The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century
Shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award 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 than 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.
Shortlisted for Guardian First Book Award 2008.
'Just occasionally someone writes a book you've waited your life to read. Alex Ross's enthralling history of 20th-century music is, for me, one of those books.' Alan Rusbridger, Guardian 'Alex Ross's incredibly nourishing book will rekindle anyone's fire for music.' Bjork 'Stunning narrative. Visionary music critic Alex Ross comes closer than anyone to describing the spellbinding sensations music provokes.' Financial Times 'A work of immense scope and ambition ! a great achievement. Rilke once wrote of how he learned to stand 'more seeingly' in front of certain paintings. Ross enables us to listen more hearingly.' New York Times 'The book achieves a remarkable interdisciplinary synthesis, in which music illuminates history as well as vice versa ! Ross has delivered a sound-drenched masterpiece.' Steven Poole, Guardian 'Ross will whisk you on to the fast-moving train that was 20th-century music; he will fascinate, challenge and delight you.' Stephen Pritchard, Observer Music Monthly 'Print is silent. Which is why the task of writing about music is so difficult. I should therefore probably explain that the noise you now ought to be hearing is the sound of my hands as they stop typing and start applauding this vital, engaging, happily polyphonic book.' Peter Conrad, Observer 'A bracingly vivid exploration of the musical 20th century ... a crackingly paced narrative that will appeal as much to the musical neophyte as the classical buff ! wonderfully evocative.' The Times 'It would be hard to imagine a better guide to the maelstrom of recent music than Mr Ross ! He has an almost uncanny gift for putting music into words. No other critic writing in English can so effectively explain why you like a piece, or beguile you to reconsider it, or prompt you to hurry online and buy a recording.' The Economist 'Alex Ross has produced an introduction to twentieth-century music that is also an absorbing story of personalities and events that is also a history of modern cultural forms and styles that is also a study of social, political, and technological change. "The Rest Is Noise" is cultural history the way cultural history should be written: a single strong narrative operating on many levels at once. What more do you want from a book? That it be intelligently, artfully, and lucidly written? It's those things, too.' Louis Menand, author of 'The Metaphysical Club' 'This is the best general study of a complex history too often claimed by academic specialists on the one hand and candid populists on the other ! an impressive, invigorating achievement.' Washington Post
Alex Ross is music critic of the New Yorker magazine. He was born in Washington, DC and studied English literature and music at Harvard College. He first wrote music criticism for the New Rebuplic and for Fanfare. He has also written articles on film and television for the Times Sunday Arts and Leisure section. He has also contributed to Lingua Franca, Transition, BBC Music Magazine, Slate, Feed, Spin, and the forthcoming new edition of the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.