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Listen to This [Hardcover]

Alex Ross
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

25 Nov 2010

In Listen to This, Alex Ross, the music critic for The New Yorker, looks both backward and forward in time, capturing essential figures and ideas in classical-music history as well as giving an alternative view of recent pop music that emphasizes the power of the individual musical voice in whatever genre.

Alex Ross’s award-winning international bestseller, The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, has become a contemporary classic, establishing him as one of our most popular and acclaimed cultural historians.

In Listen To This Ross, the music critic for the New Yorker, looks both backwards and forwards in time, capturing essential figures and ideas in classical music history, as well as giving an alternative view of recent pop music that emphasizes the power of the individual musical voice.

After relating his first encounter with classical music, Ross vibrantly sketches canonical composers such as Schubert, Verdi and Brahms; gives us in-depth interviews wth modern pop masters such as Bjork and Radiohead; and introduces us to music students at a Newark high school and to indie-rock hipsters in Beijing. In his essay ‘Chacona, Lamento, Walking Blues’, Ross brilliantly retells hundreds of years of music history - from Renaissance dance to Led Zeppelin - through a few iconic bass lines of celebration and lament.

Whether his subject is Mozart or Bob Dylan, Ross writes in a style at once erudite and lively, showing how music expresses the full complexity of the human condition. He explains how pop music can achieve the status of high art and how classical music can become a vital part of the wider contemporary culture. Witty, passionate and brimming with insight, Listen to This teaches us to listen more closely.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate; First Edition edition (25 Nov 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007319061
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007319060
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 3.7 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 341,737 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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.

Product Description


‘Chacona, Lamento, Walking Blues..This essay is Alex Ross’s own chaconne, one that only he could have written – a display of lateral thinking as virtuosic, in its own way..It alone is worth the price of the book, which I strongly encourage you to buy’ Damian Thompson, Sunday Telegraph

‘These hugely enjoyable and serendipitous essays were written over more than a decade, resulting in a rewarding historical perspective. Ross's rapid-fire discourses on music from very different parts of the musical spectrum create fascinating perspectives. One minute, you're immersed in Mozart, and then suddenly you're on tour with Radiohead and contemplating what it must have felt like for an unworldly Finnish conductor, Esa-Pekka Salonen, to take the reins of the LA Philharmonic. Reading the book is the literary equivalent of an iPod on shuffle; it offers fresh and unexpected stimulation at every turn.’ Charles Hazlewood, Guardian

‘The qualities that make him a top-notch critic become clearer in concentrated reading…Ross is an avowed buff. He loves music with a nerdish obsession and he wants you to love it as much as he does’ New Statesman, Norman Lebrecht

Praise for ‘The Rest is Noise’:

‘It’s a history of 20th-century music so vivid and original in approach that it made me listen again to many pieces I thought I knew well.’ Philip Pullman, Guardian (Books of the Year)

‘Ranks as my non-fiction book of the year. Erudite and engaging, written with flair and passion.’ Boyd Tonkin Independent (Books of the Year)

From the Back Cover

The main body of musical portraits and essays follows, with pop and classical topics intermingled. I will experiment with different options, and am open to suggestions, but I have in mind the following sequence: Mozart, Radiohead, and Esa-Pekka Salonen (music as a synthesis of disparate parts); Verdi, the St. Lawrence Quartet, and various innovators in music education (music as an act of communication and communal feeling); Debussy, Mitsuko Uchida, and Björk (the music of those who have traveled wide distances, either in physical space or in their imaginations); and, finally, Schubert, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, and Bob Dylan (music as a radical expression of the individual consciousness).

Table of Contents:

1. LISTEN TO THIS: A Memoir of Listening
2. CHACONA: The History of a Bass Line
3. THE RECORD EFFECT: Music and Technology
5. ORBITING: Radiohead
6. THE ANTI-MAESTRO: Esa-Pekka Salonen and the LA Philharmonic
7. VA, PENSIERO: Giuseppe Verdi
8. ALMOST FAMOUS: The St. Lawrence Quartet
9. LEARNING THE SCORE: Music Education
10. TITLE TK: Debussy
11. TITLE TK: Mistuko Uchida
13. GREAT SOUL: Franz Schubert
14. FERVOR: Remembering Lorraine Hunt Lieberson
15. I SAW THE LIGHT: Bob Dylan

