Quincy Jones: I saw Stravinsky every day

Quincy Jones: I saw Stravinsky every day


norman lebrecht

May 21, 2021

In a wonderfully unbuttoned THR interview, the great Hollywood composer and arranger spills the beans on everyone from Nadia Boulanger to Elvis Presley.

I learned very early why God gave us two ears and one mouth, wants us to listen twice as much as we talk, or he would have given us two mouths, not two ears. There’s 12 notes that have been floating around the universe for 720 years now, and we have those same 12 notes that Brahms, Bach and Beethoven had. When I [moved to Paris in 1957 and studied with Boulanger, I saw Stravinsky every day. He was with her, too.

What did you take from the classical music world?

Counterpoint, structure, science, left brain. Right brain is feeling, right? Emotion. We’ve got to learn everything about music because it is the most fantastic, magical gift. People cannot live without music or water, you know that? Could you live without music? I don’t want to…

Did you ever work with Elvis?

No. I wouldn’t work with him.

Why not?

I was writing for [orchestra leader] Tommy Dorsey, oh God, back then in the ’50s. And Elvis came in, and Tommy said, “I don’t want to play with him.” He was a racist mother — I’m going to shut up now. 

Read on here.


  • Nope says:

    I should care what Quincy Jones thinks about anything?

    • Richard Slack says:

      If Nadia Boulanger did I suggest you could.
      How do you get from Maurice Maeterlinck to Micheal Jackson in 4 Steps?

    • Sam says:

      I’m much more interested in what he has to say, than say… you!

    • Paul says:

      “I should care what Quincy Jones thinks about anything?”

      A musically myopic viewpoint.

    • Barry Guerrero says:

      I’m much more interested in what Q.J. has to say about music than a good many ‘classical’ artists. I find him far more interesting.

  • WDM says:

    Amazing Interview. A True Genius Of Our Times! Thank you for this.

  • “Do you consult an astrologist?”

    “I studied with John Glenn. He took me aside and decided to teach me about astrology from an astronaut’s point of view.”

    This has an implausible air to it.

    • Fan says:

      John Glenn could be a comedian – he played himself in Frasier and did a Twilight Zone routine …

  • Save the MET says:

    The late rocker Warren Zevon also benefitted from Stravinsky’s tutelage.