The Cold War breaks out and music explodes into a pandemonium of revolutions, counterrevolutions, theories, polemics, alliances,and party splits. The language of modern music is reinvented. This short ebook looks at some of the extraordinary compositions of this period.
Now a major festival running throughout 2013 at London’s Southbank, The Rest is Noise is an intricate commentary not just on the sounds that defined the century, but on art’s troublesome dance with politics, social and cultural change.
Alex Ross is the New Yorker’s music critic, and the winner of the Guardian First Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award for The Rest is Noise, which was also shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson and Pulitzer prizes for non-fiction.
Alex Ross has been the music critic of the ‘New Yorker’ since 1996. From 1992 to 1996 he wrote for the ‘New York Times’. His first book, ‘The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century’, published in 2007, was awarded the Guardian First Book Award and was shortlisted for the Pulitzer and Samuel Johnson prizes. In 2008 he became a MacArthur Fellow. A native of Washington, DC, he now lives in Manhattan.
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.