Ken Burns Quotes (44 Quotes)

    Sometimes, for example, we assume the people hearing us don't know anything. I've read a commentator saying that the new Jazz ... OK, we got that part, move on.

    I don't use composers. I research music the way I research the photographs or the facts in my scripts.

    You don't work on something for six years and be blind to the myriad of other approaches.

    I record all of my music with authentic instruments in a studio before we start editing, doing many, many versions. The music shapes the film as we edit so it has an organic relationship to the content.

    I am passionately interested in understanding how my country works. And if you want to know about this thing called the United States of America you have to know about the Civil War.

    I think my expectations for myself are much more severe and much more direct. You can't work on a film for six years without being your own toughest critic. So you can't really be distracted by the expectations based on your previous performance.

    I began to feel that the drama of the truth that is in the moment and in the past is richer and more interesting than the drama of Hollywood movies. So I began looking at documentary films.

    I treat the photograph as a work of great complexity in which you can find drama. Add to that a careful composition of landscapes, live photography, the right music and interviews with people, and it becomes a style.

    Jazz is a very accurate, curiously accurate accompaniment to 20th century America.

    impossible to imagine what we would have been like without it.

    Burns says he has been particularly inspired by accounts of Japanese-American soldiers who left internment camps to serve in combat in Europe. These men were only given one opportunity as volunteers and that was to go straight to combat, ... They went straight to the battlefield. It was very tragic. But they were some of the most amazing heroes of the war. And that's the kind of thing I didn't know when I started working on this project and the kind of thing I love to talk about. It gets me excited. And it's more fun when you can talk about it with people in a forum.

    We're having a hard time understanding where jazz is going. What happened to jazz?

    The flame is not out, but it is flickering.

    Like a layer on a pearl, you can't specifically identify the irritant, the moment of the irritant, but at the end of the day, you know you have a pearl.

    I grew up certain for a while that I was going to be an anthropologist, until film turned my head.

    Good history is a question of survival. Without any past, we will deprive ourselves of the defining impression of our being.

    History is malleable. A new cache of diaries can shed new light, and archeological evidence can challenge our popular assumptions.

    I enjoy total creative control right now. Nobody tells me to make it longer, shorter, better, sexier, more violent, whatever.

    You need, as a historian, essential triangulation from your subject and the only way you get that triangulation is through time.

    This is what I don't understand, why we're not taught this. I mean, you would be hard pressed to say that there was no machine more important than the car in the last 100 years. Nothing has been more influential in how we live, how we work, what's worked itself into our songs, into our mythology. The idea of a road trip is very much in everyone's life, and this is the first road trip.

    You know, you meet some people, and do a lot of interviews, and you come across a Buck O'Neill and you know you are going to know him for the rest of your life. The same thing happened with Curt Flood.

    I can understand why some of these drummers and bass players become cult figures with all of their equipment and the incredible amount of technique they have. But there's very little that I think satisfies you intellectually or emotionally.

    One of the things I really like about Ford's films is how there is always a focus on the way characters live, and not just the male heroes.

    When a documentary filmmaker, working in the style that I do, suggests that there has been a shooting ratio of 40 hours to every one hour of finished film, that doesn't mean that the other 39 are bad.

    I have made a film about jazz that tries to look through jazz to see what it tells us about who we are as a people. I think that jazz is a spectacularly accurate model of democracy and a kind of look into our redemptive future possibilities.

    I never, ever want to apologize for a film. If it's bad I'll say it's my fault. And that's what I can say so far in all the films that I've done, that if you don't like it, it's entirely my fault.

    Louis Armstrong is quite simply the most important person in American music. He is to 20th century music (I did not say jazz) what Einstein is to physics.

    I have made all my films for my children with the exception of my first film because my oldest daughter wasn't born when I was making the film about the Brooklyn Bridge.

    I think we too often make choices based on the safety of cynicism, and what we're lead to is a life not fully lived. Cynicism is fear, and it's worse than fear - it's active disengagement.

    A jazz beat is a dynamic changing rhythm.

    I subscribe to William Faulkner's' view that history is not just about what we were before but who we are now.

    To say that an artist sells out means that an artist is making a conscious choice to compromise his music, to to weaken his music for the sake of commercial gain.

    The genius of our country is improvisation, and jazz reflects that. It's our great contribution to the arts.

    In a sense I've made the same film over and over again. In all of them I've asked, 'Who are we as Americans?

    The way I work, the interview never becomes larger than the person being interviewed.

    You can learn as much about the history from reading about the present as you can vice versa, that is learning about the present through history, which is what I do for a living.

    When you are editing, the final master is Aristotle and his poetics. You might have a terrific episode, but if people are falling out because there are just too many elements in it, you have to begin to get rid of things.

    The stories from 1975 on are not finished and there is no resolve. I could spend 50 hours on the last 25 years of jazz and still not do it justice.

    I think the problem with a lot of the fusion music is that it's extremely predictable, it's a rock rhythm and the solos all play the same stuff and they play it over and over again and there's a certain musical virtuosity involved in it.

    Wynton told us that Miles sold out, just wanted to make more money, just wanted to sell more records. I don't believe that Miles sold out but I'm not in a position to say.

    In most films music is brought in at the end, after the picture is more or less locked, to amplify the emotions the filmmaker wants you to feel.

    History's just been made for sale to an inside deal.

    By its very nature, no one person can ever be the center of jazz.

    I read cover to cover every jazz publication that I could and in the New York Times, every single day reading their jazz reviews even though I didn't put them in the films. I wanted to know what is going on.

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