Tuesday, February 26, 2008


I just got, as a birthday present, a copy of Alex Ross's "The Rest Is Noise"
Is it just me, or does it seem like there are a lot of Alexes around?
I can't imagine what kind of plot this might signify, but I'll work on it.
Anyway, I'm up to Stravinsky, and not to be dissing the book or anything, so far
I've read biographies of all the composers mentioned.
The book does offer a kind of passacalia bottom for for my previous reading.
Some myths exposed (or maybe not, a lot of 'em could be true).
There is some little controversy as to what Alban Berg might have said to George Gershwin.
Or what Alex (there's that name again) says he did.
Is somebody covering up here?
Or maybe it wasn't Alban Berg at all.
Maybe it was an iceberg.
Iceberg, Albenberg, what's the difference?
All I know is that it wasn't me.
Or as Kryton once said "sometimes you've just got to say 'the laws of causality? Who gives a smeg?'"
I am very sorry that I can't seem to think up anything better than this.

But I can't.

Go see Think Denk, Omniscient Mussel, or Norman Lebrecht if you want something intelligent.
Lot's of stuff about good people (there's mythology for 'ya) and bad music.
Maybe it's the other way 'round.
The crux of the argument seems to be, and I paraphrase here, How could George Gershwin write good music while Southerners were still lynching negros?
Some Northerners too (let's have the courage to see the big picture).

There also seems to be some consternation the possibility of homosexual conduct in the arts sphere. (no offense to Thelonious, please)

I am going to take my box of tissues and my TRIN and go back to bed.



Blogger butch said...

Hey, looks like a cool book. Does this mean, now that you are bragging about being 66, that you let your day of infamy and birth slip by without letting us know? Shame be upon you, sir.

The Barnes & Noble Review
Just as living air-conditioned lives has led us to be simultaneously both less aware and more sensitive to the constant invention of the weather, so has our by now complete immersion in a world of recorded sound altered our perception of the power of music. Certainly when it comes to classical composition, our listening is, generally speaking, less rapt and more impatient; the commodifying of opera, symphony, string quartet, and even the most innovative compositional forms into so many CDs has stripped them of their sense of larger destiny as cultural and historical meaning distilled into fleeting moments of experience in the life of the listener. In this rich, stimulating, and thoroughly satisfying book, New Yorker music critic Alex Ross restores that sense of destiny by "listening to the twentieth century," leading us from a 1906 performance of Strauss' Salome (conducted by the composer and attended by Puccini, Mahler, and Schoenberg) to Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians. Attuned to the way musical meaning, though "vague, mutable, and, in the end, deeply personal," can underscore and even echo the movements of history, Ross puts his agile intelligence, eclectic ear, and superb critical skills to use in enriching our experience of -- or, better yet, introducing us to -- the works of composers as varied as Stravinsky and Sibelius, Britten and Xenakis. Combining his enviable erudition with a gift for fashioning compelling narrative paths through thorny but exhilarating aesthetic and intellectual terrain, peopled with maverick minds and compelling personalities, Ross has written a fascinating, even exciting book, one that will inform a lifetime's listening. --James Mustich

More Reviews and Recommendations
The Rest Is Noise takes the reader inside the labyrinth of modern sound. It tells of maverick personalities who have resisted the cult of the classical past, struggled against the indifference of a wide public, and defied the will of dictators

Finalist for the 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism

The New York Times - Geoff Dyer
The Rest Is Noise is a work of immense scope and ambition. The idea is not simply to conduct a survey of 20th-century classical composition but to come up with a history of that century as refracted through its music…With its key figures reappearing like motifs in a symphony, The Rest Is Noise is a considerable feat of orchestration and arrangement…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.

More Reviews and Recommendations
Alex Ross, music critic for The New Yorker, is the recipient of numerous awards for his work, including two ASCAP Deems Taylor Awards for music criticism, a Holtzbrinck Fellowship at the American Academy in Berlin, a Fleck Fellowship from the Banff Centre, and a Letter of Distinction from the American Music Center for significant contributions to the field of contemporary music. The Rest Is Noise is his first book.

More About the Author
Customer Reviews
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Best Non-Fiction I've Read in Years
Bill Dunmyer (dunmyer@yahoo.com) , A reviewer, 02/12/2008

'The Rest is Noise' is one of the best works of non-fiction I've ever read 'and I've read tens of thousands'. Alex Ross is stunningly learned and wonderfully fresh in his ideas. He somehow manages to be erudite and plain-spoken at the same time. He is a great spirit and a truly gifted writer. Every sentence is beautifully composed, but never over-written. I also learned a ton about 20th-century classical music. This is an incredibly good choice for someone who has a serious interest in the arts but doesn't know much about recent classical music. I can't imagine anyone not loving this book. Kudos to the NY Times for naming this one of the 10 Best Books of 2007. Superb choice.
A Richly Informative, Engrossing Examination of Twentieth Century Music
Grady Harp (lizardiharp@earthlink.net) , writer and curator, 12/07/2007

