Friday, March 25


So what is it, this force which makes saints, heroes, geniuses, which makes men pursue their destinies to the end? It seems to me that attention is the state of mind which allows us to perceive what has to be. It is a form of the vision experienced by the great mystics, on days when they were granted a profound concentration. I have the impression that the more I try to think of the essentials of music, the more they seem to depend on general human values. It's all very well to be a musician, it's all very well to be a genius, but the intrinsic value which constitutes your mind, your heart, your sensibility, depends on what you are. You may have to lead a life in which no one understands who you are. Nevertheless I believe that everything depends on attention. I only see you if I pay attention. I only exist, in my own eyes, if I pay attention to myself. One always comes back, willy nilly, to the great words. Have you or have you not received grace? Saint Teresa of Avila, afflicted despite everything with arid prayer, has visions; we say to ourselves, "She is mad, it is hysteria." That's very convenient! Was [Yehudi] Menuhin hysterical while playing sublimely a sublime movement of a Brahms sonata? No, he received the power to penetrate a thought which is neither Brahms's nor his, nor mine; a thought floating in the world, above the world, bearing light.

-- Nadia Boulanger, quoted in Mademoiselle: Conversations with Nadia Boulanger by Bruno Monsaingeon
Translated by Robyn Marsack