Listen to This
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Listen to This

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  926 ratings  ·  77 reviews
One of The Telegraph’s Best Music Books 2011

Alex Ross’s award-winning international bestseller, The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, has become a contemporary classic, establishingRoss as one of our most popular and acclaimed cultural historians. Listen to This, which takes its title from a beloved 2004 essay in which Ross describes his late-blooming disc...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published September 28th 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Music critic (The New Yorker) Alex Ross is a perceptive and articulate writer, his style perfectly attuned to what one would expect in that magazine. This present volume is a collection of his essays and addresses a wide variety of topics. Ross is usually adroit at weaving observations about musicians and their works into the cultures and artistic movements, and at his best his writing is compelling. I especially enjoyed his essays on “Chacona, Lamento, Walking Blues” in which he traces a musica...more
Aaron Arnold
I'm a big fan of music, which is hardly unusual, but I'm also a big fan of music criticism, which is a little less common. I've always been fascinated by how difficult it is to translate the mental impressions created by listening to music into words. It takes real talent to avoid either ascending to the impenetrable heights of formal theory analysis (tritones, parallel fifths, the Locrian mode, etc), diverting the aesthetic reactions into an emotional referendum on the songwriter or target audi...more
This book is a collection of essays about music that Ross had previously had published in the last 10-15 years (mostly by The New Yorker). He's done some re-writing but hasn't bothered to assemble them into much of a meaningful order, hence the two-star rating. Don't get me wrong. Despite a bit of word salad (see, e.g., the last paragraph of the inconclusive chapter on Brahms), Ross's authorial voice is engaging. Readers seeking an entree to the worlds of Mozart, Schubert, Robert Luther Adams, B...more
Justin Evans
A hit and miss collection, which isn't too surprising, given the range and my own peculiarities as a reader. The first, manifesto-like piece is very entertaining: say no to Classical Music, yes to demanding music, which is what a bunch of boring people call Classical Music! Then a piece on a short sequence which is used across all genres and throughout the musical hierarchy, deftly showing that our separations of popular from classical are more or less nonsense... which is also tremendously bori...more
Mariano Hortal
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En su anterior y exitoso (en cuanto a crítica y público) ”El ruido eterno”, Alex Ross realizaba un repaso de todo la música clásica del siglo XX encadenándola a al contexto cultural e histórico consiguiendo un libro de fácil lectura y que además quitaba prejuicios y ayudaba a comprender a gente tan extraña como John Cage o Alban Berg, además lo acompañaba de un imprescindible acompañamiento musical disfrutable a través de su web que hacía aún m...more
Bookmarks Magazine
Full of surprises and sharp observations, this "absorbing, illuminating, exciting collection" (San Francisco Chronicle) gives equal billing to pop stars and classical composers, crossing musical margins with remarkable fluidity. Though they bear the New YorkerÕs signature style, most critics upheld Ross's writing as eloquent and thoughtful, in language accessible to both laypersons and connoisseurs (although aficionados may have an easier time with the details). The Washington Post complained th...more
Jerry Oliver
Aug 24, 2011 Jerry Oliver rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who loves music.
Recommended to Jerry by: A good friend
This is a great book. It gave me a much greater understanding and appreciation for classical music through explorations of the life and works of Mozart, Schubert, Verdi and Brahms as well as modern day composers and performers like John Luther Adams and The St. Lawrence String Quartet. The book also explores the lives, music and methods of some of todays most inventive musicians like Radiohead, Bjork and Bob Dylan. Ross also introduces the reader to music students and a Newark high school and in...more
Some of the best writing about music that I've ever read. My review can simply be this...It made me want to listen to more classical music and learn more about music in general. He hits that "golden mean" of being accessible to me (quite ignorant in composition or theory) and yet getting into some of the higher level discussion that would appeal to any musicologist. Very impressed and look forward to reading more of his work.
What a disappointment. I had high expectations for this book and found it annoying in every way. Some of the writing about classical music was interesting but mostly it went on too long with nothing really to say. The discussions of "popular" music was just ridiculous. Don't waste your time. Is it possible to give a book zero stars?
Brian Lawlor

Excellent book, truly inspiring however without listening to the pieces being discussed, it can be hard work at times. Will be buying some of this music when I can.
"Listen to This" opened up new worlds of music for me, and had me listening afresh to music I studied years ago. Wonderful essays.
Exiles, wanderers, restless searchers. That’s who many musically possessed men and women are according to Alex Ross. I can’t guarantee on that, but I can say that sharing those traits helped me get closer to music.

