The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century (Google eBook)

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Macmillan, Oct 16, 2007 - History - 640 pages
162 Reviews

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.


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Kingsolver absolutely is an amazing writer. - LibraryThing
And even the ending seemed kind of unresolved. - LibraryThing
Grateful for the many insights & Spanish sentences. - LibraryThing
I do not like the writing style of this book. - LibraryThing
Thoughtful, well-researched. - LibraryThing
Absorbing plot - a good mix of fact and fiction. - LibraryThing

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - anitatally - LibraryThing

This is among the best books I have ever read. It has everything I love in a book - excellent writing, a connection to history, a well-crafted plot, and bigger-than-life themes. I loved every page. Read full review

Review: The Rest Is Noise

User Review  - kaelan - Goodreads

This isn't something I say lightly, but pretty much everyone should consider reading Alex Ross' The Rest Is Noise.* Why? Because (a) it makes for a riveting work of political and cultural history, and ... Read full review


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About the author (2007)

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.

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