Joni Mitchell Quotations

This recent synchronous happening revolving around Joni Mitchell went like this: After a meal out, Bonne and I were having a leisure wander about in Barnes and Nobel when Daniel Levitin’s book, Your Brain On Music stopped my feet and planted them in front of the book table for the rest of that time. For no particular reason, I flipped to a section on the music of Joni Mitchell and read about how Joni’s lack of formal musical education helped foster her unique musical expression, including her ambiguous chord structures and her ways of putting together musical sounds. As she says, “I’ve got 50 different tunings in the guitar.”

Levitin points out that in the case of Mitchell’s music, the ambiguity in her chords, allows us as listeners more options to hear and connect them together in our own ways, helps make them more compelling and personal to us, because, by the nature of our own unique way of organizing them within our brains, they have indeed been transformed into a more personal experience.

After we left the store, with a good deal of excitement I told Bonne about what I had read regarding Joni Mitchell’s music. She smiled and pulled out two Joni Mitchell CD’s that she had purchased while we were at B & N.  She said that she had a JM song running through her brain and was drawn to the CD section of the store. Prior to that, nothing relating to Joni Mitchell had been spoken of for at least a few months.

Canadian Joni Mitchell began her career in Toronto, performing in small nightclubs and busking, joined the New York folk music scene of the mid-1960s, and eventually settled in California, performing, singing, songwriting and painting. At home combining styles of pop, jazz and folk along with complex sonorities also heard in modern classical music, she has been and continues to be highly original, iconoclastic and hauntingly resonant to many a listener on both an emotional and intellectual level. Her recent album of new songs, Shine, was released in 2007.  Her work as a visual artist is seen on the cover art of her LP’s and CD’s as well as in galleries worldwide.

Image: Photo of singer Joni Mitchell on stage

“At the point where I’m trying to force something and it’s not happening, and I’m getting frustrated with, say, writing a poem, I can go and pick up the brushes and start painting. At the point where the painting seems to not be going anywhere, I go and pick up the guitar.”

“You could write a song about some kind of emotional problem you are having, but it would not be a good song, in my eyes, until it went through a period of sensitivity to a moment of clarity. Without that moment of clarity to contribute to the song, it’s just complaining.”

“And maybe it’s the time of year. Yes, and maybe it’s the time of man. And I don’t know who I am. But life is for learning.”

“Back then, I didn’t have a big organization around me. I was just a kid with a guitar, traveling around. My responsibility basically was to the art, and I had extra time on my hands. There is no extra time now. There isn’t enough time.”

“Everyone I know has attention deficit, and they say it with great pride. It’s a bad time to be right.”

“Sorrow is so easy to express and yet so hard to tell.”

“My songs to a certain degree contain a document of incidents that happened. Sometimes it takes many years to write about them… they’re not necessarily chronological.”

“I would have been an athlete, but I had a lot of childhood illnesses that developed a solitude and a deepening and fostered ‘artisticness’.”

“They paved paradise   And put up a parking lot,  With a pink hotel,   A boutique, and a swinging hot spot.”  (from ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ 1970 song)

“I think I’m a habitual documenter, visually and song-ically. I think the chords I choose are a document of where I’m at any given time, that they depict – if not the state I’m in at the time that I create it – at least the companion for the story.”

“I am in a very small space. I have one TV channel, and I don’t really like listening to much music right now. I’m still making peace with music. I only listen to a little bit, Debussy and [Igor] Stravinsky and stuff.”

“I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all.”

Joni Mitchell (1943- )

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Richard J. Chandler, BA, MA Bachelor of Arts-Music & Master of Arts-Psychology