Listen To This is a collection of essays that spans across several different topics concerning music: from Mozart to Radiohead, from the Marlboro Retreat to the evolution of classical music in China. Education, profiles, means of communication. Ross didn’t leave anything out. One of th...more
Kristin Shafel Omiccioli
As a musician and music critic myself, I have admired Alex Ross and his work since I first read The Rest is Noise in 2008.

Listen to This is a collection of essays originally published in The New Yorker, for which Ross is the music critic. The essays range broadly across centuries, from the classical to pop genres, from investigative reporting to academic criticism, and with some artist profiles thrown in for good measure.

Ross's enthusiasm for his subject matter is undeniably apparent and makes e...more
Enrique Llorens
Después de leer "El Ruido Eterno", el anterior libro de Alex Ross, uno ya sabe más o menos qué es lo que se va a encontrar en esta colección de ensayos sueltos, dado que las obsesiones de Alex Ross quedaron muy claras en aquél y se repiten en éste: una especie de musicología de género obsesionada con los homosexuales y todo lo que tenga que ver con ellos (compositores abierta o no tan abiertamente homosexuales) o la querencia por los músicos negros y su (mala) suerte en el elitista panorama de l...more
A collection of essays, with chapters alternating between classical and pop music. Other than this order, the essays don't appear to be arranged in any order, so the book lacks cohesion and any sort of common narrative thread. Well, the concept of basso lamento was somewhat recurrent, but he always just mentioned it as an aside.

Ross is the music critic for the New Yorker and primarily writes about classical music. I am what he calls a "culturally aware non-attender", in that I know about and lis...more
Aaron Jacobs
After reading The Rest Is Noise, Ross' surprisingly entertaining book about 20th century classical music, I was eager to look into this collection of his essays that includes some topics I was more personally familiar with, particularly the articles on Radiohead, Bjork, and Bob Dylan. The Bjork article is fantastic, exhibiting a depth to her character and her artistic style that go a long way to convince the reader that she is indeed from this planet. The other two are both engaging as well, but...more
This book was very high and low for me, although part of that had to do with the fact that I've never studied music academically nor do I have any knowledge of music history prior to the 1960s. Listen To This is a collection of Alex Ross's pieces for The New Yorker, all of which are well written but many were out of my reach. I enjoyed the essays about Bjork, Bob Dylan, music education and a few others because I was able to relate to them, but the very technical analyses of classic compositions...more
n his latest collection of essays, Ross argues that classical music and its contemporary heirs get unfairly ignored or maligned by people who embrace other forms of music and art. Listen to This argues for the vitality and relevance of classical music and situates contemporary music within the context of its legacy. Through criticism, reportage, and autobiography, Ross revisits old masters such as Mozart and Brahms, introduces new musicians outside the mainstream, and profiles pop icons such as...more
Today I finished reading Listen to This, or as much of it as I am going to. I have been reading the essays out of order. I knew it was time to quit when three page into an essay on Mozart I suddenly realized I'd already read it. These are stylish, diverting pieces--Ross is knowledgeable and an elegant writer--but they lack heft. Some of these essays began as reviews for The New Yorker and The Nation, and they retain a magazine feel, lightly skimming the glossy surface of profound subjects. One o...more
Really well written, and comprehensive but it demands some very high level knowledge about music and music theory to understand. I'm trying to learn the basics of music theory and hoped to get a good overview of how classical bridges into pop, and I *think* this book does it, but I'm not sure. Might try again in a few years.
Spiritedly recommended. Alex Ross writes of music cultural history so richly and well (barring some minor errors -- I guess the New Yorker can't afford fact-checkers either), and is so adept at exciting interest in the novice listener that I recorded most of the suggested tracks in the appendix in a wishlist, and visited his site for audio-enhanced definitions of musicology terms. Brahms, Verdi, Ockerghem, Messiaen, Dylan, Radiohead, Kiki and Herb's musical and entertainment contributions are ex...more
As a musician and private music teacher, I found it easy to get into Ross's exploration of such a vast array of genres, artists, and the settings in which they ply their trade. Even for those not so musically inclined, the mildly technical discussion of compositional techniques are never daunting and, for the most part, it's simply a fascinating look behind the curtain of writing, performing, teaching, conducting, and recording music. Perhaps what's best about Ross's approach is that he treats m...more
Adam Jacobson
As a series of essays originally written for the New Yorker, it's not as compelling as his comprehensive history of 20th century music (The rest is noise - which I've also reviewed). His writing covers a very wide range of topics and sometimes (as with Bork), I'm just not that interested.

