A Musical Journey Sep 15, 2008
Alex Ross's The Rest is Noise contextualizes twentieth century modern classical music historically, and in that way informs the reader about both the music and history. I found the long chapter about Russian composers under Stalin especially informative. In addition Ross shows how the innovations of modern music seeped into the late century's pop music, and indeed how strict categories of classical, pop, folk and world music become increasingly less definable and more permeable. From Strauss to Ligeti, from tonality to atonality, from late Romantic to bebop to minimalism, the author manages to cover a wide swath of the past century's sounds. If I have any reservations, it's that Ross perhaps minimizes or understates the influence of post-bop jazz, particularly of Miles Davis's jazz-rock and John Coltrane's Eastern-influenced improvisations. But that aside, a vastly informative musical journey.