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

The Rest Is Noise by Alex  Ross
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really liked it
bookshelves: 21st-century, american, borrowed-library, history, nonfiction, music

A wonderful book for classical music fans and historians. A pretty good book for anyone who likes music or is interested in the 20th century. As someone who is unfamiliar with a great deal of classical music, I was still able to follow along because Ross is focused on the context of music rather than the pieces themselves. If this book came with a few CDs...then we'd be set!

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Reading Progress

March 11, 2013 – Shelved
April 30, 2015 – Started Reading
April 30, 2015 –
page 17
2.66% "To me, writing about music is stumbling through a forest on a crisp autumn day. It's attempting to experience something with a goal in mind, rather than encountering the thing itself. But Alex Ross is captivating, because he commits to the images he uses. Maybe it doesn't fully capture his feelings while hearing the pieces he describes - but it's something tangible I can hold on to."
May 5, 2015 –
page 85
13.28% "The artist versus what's popular. Why do so many of us rebel against what others adore? Is there truly anything to gain by striking out against everyday music? And I'm surprised by how violent music fans were back then when hearing classical music. Maybe people just like to fight each other. With mentions of World War I, this book is making me think that might be the case."
May 6, 2015 –
page 99
15.47% "It's difficult to read about music you've never heard. As Ross discusses "The Rite of Spring," I struggle to fully comprehend the descriptions. But Ross' skill is in contextualizing the music. These pieces did not spring from the ether fully formed. They were created by human beings who were listening and reacting to other human beings. And some of those human beings were involved in the devastating Great War."
May 7, 2015 –
page 123
19.22% "Music is made by people living in a real period of time. The racism and white supremacy of the '20s affected composers who adopted jazz styles into their creations and listeners who venerated the 'pure' German masters Beethoven and Wagner. But in chapter 4, Ross gives time to the neglected composer - which, it appears, is all Americans but especially black composers. Representation matters...find it in jazz clubs."
May 12, 2015 –
page 178
27.81% "Jean Seibelius is an artist that reflects how I see myself: with doubt, scorn, but also exaggerated praise. Simultaneously feeling like the greatest but also like one's work is wholly disappointing, it is a curse. Then to be dismissed because he is from a country small in size and influence? We do ourselves and those who listen to us a disservice when we write something off. Everything matters, if only a bit."
May 13, 2015 –
page 200
31.25% "I should read more about the Weimar Republic. Ross treats it fairly, saying, "Berlin was a city of possibilities, of myriad outcomes, glowing with promise as well as threat." Hitler's rise to power was not inevitable. Nothing is. How interesting, though, to view the vile elements lurking under the democratic surface through the composer's lens. (And a warning to countries with a powerless moderate voter bloc!)"
May 14, 2015 –
page 220
May 15, 2015 –
page 243
37.97% "I don't know nearly enough about Soviet-era Russian history."
May 18, 2015 –
page 271
42.34% "I've said many times that we have to be responsible for the things we put into the world. Our actions are the flesh and bones of society. That's easy for me to say, never having to choose between my principles and my life. Dictatorships are horrifying, and I should spend less time railing about my principles and more time helping us stay connected to one another."
May 26, 2015 –
page 412
64.38% "Been a while since I updated, and we've traveled so far in this book. Our rear view mirror shows Hitler's rise and fall, the composers who survived and those who didn't, and the struggle to exist in a world where definitive opinions guide us more than does tolerance of something we don't understand. At least Kennedy let the government care about the arts again."
May 27, 2015 –
page 435
67.97% "I recognize the names of Auden and Isherwood. I guess my junior year Literature class in high school was worth it after all."
June 9, 2015 –
page 639
99.84% "A wonderful book for classical music fans and historians. A pretty good book for anyone who likes music or is interested in the 20th century."
June 9, 2015 – Finished Reading
August 17, 2016 – Shelved as: 21st-century
August 17, 2016 – Shelved as: american
August 17, 2016 – Shelved as: borrowed-library
August 17, 2016 – Shelved as: history
August 17, 2016 – Shelved as: nonfiction
August 17, 2016 – Shelved as: music

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