Thomas's Reviews > The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century

The Rest Is Noise by Alex  Ross
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's review
Oct 17, 2011

it was amazing
Read in October, 2011

This book was a tremendous pleasure to read from beginning to end. Ross knows twentieth-century music well, and he clearly put in an enormous amount of research in order to come up with this presentation of music within its cultural settings. Plus he's a terrific writer. The book opens with a stunning moment: an early performance of Strauss's shocking Salome in Graz. And who is there? Strauss himself, Mahler, Schoenberg, Puccini, Zemlinksy, Berg, Johann Strauss's widow, and quite possibly the young Hitler, to name the most famous. Ross builds his first chapter around this event, and in succeeding chapters he also tends also to find signal moments that sum up a period or a musical trend. One of the really great chapters is devoted to music in the USSR under Stalin, in which Shostakovich takes the central role. I was also fascinated by the explanations Ross had for the origins of minimalism -- he traces its roots far back to a West Coast tradition beginning with Charles Seeger and Henry Cowell in the early part of the century. If you love music, you shouldn't miss this book. Don't you want to know about the insulting things Pierre Boulez said about Stravinsky?

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