Like many of the composers about which he writes, Mr. Ross appears have some disdain for mass appeal. Without at least some grounding in music theory, particulary the theories of harmony, this book can be expected to only mystify. I myself have only a brief and non-formal grounding in that area, and I was only able to get a small feel for the works being described. Unfortunately, without musical example, verbally describing symphonic works simply doesn't work.
Beyond that disclaimer, this is an interesting (though very selective) overview of the interaction between the sequestered world of classical composing and outward reality.
Unfortunately, what often comes through is simply the disdain the classical composer has for the rest of us. That along with Mr. Ross' delight in pointing out the homosexual composers whether or not it is germain to their works drags this work into a quite bleak view of the century.
The narration was good in pace and articulation, although a number of non-English words are poorly pronounced.
I was really looking forward to this book, but it was impossible to get into. There really is no theme whatsover to each chapter. It's a laundry list of "interesting" facts that the author managed to unearth--the type of stuff you would hear an obnoxious music enthusiast using to try to impress people at a cocktail party.
This book is packed with insights but it should be read not listened to. It's an excellent reference about the music of a large number of composers. amd full of good stories about the social context in which they worked, their personalities, egos, political views, and relationships with each other. As an Audiobook, there is no way to look up Schoenberg (say) if you're listening to or plan to listen to his music. While I the segments I listened to today included some fascinating details of his life, I won't easily be able to find them again. While the details are vivid, within two days, I won't know if they are about Schoenberg or Barkok. A much better idea would be to buy the book (which hopefully has an index). I've rated it two stars (it deserves 4 for content, but it only deserves one or two as an Audiobook).
A superb combination of history, biography and musical analysis
The extent to which the US government, in Germany after WW II, used music to shape the culture away from Aryan extremism.
No characters, a nice piece of non-fiction. He's got a great, and well measured voice. Really appreciated it.
Not sure one would be made but how about Jazzing up the Repertory.
If you've got half an ear for classical music and haven't caught on to modernism (which is almost 100 years old now) this is the book for you. You'll refer back to it many times.
This book is just sensationally good, and Grover Gardner does a fine job narrating it. I think the only way this could possibly have been any better is if the music which was being discussed occasionally played in the background... but that's probably too complicated.
An interesting perspective on primarily 20th century classical music. I found the approach however somewhat too pretentious for my taste. The author seemingly has a bias toward particular social/political viewpoints which bleed into the narrative - so depending on your own viewpoints, you might be sympathetic to the presentation or find yourself getting occasionally annoyed. Helpful to have access to a classical library by which to sample the composers and works discussed in the book. I have a subscription to Rhapsody which was helpful to dive into throughout the exploration provided by this book.
If you've read Alex Ross in the New Yorker, you know what a brilliant and gracious critic he is. But here the full breadth of his erudition is unfolded, and his genius for close reading of musical texts and relating them to larger intellectual movements is staggering.
my ipod and audible make the daily 10 mile walks a "breeze"....
if it was intended to be a history book about music...for the general reader...it missed the mark by a mile....if you, like me, have absolutely zero knowledge about music....cannot play an instrument...don't know the difference between a sharp or a flat.....stay away from this book.....too technical for me....and I suspect the general public.
How fusty old composers overcame life's vicissitudes to produce meaning in sound -- Alex Ross's prose makes his critical ear accessible to me. Walking in the park, listening to his words, I could almost hear the tension of the notes that made the first listeners uneasy.
This is one of the best Audible Books I've heard. It makes me realize how much more I retain when I'm listening to something as opposed to reading the words. I've read some nice thrillers and mysteries and classical fiction and poetry. This, my first foray into non-fiction, was incredibly rewarding.
Perhaps---Mahler. Because this is a non-fiction book, there are no characters per se. But Grover Gardner's superb, clear narration makes Alex Ross's history of 20th century music absolutely riveting.
He is new to me but I plan to look him up and listen to other of his performances. What a wonderful, clear voice. His enunciation is crystal clear and utterly engaging.
It's too long to do that! I would have to go without a night's sleep. But it's most certainly a book that made me return to it as frequently and as quickly as I could. It is a reflection and history of 20th century music that has the quick pace and excitement of a thriller.
I also should say that I find the topic innately fascinating so I was prepared to enjoy it and to be illuminated. What I did not know was what a fantastic addition to my "knowledge" bank this would be. I knew the bare outlines of the stories of the various composers and compositions. I did not know the wonderful nuances and the vivid historical perspectives this book would provide. It's a book worth rereading and I certainly will never delete it from my library.
If you like--or are interested--in classical music, you will enjoy this book. If you think that the 20th century was a musical wasteland, give this title a try.