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The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century

Alex Ross

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Perennial Library
25 March 2009
Music; Music: styles & genres; 20th century & contemporary classical music
Winner of the Guardian First Book Award 2008 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.
By:   Alex Ross
Imprint:   Perennial Library
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 234mm,  Width: 153mm,  Spine: 53mm
Weight:   850g
ISBN:   9781841154763
ISBN 10:   1841154768
Pages:   640
Publication Date:   25 March 2009
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

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.

Reviews for The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century

'Alex Ross's incredibly nourishing book will rekindle anyone's fire for music.' Bjork 'A brilliant, bracing account of all the different kinds of classical music that have permeated this last dark century. Such an entertaining, accessible and enthralling book.' Colin Greenwood, Guardian 'It's a history of 20th-century music so vivid and original in approach that it made me listen again to many pieces I thought I knew well.' Philip Pullman, Guardian 'Ranks as my non-fiction book of the year. Erudite and engaging, written with flair and passion.' Boyd Tonkin, Independent 'Combines scrupulous and inventive analyses of the 20th century's music with lavish care over that music's improvised history.' Adam Thirlwell, Guardian 'Magisterial.' Telegraph 'He places the music in social and cultural context while sticking to the score and eschewing the artworld political consensus. A miracle.' George Walden, TLS ' The Rest is Noise achieves the aim with bravura, hacking out a path leading from cacophonous European modernism to the white noise of The Velvet Underground.' Ludovic Hunter-Tilroy, Financial Times 'Alex Ross breaks new ground. This is an astonishing book.' The Times '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 '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 'A sound-drenched masterpiece.' Steven Poole, Guardian


  • Short-listed for Guardian First Book Award 2008
  • Shortlisted for Guardian First Book Award 2008.

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