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By Joel Kasow

PARIS, 18 DECEMBER 2007The Rest Is Noise is an exciting book, for the ground it covers and the enthusiasm that informs the work. Alex Ross, the classical music critic for The New Yorker, begins with Strauss, Mahler and Stravinsky and ends with Schnittke, Adès and Adams, discussing much in between while avoiding an encyclopedic approach that would have required many more pages and been far less interesting. Here we can read without much in the way of technical jargon about the way in which some of the composers achieved their effects, while at the same time obliging us to reconsider some of our own reactions, e.g. my own feelings about Sibelius or my aversion to Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony.

The writing is clear, even elegant, notwithstanding the occasional insertion of slang or a yiddishism, and the discussion is wide-ranging, extending to the Beatles and the Blues, as well as jazz. Ross has seemingly avoided those composers he finds unsympathetic, though he does find it possible to praise Carl Orff, not for Carmina Burana but his educational music. While the reader may not always agree with the author’s conclusions, the argumentation is stimulating, constantly forcing one to re-evaluate one’s judgments.

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

Hardcover: 640 pages
Farrar, Straus and Giroux (October 2007)
ISBN-10: 0374249393
ISBN-13: 9780374249397

Joel Kasow is a senior editor at Culturekiosque.com

External Links

Author Blog and Articles by Alex Ross

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