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read This! 3 Dec 2010
Alex Ross has one of those great jobs that seem to only exist in movies and/or in New York: he writes about music for the New Yorker. Then he goes all over the place talking about and reading what he's written. If he didn't write so well, so passionately and so engagingly it would be easy to hate him. And, by all accounts, he's a nice man too. Feck sake.
After the deserved success of "The Rest Is Noise" Ross has followed up with "Listen To This", which is essentially a collection of essays and pieces that he's written (mostly from the New Yorker). It's a really well collated collection and it displays his catholic tastes, from Bjork and Dylan to Brahms and John Luther Adams, and it also allows him to rove and range with an idea across the musical landscape: his long and engrossing piece on bass lines makes the book worth purchasing alone. But don't think this is a fusty exercise in musical elitism; Ross is extremely knowledgeable about music and he writes beautifully about structure, melody and composition, but his real gift is how he draws readers in and takes them on his journey too. His enthusiasm for his subjects is open and unguarded (but not uncritical) and he sweeps you along.
I'd been reading his pieces only every so often when I first read his great tale of his road trip with Dylan back in 1998. I was taken aback with how well he wrote about Dylan's music and his performances; I've been a Ross fan since then. Writing about music and musicians is fraught, at best. When it goes wrong, or more commonly when it goes flat and stale, it can be dreadful; when it works it really works. Good writing about music is unusual and the best of writers soar with the songs and melodies. And, most importantly, they send you back to the music.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pitch perfect 9 Feb 2012
Alex Ross has spent most of his life dedicated to writing about classical music and does so with such a keen ear and consummate skill with words it doesn't really matter whether you are a classical music buff or not. It is a joy to read such a passionate and knowledgable writer sharing his thoughts on the subject with such enthusiasm and erudition, each sentence resonates with a vibrancy that makes you wish you had a greater experience of the classical music tradition.

Ross explores the relevance of classical music in a post modern world, the challenges it faces to engage a new generation and the stuffy elitist image that hampers that progress. As with its economic progress, China looks set to dominate that particular music scene in the future now that it has enthusiastically embraced the tradition, with millions of young people in the country already taking up instruments it can only be a matter of time before China becomes a major player on the scene.

The writer's love of music is not limited to classical, as he writes about going on the road with Radiohead and spends time with Bjork as she creates an esoteric musical masterpiece. It doesn't matter what musical genre Ross is writing about, he always perfectly captures every tone and texture with a precision that is a masterclass in musical reportage.

All the chapters are individual so that they can be read in any order like music articles, personally my favourite is the superb piece about Marian Anderson entitled Voice of the Century, this piece encapsulates all the qualiites that make Ross such a brilliant writer. If you love music and enjoy excellent writing on the subject, then I cannot recommend this book enough.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking 10 Feb 2013
I don't know why its taken me so long to find this as I loved The Rest Is Noise - the brilliance of Ross's writing about music is that whilst these are relatively academic pieces, they are understandable to the casual consumer of music who just wants to expand their knowledge. I particularly liked the essay on the effect that recorded media has had on music since the inception of recording in the late 19th century.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Music in all its forms 10 Nov 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is a good follow-up for 'All the rest is noise'. Many of the concepts explained in the latter are developed in a series of articles compiled in the form of a book. Ross combines references to 20th century composers and classical performers with interesting analysis of 'popular' songwriters and singers. Very interesting and illustrative.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars provocative and humane 27 Sep 2013
I spent an unseasonably cold weekend camping in a cabin next to the Tamar Lakes, on the border between Devon and Cornwall. Any distress at the cold was made up for amply by two things - the beautiful scenery and (particularly) this book, which I had brought with me. I have always been a big fan of The Rest Is Noise. As a collection of essays, rather than as a grand narrative, this book has quite a different feel but it still moves and convinces.

One of Ross's assets is his fine disregard of genre boundaries. Another is his mysterious ability to empathise with creative musicians. This came through clearly in The Rest Is Noise where he showed unflagging interest in the creative motivations of a very wide range of composers - including some composers with deeply flawed characters and questionable political records.

For me the highlight of the book is the concluding trio of essays, about Bob Dylan, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson and Brahms. The piece about Dylan is revealing and often very funny. That about Brahms is downright moving. Some of the insights may have come from Jan Swafford's superb biography of Brahms, but I have Ross's book to thank for encouraging me to read it. Even as a child, I somehow felt that Brahms's music spoke to me in a startlingly direct manner - Ross's comments may have helped me start to understand how Brahms has had such an effect on me, and continues to do so.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Fresh and challenging take on music
Wide-ranging, from Dylan (a particularly insightful essay) to the appeal of Verdi. The opening, autobiographical, piece tells the unusual story of a young man educated in classical... Read more
Published 11 months ago by A. C. MCLEAN
5.0 out of 5 stars interesting and informative
A very enjoyable book written in a way that non musically trained people (which I happen to be) will find interesting.
Published 15 months ago by Harry Stottle
5.0 out of 5 stars Another winner
Alex Ross on fine form again. If you liked The Rest Is Noise then you will love this as well.
Published 16 months ago by J. Myles
4.0 out of 5 stars I still have to read the other 3 books. Pls come back later on . tks!
have read the two books by alex ross and found them highly competent, informative and well documented. Read more
Published 18 months ago by ettore ulivelli
5.0 out of 5 stars Well done!
Thank you, seller, for excellent service. The book was well-packaged and arrive in good order and in good time. Mary F
Published on 12 Jan 2011 by Mary Fletcher
5.0 out of 5 stars Listen to This
Brilliant. I want to know more about music and this book was refreshing and links to a web site as well so the reader can listen to music referred to... Read more
Published on 6 Jan 2011 by Mrs. Susan M. Davies
5.0 out of 5 stars The unity of music
If there is an underlying theme in this beautiful book this is the unity of music, classical and popular. Read more
Published on 15 Dec 2010 by Serghiou Const
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