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Thomas Ades: Full of Noises: Conversations with Tom Service Hardcover – 4 Oct 2012

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (4 Oct. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571278973
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571278978
  • Product Dimensions: 14.3 x 2.1 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 453,269 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'A series of conversations between Tom Service and Thomas Ades that are as magnetic as they are argumentative ... There is a winning petulance to the encounter, which Service as editor has done well to leave unexpurgated ... Childish, philosophical, witty, exasperating, noisy, calm, Service shows us the full gamut of opinion, passion and precision driving one of our most engaging talents. It is a great battle of wills and provokes an unapologetically complex book.' --Classical Music Magazine

'Thomas Adès is one of this country s most brilliant and inventive composers, and in Full of Noises he shares his thoughts with a leading music journalist. Driving the book is the passionate intensity with which Adès thinks about his art, which leads to some entertainingly acerbic views on his fellow composers. But as well as this knockabout stuff, there are fascinating explorations of the mysterious, organic process of composition and his admiration for Beethoven.' --Adam Lively, Sunday Times Books of the Year

Far from looking to establish his position at the forefront of any kind of fashionable aesthetic doctrine, Ades speaks only for himself and here offers rare insights into his compositional all makes for engaging exchanges in a book that is rich in musical metaphors, as two articulate minds discuss, reveal and at times compete over what, for now, interests them most. --BBC Music Magazine, January 2013

This is not about competing composers; rather it is about what the enthusiastic, probing and tenacious Tom Service, such a popular host these days on BBC Radio 3, has elicited from Ades, a notably enigmatic and reclusive man. Service has in fact secured some very interesting responses, some illuminating, some wacky, and all adding up to a portrait of Ades that is revealing, very personal and sometimes difficult to come to terms with...recommended for its potential controversy. --Gramophone, January 2013

Book Description

Thomas Adès: Full of Noises: Conversations with Tom Service is an unprecedented glimpse into the creative mind and influences of one of the most intriguing and successful contemporary composers.

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By Amazon Customer on 10 May 2013
Format: Hardcover
There should be more books like this; it reads conversationally, without sacrificing depth or insight, and allows the composer's sensibility sufficient space to come across. The back and forth, slightly Socratic nature of the dialogue provides a feeling of following the thread of an argument all the way through, which is difficult to do in a format like this.

One section ends like this: "That's how a composer thinks about the live performance, Tom. Not as an event, a social event, but as the revelation of a new world." It's refreshing to see a meaningful vision articulated so clearly, and this is a thoroughly enjoyable and absorbing book.
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By Stephen Webster on 18 May 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
very good
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 7 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Brilliant and deep 8 Dec. 2012
By Edufern - Published on
Format: Hardcover
It certainly reads on one sitting but I think it takes a lifetime of rereading. Great, maybe the best book I have read about composition. Adès is supremely articulate, just like his music, and he illuminates the creative process fearlessly and honestly (not only his own; he seems to be inside the mind of Stravinsky, Debussy and several others). Tom Service's questioning is the ideal "straight man" to Adès and he is certainly not obsequent. To enjoy and recommend. The polemical comments about Wagner remind me of Bernstein's "I hate him on my knees". I find puzzling the absence of any reference to music before Mozart. It would be fascinating to know what Adès thinks of Bach or Monteverdi-
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The Thoughts of a Man who Lives Music 13 Jan. 2013
By PETER FREUND - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I first came across Thomas Adès' music at one of the yearly Chicago Humanities Festivals, where with the composer sitting some three seats away from me, I heard a rendition of his Arcadiana string quartet. It made such a deep impression on me that it feels like yesterday, but Google assures me it was fourteen years ago. I then got a CD of Adès' opera "Powder Her Face," and it reinforced in me the belief that Mr. Adès is a major composer. His latest opera "The Tempest" strongly confirms this belief. Moreover, at Carnegie Hall I heard a recital by the tenor Ian Bostridge with Thomas Adès at the piano. Not only is Adès a major composer, but he is clearly a major pianist as well. I mention all this, because with such a background, I did not hesitate a moment to purchase the Adès-Service book.

This is not to say it could not have been a dud, think Richard Wagner's "Das Judentum in der Musik." But the Adès-Service book transcends even my highest expectations. Thomas Adès lives music, and is able to accurately describe how he does that. He feels that notes exert a force on each other, he calls it a magnetic force, and this force sets the notes in motion and a piece of music develops.

