This might be the best novel I've ever read, and it's not even a novel. Not only is this book an excellent cultural history of fin de siècle Vienna, modernist Paris, Jazz age New York, Weimar Berlin, Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, Golden Age Hollywood, and all the other great artistic epochs of the century: it is above all a Proustian series of portraits of the century's greatest composers done over time. The chapter on music in the Soviet Union, for example, focuses on Shostakovich as he fearfully tries to get on Stalin's good side, yet encodes his music with hints of resistance. 100 pages and 20 years later, with Stalin long since dead, we meet Shostakovich again, still composing, still reckoning with Stalin's ghost.— Jimmy H.
Winner of the 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism
A New York Times Book Review Top Ten Book of the Year
Time magazine Top Ten Nonfiction Book of 2007
Newsweek Favorite Books of 2007
A Washington Post Book World Best Book of 2007
In this sweeping and dramatic narrative, Alex Ross, music critic for The New Yorker, weaves together the histories of the twentieth century and its music, from Vienna before the First World War to Paris in the twenties; from Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Russia to downtown New York in the sixties and seventies up to the present. Taking readers into the labyrinth of modern style, Ross draws revelatory connections between the century's most influential composers and the wider culture. The Rest Is Noise is an astonishing history of the twentieth century as told through its music.
“The Rest Is Noise is a great achievement. Rilke once wrote of how he learned to stand 'more seeingly' in front of certain paintings. Ross enables us to listen more hearingly.” —Geoff Dyer, The New York Times Book Review
“[A] Brilliant, hugely enjoyable cultural history.” —The Christian Science Monitor
“Ross is a surpremely gifted writer who brings together the political and technological richness of the world inside the magic circle of the concert hall, so that each illuminates the other.” —Lev Grossman, Time
“It would be hard to imagine a better guide to the maelstrom of recent music than Mr. Ross, who worked on this book for a decade. He has an almost uncanny gift for putting music into words.” —The Economist
“The Rest Is Noise is a long and thrilling ride. . . . [Ross] writes about music in vivid language humming with intelligence. He tells great stories about musicians' lives and illuminates their work with the light of his own experiences.” —Kevin Berger, Salon.com
“The best book on what music is about--really about--that you or I will ever own.” —Alan Rich, LA Weekly