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.
Winner Guardian First Book Award 2008
Shortlisted for National Book Critics Circle Awards: Criticism 2008.
'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.' Observer
'One of the best living writer's about rock .' Guardian 'Picks for 2008'
'A superb and inclusive account by a champion of modern music.' Sunday Times
'Alex Ross is music critic for The New Yorker, so you can be sure that The Rest is Noise is going to be stylish and meticulously written. It is this but more too: an accessible, illuminating narrative of classical music in the 20th century. For anyone interested in classical music, this is pretty much required reading.' Metro, Non Fiction of the Week, 5 stars
'This is a long book and a slow read: slow not because it is especially difficult, but because it is full of material you really need to savour. It is the superb selection of image and anecdote that makes this book work so well. Best of all are the moments when Ross really strikes you dumb with wonder, moments when the author's passion for the supreme significance of music raises his erudition to a new level. Warm, joyful and unfailingly adroit in his evocation of music in words -- Ross, with this book, establishes himself as the supreme champion of modern music. Read this and listen.' Sunday Times
'Stunning narrative. Visionary music critic Alex Ross comes closer than anyone to describing the spellbinding sensations music provokes.' Financial Times
'He writes with unfailing grace and clarity for a non-specialist audience and he alludes without pretension or glibness to a wide range of aesthetic, social and political contexts. He is enthusiastic without being pushy or naive and his tastes are both wide and discriminating. This book is, in sum, a remarkable achievement, quite outstripping comparable surveys by the likes of Paul Griffiths, H.H. Stuckenschmidt and Wilfred Mellers. A highly enjoyable book of impressive scholarship and critical intelligence that every music lover should read.' Spectator
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 critcism 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.