Nadia Boulanger – the recorded interviews

The lady of all consequence – the She whose tastes made the 20th century and drew out from the mix the likes of Copland, Glass, and Barenboim. Her salons were legendary, her ear even moreso; here she is all rhapsody with words, and as they filter through french, you want to believe it all.

But you know, all what counts for us is mystery.

I don’t know why I love music

I don’t know what music is genius, I don’t even speak of it.

We are fools to say “He is a genius”. We want to say that he attains something which is at the highest point of sensation, feeling, belief, knowledge, attachment — it’s a very important thing. And it’s why when you are teaching you are very concerned: have I not encouraged too many people? That’s the only thing you fear.

So, when I see a young pupil my first question is “Can you live without music? If you can live without music, thank the Lord and goodbye!” Because it’s only when it is unavoidable that you must do music – but you can never love music with enough devotion. If not, you’re making a mistake, you engage your life in marrying somebody that you don’t love. It’s not a good idea I think. I don’t know, I’ve never been married. But somebody who wants to do it will never be discouraged. I will discourage him, but he will go into the streets, he will go to somebody else, but he will do it. The one that you must push will never do anything.

I adore teaching – I have such a pleasure to be before someone I try to discover I try to find his ultimate qualities, and, usually find that there is one place where perhaps not to become a good musician, but to become a man, there is a power in this man, and this discovery of the personality is, for me, an expression of respect, of love, of understanding, very meaningful. When you have to deal with a young musician, it’s essential to expose him to works quite different,

if someone should say “I don’t care if I write good or bad music, I have to write” I’d say, you must write. It may be that the times changing, or our understanding growing better, we will understand better. When I have a new pupil I say “Who are you? Who are you as a man?” The young man who comes to ask your advice it is so serious a situation to hear him play and to suddenly decide that he is right or wrong when you’re not sure yourself. It’s difficult. Will he have the character strong enough to stand his superb unbelievable gift? I’m not sure. Will he have this indomitable courage to pursue?