Musicians keep playing when the lights go out, when people are suffering, confused, or angry.

Stephen Hough

Stephen Hough

Profession: Musician
Nationality: British

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To me, spirituality is the everyday stuff which we're dealing with all the time. It's not going into some ecstatic trance. It's changing a nappy, or making a meal at the end of a very tiring day.

At moments of acute joy or sorrow, men and women throughout history have sung or reached for musical instruments to express the inexpressible. When minds are taut with emotional entanglement, there seems to be an inner compulsive instinct to release and harness this tension through the measured vibrations in the air that we call music.

I wanted to be a disc jockey.

I've always written - about music, art, things going on around the world. The danger is that it becomes too personal. I don't think people want it at that level of intimacy.

One of the things that touches me most when I play for an audience is that although we may be unable to communicate in words or have diametrically opposed views on hot-button issues, while the music sounds we can be at peace, we can be friends. The vibrations that fill an auditorium have no passports, and they unite ears when hearts may be divided.

I haven't studied theology in any systematic way. I don't think I'd find certain subjects - canon law, for instance - terribly interesting. But I'm always picking around and finding different things.

Learning great works like the Liszt Sonata or Beethoven's 'Hammerklavier' should be a struggle to a certain extent, where you need to labor intensely with your own brain and soul for the meaning of the work instead of cutting and pasting a bunch of stuff together from the Internet and - boom! - there you are with a performance ready to go.

There must be so many people who have various artistic talents that, for whatever reason, just have no way of expressing them. Either they have no support from their family or they live in a part of the world, maybe they've never heard a piano or seen a piano.

My place in London is very small, so a piano would take up a third of the room. I leave home in the morning when I'm there and go to my studio. I close the door, and it's soundproof. There's no phone or TV or computer, and I can work uninterruptedly. That has been a huge advantage over the years.

Why do people compose music? Why do people listen to music? When we go into a concert, we go into a place where we want to experience a sort of ecstasy, to come out of ourselves.

The piano is an instrument that can easily sound overly thick, and I love to think that I can work with textures - particularly the inner textures inside the melody or the bass line. There is an analogy there with painting; I love paintings where you see colour underneath the colour and, underneath that, more texture and shape.

I really feel something's missing if I'm not writing.

In school, my favourite class was when we were given a subject for an essay on which we could freewheel. And poetry: I've always written it and loved the way words interact, in meaning and in sound.

If you arrive at a concert ready to play your piece, that's not nearly good enough. You must have your music ready to the point where you can play it on a short rehearsal, after a long plane flight, on a strange piano, having had an unpleasant lunch, in an unfriendly atmosphere. You have to be so over-prepared that you can cope with anything.