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

— Ken Burns

The most undeniable Ken Burns quotes that will inspire your inner self

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

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The genius of our country is improvisation, and jazz reflects that.

It's our great contribution to the arts.

44

Do something that will last and be beautiful.

It doesn't have to be a bridge-or a symphony or book or a business. It could be the look in the eye of a child you raise or a simple garden you tend. Do something that will last and be beautiful.

36

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.

13

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.

13

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.

12

We all think that an exception is going to be made in our case and were going to live forever. Being a human is actually arriving at the understanding that thats not going to be. Story is there to remind us that its just OK.

10

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.

10

I don't think that there has been a film that I've done that hasn't been influenced by libraries and archives.

10

I have come to the realization that history is not a fixed thing, a collection of precise dates, facts and events (even cogent commencement quotes) that add up to a quantifiable, certain, confidently known, truth. It is a mysterious and malleable thing.

9

We strain to listen to the ghosts and echoes of our inexpressibly wise past, and we have an obligation to maintain these places, to provide these sanctuaries, so that people may be in the presence of forces larger than those of the moment.

8

I'm a filmmaker. I'm an artist. I've chosen to work in history the way someone might choose to work in still lifes or landscapes.

6

About Ken Burns

Quotes 61 sayings
Nationality American
Profession Director
Birthday October 16

The flame is not out, but it is flickering.

6

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.

5

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.

5

I wake the dead. I bring Jackie Robinson and the Roosevelts to life. Who do you think Im trying to wake up?

5

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.

4

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.

4

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.

4

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

4

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.

3

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.

3

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

3

A jazz beat is a dynamic changing rhythm.

3

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.

3

Nothing in our daily life offers more of the comfort of continuity, the generational connection of belonging to a vast and complicated American family, the powerful sense of home, the freedom from time's constraints, and the great gift of accumulated memory than does our National Pastime.

3

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

3

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.

2

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.

2

It follows the seasons, beginning each year with the fond expectancy of springtime and ending with the hard facts of autumn.

2

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

1

No one was more important to the game of baseball in the last half of the 20th century than Henry Aaron and no one writes about that supremely talented man, that tumultuous time and this treasure of a game better than Howard Bryant. Together, they are an extraordinary combination, and the book Bryant has written gets to the heart of the complicated and dignified, patient and consistent genuine hero that is Henry Aaron.

0

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.

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The only art form that Americans have created that's recognized around the world is jazz music born in a community that had the peculiar experience of being unfree in a free land.

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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.

0

Filmmaking is essentially about entertainment, but it's amazing to realize that it has this other muscle that could actually help. Do you know what I mean? People permit entertainment to wash over them, but every once and a while, entertainment - and this is entertaining - also galvanizes something else and that would be a really good thing to have happen in this case.

0

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.

0

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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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There is no communication in this world except between equals.

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History isn't really about the past - settling old scores.

It's about defining the present and who we are.

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People tend to forget that the word "history" contains the word "story".

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World War II is smothered in sentimentality and nostalgia.

What's interesting about Vietnam is that sentimentality is just not there, so you're given kind of a clean access to it in one way. It's also a war that represents a failure for the United States. Many people came back feeling like they never wanted to talk about it again. And so we developed a national amnesia.

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There are no ordinary lives.

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I enjoy total creative control right now.

Nobody tells me to make it longer, shorter, better, sexier, more violent, whatever.

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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.

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