A sweeping musical history that goes from the salons of pre-war Vienna to Velvet Underground shows in the sixties. In The Rest is Noise, Alex Ross, music critic of the New Yorker, gives us a riveting tour of the wild landscape of twentieth-century classical music: portraits of individuals, cultures, and nations reveal the predicament of the composer in a noisy, chaotic century. Taking as his starting point a production of Richard Strauss's Salome, conducted by the composer on 16 May 1906 with Puccini, Schoenberg, ...
A sweeping musical history that goes from the salons of pre-war Vienna to Velvet Underground shows in the sixties. In The Rest is Noise, Alex Ross, music critic of the New Yorker, gives us a riveting tour of the wild landscape of twentieth-century classical music: portraits of individuals, cultures, and nations reveal the predicament of the composer in a noisy, chaotic century. Taking as his starting point a production of Richard Strauss's Salome, conducted by the composer on 16 May 1906 with Puccini, Schoenberg, Berg and Adolf Hitler seated in the stalls, Ross suggests how this evening can be considered the century's musical watershed rather the riotous premiere of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring seven years later. Ross goes on to explore the mythology of modernism, Sibelius and the music of small countries, Kurt Weill, the music of the Third Reich, Britten, Boulez and the post-war avant-garde, and interactions between minimalist composers and rock bands in the sixties and seventies.
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This is a well written book, unlike a boring college text book. I was suprised that the author took a storyline approach, which made these musical (artists) come to life as real people. Still reading but for all its worth the investment.
Nov 19, 2009
Alex Ross is one of the most intelligent music critics writing today. His critical essays in The New Yorker are "must" reading for professionals as well as music lovers. He has always made a specialty of contemporary music, and is open to the most radical and avant-garde movements. His writing style favors clarity and lucidity, and he conveys the impression that he knows what he's talking about.
Sep 15, 2008
A Musical Journey
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.
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