Edgard Varèse

French composer (1883-1965)

Edgard Varèse (22 December 18836 November 1965) was a French-born composer who spent much of his career in the United States.

Contrary to general belief, an artist is never ahead of his time but most people are far behind theirs.


  • Our musical alphabet is poor and illogical. Music, which should pulsate with life, needs new means of expression, and science alone can infuse it with youthful vigor.
    Why, Italian Futurists, have you slavishly reproduced only what is commonplace and boring in the bustle of our daily lives.
    I dream of instruments obedient to my thought and which with their contribution of a whole new world of unsuspected sounds, will lend themselves to the exigencies of my inner rhythm.
    • Edgard Varèse lecture, edited by Chou Wen-Chung, published in: 391, Nr. 5. June 17, 1917. Translated by Louise Varèse; Quoted in: Classic Essays on Twentieth-Century Music: A Continuing Symposium (1996), ISBN 0028645812.
  • Everyone is born with genius, but most people only keep it a few minutes.
    • As quoted by Martha Graham, in Dance Observer, Volumes 24-27 (1957), p. 5
  • Contrary to general belief, an artist is never ahead of his time but most people are far behind theirs. I was the first composer to explore, so to speak, musical outer space.
    • As quoted in Gramophone (1962), Vol. 40, Part 2‎, p. 389
  • I was not influenced by composers as much as by natural objects and physical phenomena. As a child, I was tremendously impressed by the qualities and character of the granite I found in Burgundy, where I often visited my grandfather...So I was always in touch with things of stone and with this kind of pure structural architecture — without frills or unnecessary decoration. All of this became an integral part of my thinking at a very early stage.
    • Interview with Gunther Schuller (1965, p. 34), quoted in Sound Structure in Music (1975) bu Robert Erickson; University of California Press. ISBN 0520023765.
  • There is an idea, the basis of an internal structure, expanded and split into different shapes or groups of sound constantly changing in shape, direction, and speed, attracted and repulsed by various forces. The form of the work is a consequence of this interaction. Possible musical forms are as limitless as the exterior forms of crystals.
    • Aspects of 20th Century Music (1975) by Gary Wittlich and Richard P. DeLone ISBN 0130493465

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