We're unlikely to get any time soon a better account of music in the twentieth century than Ross' The Rest Is Noise. Here's a readable history of the convulsive innovations that began with the death throes of traditional tonality in the symphonic ouevres of Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler and continue to this day in such diverse works as John Adams' opera Nixon In China and the rock "art songs" of Sonic Youth and Radiohead. Ross traces with wit and precision the developments which have radically redefined the very notions of "music" and "noise", and the resulting works with which composers have both won and lost their audiences. A thorough, erudite, graceful and far-reaching book, and a particular treat for those familiar with Ross' articles in The New Yorker, where some of these essays first appeared.
I love this book—it’s an imminently readable history of twentieth century avant-garde music. Wonderfully written, with great sketches of moments, biographies, and performances. Ross explains the thorny music and introduces the reader to a plethora of wild compositions--from Mahler, Strauss, and Schoenberg to Reich, Adams and Radiohead. But it’s really a history of the 20th century through music. — Dafydd Wood
Winner of the 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism
A New York Times Book Review Top Ten Book of the Year
Time magazine Top Ten Nonfiction Book of 2007
Newsweek Favorite Books of 2007
A Washington Post Book World Best Book of 2007
In this sweeping and dramatic narrative, Alex Ross, music critic for The New Yorker, weaves together the histories of the twentieth century and its music, 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 up to the present. Taking readers into the labyrinth of modern style, Ross draws revelatory connections between the century's most influential composers and the wider culture. The Rest Is Noise is an astonishing history of the twentieth century as told through its music.
The Rest Is Noise is 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. Geoff Dyer, The New York Times Book Review
[A] Brilliant, hugely enjoyable cultural history. The Christian Science Monitor
Ross is a surpremely gifted writer who brings together the political and technological richness of the world inside the magic circle of the concert hall, so that each illuminates the other. Lev Grossman, Time
It would be hard to imagine a better guide to the maelstrom of recent music than Mr. Ross, who worked on this book for a decade. He has an almost uncanny gift for putting music into words. The Economist
The Rest Is Noise is a long and thrilling ride. . . . [Ross] writes about music in vivid language humming with intelligence. He tells great stories about musicians' lives and illuminates their work with the light of his own experiences. Kevin Berger, Salon.com
The best book on what music is about--really about--that you or I will ever own. Alan Rich, LA Weekly