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39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars breezy and compulsively readable
If someone told you "Hey, I've got a great beach book for you, it's about 20th century classical music!" you would no doubt think they were pulling your leg. But that's what we have here, quite an accomplishment by Alex Ross, the music writer for The New Yorker. Ross's breezy combination of biography, social history and musical analysis makes the 543 pages fly by. I...
Published on 23 July 2010 by Autonomeus

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213 of 236 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Over-hyped perhaps?
This has been the subject of a great deal of hype but (perhaps because of that) I found I didn't enjoy it very much. Anyone looking for something as crisply written and as intellectually stimulating as, say, The Shock of the New by Robert Hughes is likely to be disappointed. It's a curiously baggy and unfocussed book, which perhaps reflects some of the difficulties...
Published on 10 Dec. 2008 by Don Bartolo


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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing, 5 Feb. 2010
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I thought it could be difficult, but Alex Ross achieved to make it easy......the stories are amazing, the rithm of the book is fantastic. The best: how he contextualizes every music movement, every compositor. Thanks to the gossip too! :)
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mostly fine, 6 Feb. 2014
This book arrived with the back cover and some pages folded on the lower corner. It was small but also dirty, it seemed like something had stepped on it. The other books from the same package were better conditioned and in perfect conditions.
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read, recommended to anyone with even a passing interest in music, 25 Sept. 2008
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This is a huge subject, and Alex Ross does a great job of covering it. Not everyone will be happy if their pet composer or movement has been tackled only briefly (if at all), but it would be impossible to fit the entire century into a single volume. As a result of reading this I have been moved to listen to Schoenberg and Strauss (esp. the Metamorphosen) for the first time; they are challenging works but rewarding and it has been great to have my musical horizons expanded by reading this book.
For me, the book was worth buying for the chapter on Sibelius alone; the passage describing the walk around Ainola and linking it to Sibelius' music is just superb - it sent me straight back to my CD collection to dig out and listen to the symphonies after years of not playing them.
Overall that is the most wonderful thing about this book - it inspires you to listen to more music.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very big book, 11 Jun. 2013
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This review is from: The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century (Kindle Edition)
Very big book in every way and a challenge to go and research and discover all the music described in the book 'on line'. Made for a very different Bookclub experienceincluding music being played for us.
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26 of 48 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars BARELY LISTENING, 10 April 2008
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John Stahle (New York City) - See all my reviews
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Made possible by the exacting editors at The New Yorker, where most of it appeared first, this once-over-very-lightly survey of 20th century Western music begins with the first stirrings of modernity in Bayreuth and Paris circa 1880 and takes us up to now, when new classical work is largely consigned to movie soundtracks.

The real story since 1950 is the discovery of so much forgotten classical past, and the careful efforts to recreate its original sound in recordings. We experience classical music today through the composers brought back to roaring life by musicologists and audio engineers, not the dry postwar modernisms shunned by the public. At home, I now have more beautiful music ready to play than any pre-war musician would have heard in a lifetime. Halfway through the century, the medium itself changed profoundly, from an ephemeral public one to an archival private one. This story Mr. Ross does not tell at all.

What would make his survey really useful is an annotated bibliography for each chapter, showing us where to get the information barely sketched here, along with a discography longer than one page. Ross' survey is very readable; it's just that you're on your own if you want anything more. But I do envy Ross for getting two paychecks for the same work, from his magazine and from his publisher.
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7 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A 'must read'., 27 Mar. 2008
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J. Pearson (UK) - See all my reviews
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One of the most complete and satisfying books of its genre. It is easy to read, and draws you through the Music and Musicians of the 20th century. The only problem is the expense, for one is always making notes as to which CD to order next!!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 18 Feb. 2015
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3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The rest is noise, 9 Mar. 2009
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Mrs. Joan Williamson (Herefordshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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An excellent book which really does justice to modern music from both sides of the Atlantic. Modern composers are described, warts and all, and their music analysed fully. The author weaves a fascinating story which, though factually well researched and correct, is never dull.
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars like listening to berlioz, 2 Feb. 2013
what is going on? I heard about this book today and started reading it. Never have I read a book containing so many empty generalisations, redundant sentences. meaningless judgements.
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4 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Rest Is Not Noise, 6 April 2009
The Rest Is Not Noise

On the 6th of April 2009 I wrote a detailed and critical review of Alex Ross's mega tome on 20th Century Music `The Rest Is Noise'. For whatever reason the review was pulled from Amazon because somebody didn't like it! This to me smacks of too much power and too little faith in our democratic system of free speech. I, as a writer myself ,have had a wealth of positive reviews and the occasional bad review both in print and on Amazon. I have never elected to have a review expunged on the basis that it wasn't favourable. So let's see, three years later what do I feel now about `The Rest Is Noise'.

The book is extremely egocentric and eccentric. Originally subtitled `From Vienna To The Velvets' (a title borrowed from myself) the book goes out of its way to ignore the bulk of 20th Century Music: no Hendrix,Love,John McLaughlin, Captain Beefheart or King Crimson. There are a few pages at the end about Eno and The Velvet Underground but the feeling is cursory as if appended in afterthought.

One would expect a book of near 700 pages (it took me a week to read it and an entire day to write the original review) to give many citations to a priori works that paved the way for such a creation. I mentioned 20th Century music writers like David Toop, Joseph Machlis, Norman Lebrecht, Ian MacDonald and even my own work on The Ambient Century but all are treated as if they never existed.

My strong contention was this was a work that firmly re-routes 20th Century Music as primarily the creation and re-iteration of a handful of Jewish composers. Yes I'll admit the profound importance of Mahler, of the 2nd Viennese School et al in the shaping of that century's music but the constant harping on about Wagner's so-called anti-semitism ignores what for me is the beauty of the century, the creation in Stockhausen's words of `a universal music of all peoples,races and cultures'.

To this day I'm disappointed that such a skewed work should get such lavish praise. By erecting such a huge barrier between Composition and as he says "the noise of the rest" he , in a strange way seems to undermine the progress of the last 50 years. He returns to the orthodoxy of "the barriers are up and why shouldn't they"; of Jazz is ok because it's technical but Pop / Rock /Ambient /Electronica / Krautrock and such should be ignored because they are too simplistic; of placing Pink Floyd in the "File under Pop" bracket, of ignoring literally thousands of great sonic moments because they are not "high-brow" enough.

In the end what completely undermined the book's hype as one of the greatest 20th century music books ever was the lack of adequate discography. Ross's paltry list of five essential 20th Century recordings , a mere five discs accorded to Schoenberg/Webern, Stravinsky, Benjamin Britten,Oliver Messiaen and Steve Reich says everything you need to know about the limitations of his perspective. Of course there's no Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (the first true meeting of Pop/Rock & Classical music) nor Hendrix's mind-blowing Electric Ladyland? Why should there be! In Ross's mind they are merely good examples of Noise!

Mark Prendergast January 3rd 2013
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