Listen to This showcases the best of Ross’s writing on pop and classical music from more than a decade at The New Yorker....
A world-renowned composer of symphonies, operas, and film scores, Philip Glass has, almost single-handedly, crafted the dominant sound of late 20th-century classical music....
From Gregorian Chant to Henryk Gorecki, the first living classical composer to get into the pop album charts, here is the fascinating story of over a thousand years of Western classical music....
Ted Gioia's History of Jazz has been universally hailed as a classic - acclaimed by jazz critics and fans around the world....
Music can move us to the heights or depths of emotion. It can persuade us to buy something, or remind us of our first date....
Jazz is a uniquely American art form, with each generation of musicians applying new levels of creativity that take the music in unexpected directions that defy definition....
In the insightful How Music Works, David Byrne offers his unique perspective on music....
An enthralling investigation into the mysteries of music....
John Cage has been described as the most important composer of our time....
Nothing "goes viral". If you think a popular movie, song, or app came out of nowhere to become a word-of-mouth success in today's media environment, you're missing the real story....
In this groundbreaking union of art and science, rocker-turned-neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitin explores the connection between music and the human brain....
Traveling from New York to Los Angeles, Stockholm to Korea, John Seabrook visits specialized teams composing songs in digital labs with novel techniques....
Opera, said Moliére, is the most expensive noise known to man. From its beginnings in the 16th Century, through to today when there are as many musical styles as there are composers....
You'll learn what research tells us about practice, but more importantly, you'll learn how great musicians in many genres of music think about practice....
Elijah Wald is one of the leading popular music critics of his generation. In The Blues, Wald surveys a genre at the heart of American culture....
This novel spans the period from 1893 to the years just after World War I - a time of corporate greed and evil in high places. No reference to the present day is intended or should be inferred....
Covering the history of rock, R&B, country, disco, soul, reggae, and pop, Anatomy of a Song is a love letter to the songs that have defined generations of listeners....
Like the origins of a musical idea waiting to be developed through the course of symphony, Adrian Leverkühn, the titular musical genius of Thomas Mann's Doktor Faustus, foreshadows The Rest is Noise. Mann has Leverkühn attend a performance of Richard Strauss' Salome in 1906, the same event that opens The Rest is Noise. Alex Ross lists Leverkühn's fictional attendance along with that of the historically correct presence of Mahler, Puccini, Schoenberg, the cream of doomed European society - and the 17-year-old Adolf Hitler. in Mann's book, Leverkühn contracts syphilis around the same time from a prostitute who goes on to haunt his work; the implied germination of something dark and destructive - musically and historically - sets the tone for Ross' hugely ambitious book.
if writing about music is like dancing about architecture, Alex Ross, the classical music critic of the New Yorker, is Nureyev with a notebook. Critics may quibble with the lack of academic theory in his descriptions of music (in this regard, it's constructive to compare his book with Charles Rosen's The Classical Style), but he has an undeniable gift for enabling the reader to 'hear' the outline of the music he describes (or at least make them believe that is what they're hearing): "Strings whip up dust clouds around manic dancing feet. Brass play secular chorales, as if seated on the dented steps of a tilting little church...Drums bang the drunken lust of young men at the center of the crowd." Consequently, there are countless moments in this book where the temptation to download the music is overwhelming - clearly, copyright issues and running time barred inclusion of musical segments in this recording, and it's a tribute to Ross' style that this omission isn't a critical blow.
The author's forte - obsession, even - is to conjure up sweeping historical vistas and then focus in on the tiny details that bring biographies to life: Charles ives' stint as an insurance salesman, the discovery by Alban Berg's brother of the teddy bear as a marketable toy. Ross also likes to draw historical parallels between the careers of very different composers. However, comparisons with works outside the genre don't always convince of their relevance, for example Sibelius' 5th with John Coltrane's A Love Supreme. Everyone from Britten to Björk, Ellington to Einsturzende Neubauten is invoked, which is fun but can feel arbitrary. At these points, the listener is reminded of the author's other career as a prolific blogger - blog writing seems to invite a certain loftiness of authorial position from which vantage point sweeping generalisations are made; The Rest is Noise can occasionally fall into this trap. But with such a huge amount to cram in, this is easily forgiven.
Grover Gardner narrates this sprawling epic, leading the listener through the maze of allusions, dates, and the constant switching from the macro to the micro. He also deserves a medal for his navigation of the minutiae of musical theory, not to mention an international cast of unpronounceable names. -Dafydd Phillips
Ross, music critic for The New Yorker, is the recipient of numerous awards for his work, including two ASCAP Deems Taylor Awards for music criticism. In addition, he was named a 2008 recipient of a MacArthur Foundation fellowship, given for achievements in creativity and potential for making important future cultural contributions.