In the course of this conversation with Mr. Service, who much to his credit holds his own, we get many a detail about what went into this or that Adès composition, as well as how major musicians fare in Adès' estimation. Brahms and Wagner, the two major, mutually antagonistic, German composers of the second half of the nineteenth century, both get their comeuppance. But they do so through readily understandable arguments. We are told that a country willing to take seriously Wagner's Kundry, without even cracking a smile, let alone roaring with laughter at a woman sleeping for aeons, and only waking when Wagner visits a "horrible chord" on her, marked this country for serious upcoming trouble. This brings to mind Oscar Wilde's quip "One must have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without laughing."

As to Brahms, Adès differentiates the composer of the "Song of Destiny," whom he identifies as the real Brahms, a "big passionate country symbolist peasant dreamer and poet", from the composer of the four symphonies whom he calls "a phoney." I too have made the distinction of these two "Brahmses," except that as far as I am concerned, with the exception of a few lieder, I dislike the vocal-music-Brahms and revere the symphonist. But then, in matters musical I cannot but yield to Adès. And then, there is the fact that the great composer Francis Poulenc also turned on Brahms, "All of Schumann's faults and none of the genius." The real question becomes, why Brahms affects great composers so very differently from how he affects the rest of us.

For that matter, on Mahler's "Symphony of a Thousand" (the eighth) we agree fully: Adès sees it as a major embarrassment for its composer, while my reaction to this work has always been that the civilization which produced something this pretentious and bombastic was bound to fall apart soon, and indeed, at the end of WWI the Habsburg Empire ended its centuries-long existence.

Much to my pleasure, the list of composers admired by Adès includes Beethoven, Berlioz, Liszt, Stravinsky, Nancarrow, Berg, Kurtág and Ligeti. It is a pity that Ligeti's opera "Le Grand Macabre" does not come up in the conversation. After all, there is this marvelous chain of operatic coloratura soprano roles starting with Mozart's Queen of the Night, continuing with Richard Strauss' Zerbinetta, then Ligeti's Police Chief and for the time being ending with Adès' Ariel.

All in all, this is a marvelous book and its high point is the announcement that Adès is working on a new opera based on Luis Buñuel's movie "The Exterminating Angel," something to look forward to.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Oddly Inspiring? 9 Jan. 2013
By Duzzi D - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Putting to the side the frequent disparaging remarks about a number of composers (Verdi, Wagner, Stravinsky, Shostkovich, Stockhausen all fall under the axe) and frequent references to all those people that don't really understand music or composition, I found this book quite disappointing. One could not really expect too much from an interview, but still one would be hard pressed to find some actual specific information on music or composition in this, rather expensive, hardcover. Adès, when talking about music, his or others, constantly uses metaphors and slips into rather convoluted language or imagery. Some of this might be ok, and it might even be unavoidable (at the end of the story it is very hard to "talk" about instrumental music), but the result is an interview that often ends up close to be incomprehensible. Tom Service occasionally tries to keep things together, by asking for explanations or arguing a particularly obscure point, but he ultimately fails, or seem to give up after a few pages of going in circles.

Still the book, a C-day present, ended up being oddly inspiring. It served as a reminder of how not to think about music and art. A lighter touch, less noise, more clarity and some simplicity (Ernst Toch, The Shaping Forces in Music: An Inquiry into the Nature of Harmony, Melody, Counterpoint and Form (The Dover Series of Study Editions, Chamber Music, Orchestral Works, Operas in Full Score), comes to mind) are more enlightening and cheerful.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
(wince) 24 April 2014
By Barnaby Thieme - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Spending time with this book is such an unpleasant experience, it nearly makes me rethink my enthusiastic admiration for Adès as a composer. I've followed his career with great interest and seen him perform and conduct several times, so I have to say that this book came as a real disappointment, and I don't believe he did himself any favors by taking part in its creation.

"I hate the word 'people,'" he tells us at one juncture. "When somebody uses it they're usually lying about something for their own benefit. 'People want' this or 'people want' that. It's always an alibi, an excuse for something bad, something cheap, a shoddy compromise. I write for humans."

The book is crowded with fatuous insights of this caliber. It lacks meaningful insight into his own creative process or the work of other great musicians.

His observations on Wagner are incoherent and hostile, which I don't love. "In Wagner every note is political and that to me is repulsive. Ethics are a distraction that an artist cannot afford."


Or try this on for size: "When I talk about Wagner's 'fungal' quality, by the way, I'm talking about something quite technical: his music isn't a tree, it's a fungus."

Ah yes - I see! Quite technical.

It consistently feels unrehearsed, and not in a good way - rather, unfocused, tritely conversational, and somewhat neurotic and catty.

I can't easily remember written work by a composer turning me off to a greater degree.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Yummy and irreverent 3 Sept. 2013
By Raulee Marcus - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A very insightful, literate and irreverent view of composing. And a compelling view of other composers. We are fortunate that Tom Adès shares his views and his music. Yum.
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