Category Archives: Nicolas Slonimsky

Nicolas Slonimsky

The criterion of selection here is the exact opposite to that of a press agent. Instead of picking a quotably flattering phrase out of context from an otherwise tepid review, the Lexicon of Musical Invective cites biased, unfair, ill- tempered, and singularly unprophetic judgments.

Nicolas Slonimsky, Lexicon of Musical Invective: Critical Assaults on Composers since Beethoven’s Time, New York, 1953, p. 3

Nicolas Slonimsky

It is usually stated that 20,000 persons attended Beethoven’s funeral, and the figure is supported by contemporary accounts. But the population of Vienna at the time of Beethoven’s death was about 320,000, and it is hardly likely that one person out of every sixteen, including children, gathered to pay tribute to the dead master. I have therefore replaced 20,000 by the non-committal “hundreds.” On the other hand, the famous account of Beethoven’s dying during a violent storm has been triumphantly confirmed. I have obtained from the Vienna Bureau of Meteorology an official extract from the weather report for March 26, 1827, stating that a thunderstorm, accompanied by strong winds, raged over the city at 4:00 in the afternoon.

Nicolas Slonimsky, ‘Preface to the Fifth Edition’, Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Centennial ed., New York, 2001, p. xii

Nicolas Slonimsky

I also tried to condition Electra to dissonant music. Henry Cowell was especially fond of one anecdote, which he recounted in his lectures and seminars. The story went something like this: When Electra would scream for a bottle, I would sit down at the piano and play a Chopin nocturne, completely ignoring her request. I would allow for a pause, and then play Schoenberg’s Opus 33a, which opens with a dodecaphonic succession of three highly dissonant chords. I would then rush in to give Electra her bottle. Her features would relax, her crying would cease, and she would suck contentedly the nutritious formula. This was to establish a conditional reflex in favor of dissonant music.

Nicolas Slonimsky, Perfect Pitch: An Autobiography, New York, 2002, p. 132