The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century
In his beautifully written preface, New Yorker music critic Alex Ross concedes that 20th-century classical music (perhaps an oxymoron from the get-go?) “sounds like noise to many.” The avant-garde may have cracked the visual art market and influenced well-known filmmakers, but much of 20th-century music seems marginal to the classical repertoire. Perhaps so, but along with the usual accounts of major composers, Ross stresses the influence of modernist music on everything from horror movie soundtracks to the Velvet Underground. In his engaging overview of recent “serious music” and the world outside the concert hall, Ross justifiably shows little patience for the older generation of critics who dismissed Sibelius and Copeland for their popularity and their refusal to adhere to a cranky ideology of modernism. The Rest is Noise may well stand as a nearly definitive work in its field.