Arthur Sullivan Quotes

Sir Arthur Sullivan, in full Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan, was an English composer who, with W.S. Gilbert, established the distinctive English form of the operetta.

“The theatre is not the place for the musician. When the curtain is up the music interrupts the actor, and when it is down the music interrupts the audience.” – Arthur Sullivan
Quoted in The Musical Times, February 1909; cited from Percy A. Scholes The Mirror of Music, 1844-1944 (London: Novello, 1947) vol. 1, p. 267.

“I am terrified at the thought that so much hideous and bad music will be put on records forever.” – Arthur Sullivan

“After all we [have] each of us only eight notes to work upon.” – Arthur Sullivan
Quoted in Thomas F. Dunhill Sullivan’s Comic Operas: A Critical Appreciation (London: Edward Arnold, 1928) p. 182. On being accused of plagiarism.

“For myself, I can only say that I am astonished and somewhat terrified at the results of this evening’s experiments. Astonished at the wonderful power you have developed, and terrified at the thought that so much hideous and bad music may be put on record forever.” – Arthur Sullivan

“I am astonished and somewhat terrified at the results of this evening’s experiments – astonished at the wonderful power you have developed, and terrified at the thought that so much hideous and bad music may be put on record forever! … I think it is the most wonderful thing that I have ever experienced, and I congratulate you with all my heart on this wonderful discovery.” – Arthur Sullivan
A message on a phonograph cylinder, recorded by Arthur Sullivan at a demonstration of Thomas Edison’s phonograph in London on 5 October 1888; cited from Michael Chanan Repeated Takes: A Short History of Recording and its Effects on Music (London: Verso, 1995) p. 26. See also “Historic Sullivan Recordings” at the Gilbert and Sullivan Archive; and Very Early Recorded Sound at the National Historical Park website. The recording was issued on CD by the British Library (Voices of History 2: NSACD 19-20, 2005).

“One day work is hard, and another day it is easy; but if I had waited for inspiration I am afraid I should have done nothing. The miner does not sit at the top of the shaft waiting for the coal to come bubbling up to the surface. One must go deep down, and work out every vein carefully.” – Arthur Sullivan
Untitled essay, reprinted in Arthur Lawrence Sir Arthur Sullivan: Life-story, Letters and Reminiscences (London: James Bowden, 1899) p. 225.

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