What a great book about music! Even the preface of this book was worth reading. Alex Ross seems to listen to music the same way I do. Great music is not confined to one type. Great music can be found in every genre. This book spans the most amazing variety of subjects. The first chapter “Crossing the boarder from Classical to Pop” is one of the most interesting discussions about what music is, that I have ever read. He talks about how he hates the term “Classical” music because it locks this music in the past “and cancels out the possibility that music in the spirit of Beethoven could still be created today.” Alex takes us on a journey through the past to show us that “the walking blues” is a direct descendent of the chacona and lamento of medieval times. Then he takes on the challenge of explaining the genius of Mozart. You go on tour with Radiohead and discover that they are heavily influenced by the music of Olivier Messiaen and the first synthesizer the ondes Martenot. He explains how invention of the ability to record music changed music forever. He tells us about the “anti Maestro” Esa-Pekka Salonen and then searches the soul of Franz Schubert. Alex Ross goes to Iceland and interviews the massively individualistic Bjork. You get to learn about the “classical music” Renascence taking place in China today. He interviews the great American composer John Luther Adams and we also get a chapter on Opera as a Popular art. Then he takes us on a fascinating tour with the burgeoning St. Lawrence Quartet. ( A very different experience from being on tour with Radiohead.) Then you go to the “Edges of Pop” where Mr. Ross discusses such diverse elements as a local New York City performer, Sonic Youth, and Kurt Cobain. The crisis is music education in this country is studied and explained. A viable solution is offered as well. Other topics include Marian Anderson, The Marlboro Festival, going on tour with Bob Dylan, and Lorraine Hunt Lieberson. Finally, the book closes with a magnificent discussion of the life and music of Brahms.
Another great aspect of this book is that Alex Ross coordinated it with his blog www.therestisnoise.com. You can go to his blog and listen to all the music he discusses in the book. This book is worth the journey. It will give you insight and enjoyment. It is a rare thing to be educated and entertained at the same time. Buy his book or get it at the library, but don’t miss this great book about the massive variety of music in all it’s glory.
You can find a link to his sight on my blogroll.