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Stravinsky on the purpose of music

October 21, 2008

In this extract from his autobiography Stravinsky discusses the purpose of music.

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….

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 and time. To be put into practice, its indispensable and single requirement is construction. Construction once completed, this order has been attained, and there is nothing more to be said. It would be futile to look for, or expect anything else from it. It is precisely this construction, this achieved order, which produces in us a unique emotion having nothing in common with our ordinary sensations and our responses to the impressions of daily life. One could not better define the sensation produced by music than by saying that it is identical with that evoked by the contemplation of architectural forms.

I Sravinsky, An Autobiography, 1935, Calder and Boyars ed., 1975, pp. 53-54.  Originally published as Chroniques de ma vie.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 5, 2009 12:29 am

    hi i am doing a school project in science and we have to pick a topic of anything we want and then present them to the class. i have choosen The Science of Music and i would like some suggestions to be to explain the science of music…….

    thank you
    jade renteria

  2. August 5, 2013 10:37 pm

    Look up Shillinger on the mathematics of music…a mentor of George Gershwin.

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