That said, he's a wonderful writer and critic. And indeed, his essays have spurred me to further interest--as in we recently saw the Philharmonic because Esa Pekka Salonen was conducting. It was wonderful.

So, a...more
this book should be required reading for music majors.
We need more people like Alex Ross. Not just because classical critics need a shot in the arm, but because Ross can see beyond the sometimes stuffy intelligentsia. Either if he's talking about Verdi or Bjork, he has the same passion that comes out in his writing. He's also incredibly readable - I found myself having to stop myself unless I read another essay at 4am. I can't rate this high enough.

There's even a audio guide so you can hear the pieces he's talking about in the book. Essential.

Patrick Fay
A fascinating journey through musical history - Bach to Radiohead and lots of stops along the way. I have already bought many of the CDs mentioned and expect to spend a lot of time in the suggested listening section for many months to come.
Night RPM
A collection of Ross's essays published via The New Yorker + new parts. Again, the strengths are obvious: Ross is a "classical music" critic in name only, as his notion of music is syncretic and joyously diversified. The chapter on Schubert is just as great as the one on Bjork or Radiohead or Dylan. Obviously, Listen To This lacked the cohesion and urgency of The Rest Is Noise, but reading Ross write about music is one of the rare, true joys in reading anything published by zines & papers.
Aug 15, 2012 David added it
Great essays on music by the music guy for the New Yorker. He talks most about classical but there are some essays on bands like RadioHead, Bjork and Zeppelin. Very intelligent and insightful. I like to read at least one non fiction book as part of my summer reading. This did it for me. If you are a musically literate intelligent listener of one of humankind's greatest art forms, this book is for you. Does offer some interesting music history even if you don't understand all the music theory.
Calvin Kenley
This book is a great Collection of new Yorker essays, mostly about classical music. I liked it, but the only way to read it is with the iPad/iPhone guide that allows you to play the parts of the songs he writes about. Reading about pieces I was unfamiliar with would have been to boring. You have to really follow along to understand how great he is at describing different structures and moo changes. The chapters on lament, music education, Mozart, and brahms were my favorites.
I can't get enough of this dude!!! Tickled to read about the author's experience seeing BLATZ at 924 Gilman. Like "The Rest is Noise": fluent, dexterous, informative, but "Listen to This" is also personal, affecting, and funny, and reading Ross as he writes outside of his comfort zone is as interesting as any of his classical writing. He is able to distill narratives and themes across all genres in a really incredible way that makes me want to listen more/play more/read more.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

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, was published in 2007 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux and became a national bestseller....more
More about Alex Ross...
The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century Best Music Writing 2011 The Rest Is Noise Series: Doctor Faust: Schoenberg, Debussy, and Atonality Viss cits ir troksnis. Divdesmitā gadsimta mūzikas vēsture The Rest Is Noise Series: Beethoven Was Wrong: Bop, Rock, and the Minimalists

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“For at least a century, the music has been captive to a cult of mediocre elitism that tries to manufacture self-esteem by clutching at empty formulas of intellectual superiority.” 3 likes
“O melhor tipo de interpretação clássica não é um recuo para o passado, mas uma intensificação do presente” 0 likes
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