The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century by Alex Ross
Requirements: .MP3 reader, 460 MB
Overview: Like the origins of a musical idea waiting to be developed through the course of symphony, Adrian Leverkühn, the titular musical genius of Thomas Mann’s Doktor Faustus, foreshadows The Rest is Noise. Mann has Leverkühn attend a performance of Richard Strauss’ Salome in 1906, the same event that opens The Rest is Noise. Alex Ross lists Leverkühn’s fictional attendance along with that of the historically correct presence of Mahler, Puccini, Schoenberg, the cream of doomed European society – and the 17-year-old Adolf Hitler. in Mann’s book, Leverkühn contracts syphilis around the same time from a prostitute who goes on to haunt his work; the implied germination of something dark and destructive – musically and historically – sets the tone for Ross’ hugely ambitious book.
if writing about music is like dancing about architecture, Alex Ross, the classical music critic of the New Yorker, is Nureyev with a notebook. Critics may quibble with the lack of academic theory in his descriptions of music (in this regard, it’s constructive to compare his book with Charles Rosen’s The Classical Style), but he has an undeniable gift for enabling the reader to ‘hear’ the outline of the music he describes (or at least make them believe that is what they’re hearing): "Strings whip up dust clouds around manic dancing feet. Brass play secular chorales, as if seated on the dented steps of a tilting little church…Drums bang the drunken lust of young men at the center of the crowd." Consequently, there are countless moments in this book where the temptation to download the music is overwhelming – clearly, copyright issues and running time barred inclusion of musical segments in this recording, and it’s a tribute to Ross’ style that this omission isn’t a critical blow.
Genre: Audiobooks > Non-Fiction History, Music