I'm a professional musician and I spent an entire semester as an undergrad studying 20th century music, but there were many times during my listen to "The Rest..." when I went- hey, I didn't know that!
Ross starts us out at the turn of the 20th century in the hotbed that was German late-Romantic music (Strauss, Mahler), and we walk through the remainder of the 20th century, not necessarily in chronological order. Instead, Ross deals with places and chunks of time, putting composers and the way they wrote into the context of social and political history: Weimar Germany, Nazi Germany, 20's Paris, New-deal USA, Soviet Russia, Post- WWII Europe, 60's NYC, and so on. The trick for the listener is to remember that this is world history seen through the lens of music history.
Yeah, you're gonna learn quite a bit about what went on musically. But even if you already knew a lot about that, you're gonna understand what it was like to be a musician, why composers wrote music the way they did at certain times and places, and how people reacted to that music.
I would caution the listener that it's a fairly musically sophisticated book. Ross hastens to assure us that he did not write it as a music history text, but as a guide for the educated concertgoer/ listener, and I think that's true. However, be prepared for some fairly advanced terminology. This is not for the newcomer to the world of "classical" music.
It's taken me almost 2 months to wade through this book. It's long and dense, and I went back over some sections again because I just really wanted to absorb all the information. It's totally worth the work though, for a fine understanding of musical history and just-well- history. Ross also has a website connected with the book which is chock full of exerpted recordings of the pieces he discusses.
Learn! Listen! Enjoy!
45 of 45 people found this review helpful
This book is an important contribution to writings and analyses of 20th century music. It deals largely with 'serious' musical art forms and does so, for the most part, in great depth. By providing the political and social backgrounds during the lives of some composer, Ross enriches the book with valuable contexts that help us to understand the music of each period. He continually makes interesting connections between each composer with both their peers and mentors, providing some astonishing insights that are not commonly known. Fascinating stuff! The period in Europe between 1900 and 1945 is most effectively delivered and illuminating, as is American art music in the 50's and 60's.
Ross is a wonderful writer who employs rich descriptive language and a nice balance between facts and occasional humorous antidotes. The narrator does a fine job of endeavoring to bring the text to life without letting too much unnecessary drama get in the way. It's a large book, and he moves it along at a good pace.
As already indicated by several other reviewers, this book is not for everyone. It would be particularly relevant to the serious music enthusiast, students and music educators, and arts historians. Recommended.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
When I began reading this book I have to admit I was a bit disappointed. I had the mistaken impression that this was a history of music of the 20th century across all musical genres. It is not that. This book focuses on the history of classical music of the 20th century. It covers jazz, but only how jazz affected and was affected by classical music.
I had half a mind to forego reading the rest of it. Boy am I glad I didn't. I'll be frank, I don't have a particular driving interest in the classical music of the 20th century and even after reading the book, while I am better informed, I have not suddenly become a fan of the genre. It was worth it to read this book just to hear Ross string words together. This guy can write. I kept reading just to find out what chain of words he was going to use next. He's that good.
This is the kind of guy you would quote without attribution at a dinner party to set yourself apart as the most erudite person in the room. I'd give anything to be able to write like this. Ross has a 10th degree black belt in the English language; that's the bottom line.
One note I'd like to add as a point of critique about the format. This audio book would be so much better served if excerpts from the pieces of music being described could be inserted at the proper points. I get that this probably isn't possible with the licencing of some of the music, but it would certainly bring the audio book full circle. It would be the entire package. For all that Ross is a master of using English to describe music, when he tells me that Charlie Parker "scribbled lightning in the air," I like the sound of the words. But what does that sound like in music? This book is great, set it to music and it would be a masterpiece.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
I really, really loved this book. However, I think that some other listeners might be put off by the need to really have a musical background to fully enjoy this book. If you don't know what a dominant 7th or a tritone is, for example, you might find long sections of this book tedious. But, if you've studied music or are a really serious aficionado, then this book is hard to put down.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
Being a music student, I am surrounded by information on my obsession of choice. However, I find that it is difficult to find good sources for more contemporary music development, style and history. This book provides more than an overview, as it carefully delves into nearly every imaginable aspect of western music in the last century.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
This audiobook is to classical music what Bill Bryson's A Brief History on Nearly Everything is to Cosmology. If you enjoyed that work, you will enjoy this. It is packed with insight not only into the masterworks of classical music, but the lives of the composers, their unique relationships with each other, and the history of the time. Its brilliant, and I could not get enough. The narrator is a perfect complement to the book.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
I am truly interested in classical music, and listen to a lot of it --- including what was covered in the first 4 CDs-worth of this book.
