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Old 11-05-2010, 12:22 PM
The Hamster King is offline
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"Writing about music is like dancing about architecture."


Does anybody know the source of this quote?

Googling gives attributions of half a dozen different people.
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Old 11-05-2010, 12:47 PM
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The New York Times says,

"The earliest occurrence of this found by The Yale Book of Quotations was the following by Elvis Costello, quoted in Musician, October 1983:

Writing about music is like dancing about architecture."
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Old 11-05-2010, 12:50 PM
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Actually, a later blog posting on the New York Times website gives some possible earlier sources.
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Old 11-10-2010, 05:46 PM
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Finally getting around to reading the profile of Costello in last week's New Yorker, I stumbled across the following statement:

Quote:
The remark, likely first made by the comedian Martin Mull, that "writing about music is like dancing about architecture," has often been attributed to Costello, probably because it conveys a suspicion of criticism that he shares.
So it looks like their fact-checkers decided that the best source was Mr MacManus's recall of where he'd come across the phrase, based on the Q interview someone quotes in the Comments on that NYT blog.
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Old 11-11-2010, 12:07 AM
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IIRC I read that quote in an essay by Gore Vidal sometime in the late 1970s. I thought that it was very clever and certainly sounded like something he would say. Can't vouch for him being the originator though.
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Old 11-11-2010, 04:09 AM
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I have no cite, but every time I heard about that quote, it was attributed to Frank Zappa. I always thought it would fit to his personality. Anyhow, I found this interesting piece about the quote, which doesn't provide an affirmed conclusion either.
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Old 11-11-2010, 11:04 AM
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The Quote Investigator discusses this at some length, http://quoteinvestigator.com/2010/11...g-about-music/, and considers Martin Mull the leading candidate for crafter of the maxim.
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Old 11-11-2010, 11:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jbaker View Post
The Quote Investigator discusses this at some length, http://quoteinvestigator.com/2010/11...g-about-music/, and considers Martin Mull the leading candidate for crafter of the maxim.
I don't find that very convincing. People falsely attribute a lot of saying to comedians (and other public figures, too, but I think comedians are magnets for them). George Carlin's website has a whole page of stuff that was wrongly attributed to him. People didn't have the Internet to blur attributions back then, but I think it's more likely that this is a saying that attached itself to Mull when he was popular because maybe it sounded like something he would say.
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Old 11-11-2010, 03:15 PM
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The attribution to Martin Mull is shaky at best; he's simply a stronger candidate than anyone else. The Quote Investigator is an excellent cite, and its article discusses most of what's known about the aphorism. The attribution to Elvis Costello, which formerly appeared strong, has been debunked by the Quote Investigator's work.

Fred Shapiro of The Yale Book of Quotations has called figures like George Carlin "quote magnets." Martin Mull is much less famous than Carlin and not usually considered a quote magnet. Still, the mere fact that one person (cited in the Quote Investigator article) thought that Mull said it, does not prove that he said it.
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Old 11-11-2010, 10:06 PM
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The phrase is misquoted by Angelina Jolie in the film "Playing by Heart" as "Talking about love is like dancing about architecture."

I think it's attributed to an off-screen musician character.
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Old 11-12-2010, 03:25 AM
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In fact, the original title of Playing by Heart was Dancing about Architecture. The title was changed before it was released.
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Old 11-12-2010, 10:20 AM
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Can't imagine why...

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Old 11-12-2010, 10:41 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EinsteinsHund View Post
I have no cite, but every time I heard about that quote, it was attributed to Frank Zappa. I always thought it would fit to his personality. Anyhow, I found this interesting piece about the quote, which doesn't provide an affirmed conclusion either.
Zappa's similar quote was "Rock journalism is people who can't write, interviewing people who can't talk, in order to provide articles for people who can't read."
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Old 11-12-2010, 11:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Marley23 View Post
Carlin comes off as being kind of dickish on that site, in my opinion. Not a word about wanting to give the real authors credit for their work, much less any attempt to attribute anything to its real author. Carlin's attitude was that his material was much better than other people's and he didn't want his reputation sullied by lesser work - "it bothers me that some people might believe I'd actually be capable of writing some of this stuff".
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Old 11-12-2010, 12:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sciurophobic View Post
Zappa's similar quote was "Rock journalism is people who can't write, interviewing people who can't talk, in order to provide articles for people who can't read."
Damn, I have heard this quote, maybe I mixed it up (just like the other people who attributed the "architecture" quote to Zappa). But anyway, this quote is even better IMHO (although as a keen reader of rock literature, I'm one of those he insults).
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