The Rest Is Noise by Alex Ross
Listening to the Twentieth Century

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...a grateful reader is inclined to grant a thinker of such lively learning and imagination his parting burst of optimism: Nowadays, it's in short supply.
-LA Times

Synopsis

The scandal over modern music has not died down. While paintings by Pablo Picasso and Jackson Pollock sell for a hundred million dollars or more, shocking musical works from Stravinsky's Rite of Spring onward still send ripples of unease through audiences. At the same time, the influence of modern music can be felt everywhere. Avant-garde sounds populate the soundtracks of Hollywood thrillers. Minimalist music has had a huge effect on rock, pop, and dance music from the Velvet Underground onward. Alex Ross, the brilliant music critic for The New Yorker, shines a bright light on this secret world, and shows how it has pervaded every corner of twentieth century life.

The Rest Is Noise takes the reader inside the labyrinth of modern sound. It tells of maverick personalities who have resisted the cult of the classical past, struggled against the indifference of a wide public, and defied the will of dictators. Whether they have charmed audiences with the purest beauty or battered them with the purest noise, composers have always been exuberantly of the present, defying the stereotype of classical music as a dying art.

Ross, in this sweeping and dramatic narrative, takes us from Vienna before the First World War to Paris in the twenties, from Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Russia to downtown New York in the sixties and seventies. We follow the rise of mass culture and mass politics, of dramatic new technologies, of hot and cold wars, of experiments, revolutions, riots, and friendships forged and broken. In the tradition of Simon Schama's The Embarrassment of Riches and Louis Menand's The Metaphysical Club, the end result is not so much a history of twentieth-century music as a history of the twentieth century through its music.

 

About Alex Ross

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Alex 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, a Holtzbrinck Fellowship at the American Academy in Berlin, a Fleck Fellowship from the Banff Centre, and a Letter of Distinction from the American Music Center for significant contributions to the field of contemporary music. The Rest is Noise is his first book.
 
Published October 16, 2007 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 716 pages
Genres: History, Arts & Photography, Humor & Entertainment, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for The Rest Is Noise
All: 2 | Positive: 2 | Negative: 0

LA Times

Above average
Reviewed by Jamie James on Nov 11 2007

...a grateful reader is inclined to grant a thinker of such lively learning and imagination his parting burst of optimism: Nowadays, it's in short supply.

Read Full Review of The Rest Is Noise: Listening ... | See more reviews from LA Times

Guardian

Good
Reviewed by John Keenan on May 20 2016

True to the spirit of his inclusive approach, Ross’s mission to explain continues at his admirable website. It should be your next stop after navigating the thrilling journey mapped out in his award-winning book – with your streaming service of choice close to hand, of course.

Read Full Review of The Rest Is Noise: Listening ... | See more reviews from Guardian

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