Full of Books

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

Title: The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century

Author: Alex Ross

First published January 1, 2007

640 pages, Hardcover

ISBN: 9780374249397 (ISBN10: 0374249393)

Rating: 4.09


The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century takes readers on a captivating journey through the perplexing world of modern music. Although paintings and literature of the twentieth century have gained immense popularity, classical music of the same era remains largely unknown.

However, the influence of this music can be felt everywhere, from jazz to Hollywood soundtracks to rock and pop music. This book delves into the motivations of composers who created sounds ranging from pure beauty to pure noise, and introduces a host of unconventional personalities who challenged the norms of classical music.

The narrative spans from pre-World War I Vienna to 1970s New York, and covers major events such as the rise of mass culture, hot and cold wars, and technological advancements. With a focus on the music, The Rest Is Noise provides a unique perspective on the history of the twentieth century.

About the Author

Meet Alex Ross, a renowned music critic who has been contributing to The New Yorker since 1996 after writing for The New York Times from 1992 to 1996. Alex’s book, The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, published in 2007 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, became a national bestseller.

It received a National Book Critics Circle Award, the Guardian First Book Award, and the Royal Philharmonic Society Creative Communication Award. The book was also a finalist for the Pulitzer and the Samuel Johnson prizes, and it was among the ten best books of the year.

Alex’s achievements include receiving a Letter of Distinction from the American Music Center, fellowships from the American Academy in Berlin and the Banff Centre, three ASCAP-Deems Taylor Awards, and an honorary doctorate from the Manhattan School of Music. He has also served as a McGraw Professor in Writing at Princeton University and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2008.

In fall 2010, Alex’s next book, an essay collection, will be available. He’s originally from Washington, DC, and now resides in Manhattan with his spouse, actor and filmmaker Jonathan Lisecki.

Editoral Review

Alex Rosss The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century is an inspiring account of the diverse and groundbreaking musical movements that shaped the past century. Ross, a music critic for The New Yorker, takes readers on an exhilarating journey through the evolution of music, contextualizing each development within its sociopolitical and cultural milieu.

Beginning with the cultural upheavals of the early 1900s, Ross reveals the fascinating history of classical music and its intersections with modernism, jazz, pop, and avant-garde movements. Along the way, he introduces readers to a plethora of fascinating figures, from Stravinsky and Schoenberg to John Cage and Bjork.

His writing is richly descriptive and insightful, drawing upon his vast knowledge of music theory and composition to help readers understand how each piece was crafted. While The Rest Is Noise provides an illuminating survey of the past centurys musical landscape, it is anything but a dry textbook.

Ross infuses his writing with passion and human emotion, allowing readers to understand how music has shaped and been shaped by individuals and their cultural contexts. Through detailed accounts of iconic works and the people behind them, he invites readers to see music as an integral part of human history, culture, and identity.

Of course, with such a broad and ambitious subject, The Rest Is Noise has its limitations. Some readers may find certain sections of the book too dense or difficult to follow, particularly if they lack a background in music theory or history.

Additionally, while Ross often provides richly detailed accounts of music from a range of cultures, there are instances where he could have provided deeper insight into a particular piece or composer. But these limitations are ultimately minor compared to the books strengths.

Ross writes with great empathy and compassion, highlighting the struggles and triumphs of musicians from all backgrounds, genders, and identities. His prose is lyrical and evocative, skillfully conveying the feelings and moods that each piece of music conveys.

Overall, The Rest Is Noise is an essential read for any music lover or student of the arts. Rosss sweeping history of music offers fascinating insights into our cultural heritage, while also forcing us to reckon with the complexities and contradictions of our own time.

Whether youre a classical music aficionado, a jazz enthusiast, or simply someone intrigued by the intersections between art and culture, this book is sure to captivate and inspire.

Popular Books