I may at some point buy the book and read it in my own fashion.
But the reader put me to sleep. Too monotonous and flat. I suspect, though, that the subject is better suited to a combination of speed-reading and flipping to and fro, and that requires a hard copy.
9 of 12 people found this review helpful
Any additional comments?
This is surely the decisive history of 20th century orchestral music. Ross showcases an encyclopedic knowledge of 20th century composition, which is nicely complemented by his thorough and insightful research into the cultural, social, and political history each of the composers sprouted from. He weaves his way around the world and through various schools of composition, highlighting the composers and their works whether romantics or modernists, post-modernists or jazz (and in that swing or bebop), impressionistic or twelve tone. The book has a corresponding website that lives on with continuing blogposts, links to works, suggested listening, and the like. This book is probably best for readers who already have at least some familiarity with the classical repertoire and is made much richer by finding recordings of the works discussed. An eye-opening and educational book, an introduction to the realities and politics (both at the governmental and international levels, as well as within the musical community) that gave rise to much of the music of the last century. Well worth the time of any lover of orchestral music.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
If you could sum up The Rest Is Noise in three words, what would they be?
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.<br/><br/>
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Would you listen to The Rest Is Noise again? Why?
I might not listen to it again, but I'm glad I listened to it once.
What other book might you compare The Rest Is Noise to and why?
Vanity Fair? Daniel Deronda? Something big.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
Not possible--too intense.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
What made the experience of listening to The Rest Is Noise the most enjoyable?
As a musician who has mostly performed 20th Century music - Contemporary Classical, for my career, this book gave some interesting insight, really rounding out the history that I had learned while studying back at school/uni, and while performing.
What did you like best about this story?
I really loved hearing the context of where composers were in their life, geographically, politically, philosophically, psychologically, when they wrote particular pieces. Especially the effect that Hitler and other Political leaders had on these artists trying to live their lives.
What about Grover Gardner’s performance did you like?
The narration was ok, not one I would have written home about. Engaging enough.
Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
Not really an emotional story! Though actually, knowing the context of Benjamin Britten's writing, and the challenges composers faced in trying to balance authorities opinions with their own artistic integrity, was really interesting. Also amusing to hear composers funny little opinions of each other.
Any additional comments?
Such a pity that they couldn't have spent some time/money getting the rights to some musical excerpts. I knew what the author was talking about a lot of the time, but only because I've performed and listened to a lot of classical music. Excerpts giving examples of what he was talking about would make this book much more accessible to music lovers who don't necessarily study or perform. And would have refreshed my memory a little. In this format, it seems crazy that they didn't consider these audio illustrations.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
This book is extremely well researched and delivered.
However, those looking for a broad study on 20th century music should note that this book focuses on classical music. Other forms are touched on (particularly jazz) but the vast majority is a study of classical music. I didn't get that from the reviews I read and was expecting more on blues, soul, reggae and hip-hop.
That's not to fault the book. It broadened by horizons and was a fascinating read but if you are looking for a wider study you may have to look elsewhere.
The greatest complement I can pay to this title is it made me want to go and listen to the classical music of the twentieth century. The story is clearly told and well structured, taking the listener from R Strauss' Salome to modern minialism and beyond. It certainly helped my appreciation of some very difficult pieces as well as helping to point out the seminal works. I could quibble that some composers such as Elgar and Rachmaninov bearly get a look in because, although they are popular, they don't fit the mainstream of modernism. Also if every there was an audiobook that cried out for musical samples, this was it. But I would recommend it to anyone wanting to gain an understanding of what has happen to composition in the last 100 years.
I come from no knowledge of music history. My reason for choosing this book was to seek a link between my interest in the music of Greenwich village of the 1950-60's and what came before. I thought a writer for the New Yorker would be entertaining and informative and Mr Ross did not let me down. I also chose the audiobook form because I knew I would struggle with the book. Well, it had me captivated for a month in my daily commute to work. It has outlined a far more rich and diverse origin of music than I had imagined. It gave me knowledge of key composers to the present day and it was a good read, albeit sometimes a tough slog. The author's command of language added to the listening experience but I'll need to get the hard copy now because it's impossible to bookmark when driving! I was particularly interested in his documentation of composers "plundering the past" which seems to be a common criticism of more recent songwriters but confirms what people like Pete Seeger have said - that it was the history of music - ideas passed on from one to another. But as well there were new ideas like the atonal, the 12 note music etc of which I knew nothing and now will explore. Well written, well read and well done - thank you