Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler’s Ninth Symphony (1983)

You cannot really hear certain sequences of notes in a Bach fugue unless at the same time there are other notes being sounded, dominating the field. The real meaning in music comes from tones only audible in the corner of the mind.

“The Corner of the Eye”


Douglas Hofstadter – Le ton beau de Marot (1997)

More often than not, Bach will catch even the most astute of his listeners by surprise. He is like a rabbit who can elude the wiliest and most experienced of foxes in a wild zigzag chase across a field, constantly throwing his pursuers off the track by pulling novel rabbits out of his foxy composer’s hat.

Oscar Wilde – The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890)

But you must not think I don’t like good music. I adore it, but I am afraid of it. It makes me too romantic.

Oscar Wilde – The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890)

Music had stirred him like that. Music had troubled him many times. But music was not articulate. It was not a new world, but rather another chaos, that it created in us. Words! Mere words! How terrible they were! How clear, and vivid, and cruel! … Was there anything so real as words?

Douglas Adams – The Salmon of Doubt (2002)

The familiarity of the Brandenburgs should not blind us to their magnitude. I’m convinced that Bach is the greatest genius who ever walked among us, and the Brandenburgs are what he wrote when he was happy.

Douglas Adams – The Salmon of Doubt (2002)

Whatever new extremities of discovery or understanding we reach, we always seem to find the footsteps of Bach there already.

Salman Rushdie – The Satanic Verses (1988)

At night she took to walking out into the pampa and lying on her back to look at the galaxy above, and sometimes, under the influence of that bright flow of beauty, she would begin to tremble all over, to shudder with a deep delight, and to hum an unknown tune, and this star-music was as close as she came to joy.

Alan Lightman – Mr. g (2012)

Nowhere is the joy of existence so apparent as in music. … The music dances and glides and swoops. Not that all of it is melodic or soft. But even the dissonant and the jarring contain a rapture, an ecstasy, an embrace of existence.

Alan Lightman – Mr. g (2012)

The slow shift of the light through each day caused shadows to drift, shorten and lengthen, producing constantly changing silhouettes. The summits of mountains, which might be pink in the mornings, turned violet and amaranth in late afternoon. At certain times of the day a landscape might appear craggy and hard, and at other times the same landscape could seem delicate and soft, like evanescent veils in the Void. These phenomena could not be quantified, like temperatures and densities. Instead, they heightened one’s sensations. They seeped into one’s insides. Like music, they created a feeling that was not there before.

Alan Lightman – Mr. g (2012)

The liquid oceans were particularly beautiful. Jostled by winds, their surfaces rippled with liquid waves. These glided across the surfaces, crest to trough to crest, glittering with starlight and reflecting the colored atmospheres above. Some liquid waves were so delicate and slight that they dissipated after traveling a short distance, barely leaving a memory of their presence. Others, fierce and rough, rose up to great heights and pushed a quarter way round the whole planet. I believe that the ocean waves were music in material form.