Alex Ross has the ability and the resources to write about the music of the 20th Century and to establish himself as the creator of the definitive volume with the publication of THE REST IS NOISE: LISTENING TO THE TWENTIETH CENTURY. His depth of knowledge is matched only by his ability to communicate with a writing style that places him in the echelon of our finest biographers. This book is indeed a comprehensive study of the music created in the 20th Century, but it is also a survey of all of the arts and social changes, effects of wars, industrialization, and quirks and idiosyncrasies that surfaced in that recently ended period of history: Ross may call this 'listening' to the 20th century, but is also visualizing and feeling the changes of that fascinating period. Ross opens his survey with a detailed description of the premiere of Richard Strauss' opera SALOME and in doing so he references all of those in attendance (from Mahler to Schoenberg, the last of the great Romantics to the leader of the Modernist innovators) and focuses not only on the chances Strauss took using a libidinous libretto by the infamous Oscar Wilde to the astringent dissonances that surface in this tale of evil and necrophilia. The ballast of that evening is then followed throughout the book, a means of communicating music theory and execution in a manner that is wildly entertaining while simultaneously informative. Ross studies the influence of nationalism in music (the German School, the French School, the British and the American Schools) and then interweaves the particular innovations by showing how each school and each composer was influenced by the simultaneous destruction and reconstruction of the world borders resulting form the wars of that century. He dwells on the pacifists (Benjamin Britten et al) and those trapped by authoritarian regimes (Shostakovich et al), following the great moments as well as the dissonant chances that found audience at times far from the nidus of origin. Ross crosses the 'pond' showing how American music nurtured in the European schools ultimately found grounding in a sound peculiar to this country (Ives, Copland, etc) and allows enough insight as to the influence of jazz to finally satisfy the most critical of readers. Ross, then, accompanies us on the journey from melody to atonality and back, all the while giving us insights into the composers that help us understand the changes in music landscape they induced. The book is long and demanding, but at the same time it is one of the finest 'novels on a music theme' ever written. Highly recommended not only to musicologists, ardent music lovers, and students of the arts, but to the reading public who simply loves history enhanced by brilliant prose. Grady Harp

Another Alex, the Divine Miss S, let us know this year about her birthday. Last year you shared with us, and we all were so pleased. What the hell happened this year?
Iceberg is a small industrial town in Austria, and Alban Berg is a Jew, or might be.

Perhaps you are referring to the "Kryon", the discarnate entity that put out a passel of books in competition with Seth and Ramtha?
Or perhaps Kryton is a sci-fi character that I cannot remember? Or perhaps you just pulled the name out of your shirt pocket?
Bad people and good music, or is it good people and bad musicor is it badgood musicalpeople?

OMG, did George Gershwin own slaves? I didn't think Jews ever owned slaves, just became them, or owned those who owned them. History always did fascinate me. Was Alban Berg a slave? What the hell are you saying here? Yeah, black men were lynched in Northern states right up to the 60's. it is a good thing that some of us after Civil Rights got a foothold finally learned to give a smeg, enit?

Those damned faggots are at it again? I hate it when that happens. I remember when I was an actor, attending one of my "last" auditions. The screamer producer and agent both licke their lips after I managed to get through three elimination auditions. "You know, Buttkus, you are perfect for this part; classically trained, having appeared in 75 plays; just perfect--except for one thing."
"What's that?" I inquired.
"You are hopelessly heterosexual," they both chimed.
There it is I thought, and a career faltered and then altered.

If you are embracing this Virus, please take care of yourself, Pard. It can be an asskicker. It has taken heavy meds to bring me out of it.


2:24 PM  
Blogger butch said...

Yes, old friend, the bug must have bit you, and cousin virus must have settled in, cuz you have not posted the comments yet.

We can only hope you survive intact, minus some virus and plus some new antibodies. Or perhaps the Kitchen countertop has usurped your obligation to the site and to us. Whatever, as the adolescents say.


5:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We all know, dude, that these days Music is your life, but you gotta remember that the loyal readership out here is important too.

There ain't nothing more endearing than a fan base. Take it from me.


5:46 AM  
Blogger Lane Savant said...

Not yet, but vennisoon after, am I 66
The TRIN is from an anonymous guest, who will be leaving town soon.

10:02 AM  
Blogger Lane Savant said...

You know, Eddy, a fan base ought to be maintained by intrinsic value, not mere diligence.

10:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you people know, can you people even imagine how frustrating it is to hear exhortations to "think outside the box"?
What choices do I have here?

I have lain here for almost two hundred Easters waiting for the resurrection I thought I had been promised.

You wouldn't think crocuses growing out of your face was so damn funny if it was happening to you.

There is one thing for certain, though, isn't there?


10:34 AM  
Blogger Lane Savant said...

Ya'know? I'm going to hava to get out my little handbook of musical terminology and look up passacaglia
I's one of those words that never look like they're spelled right.
Probably not the one I wanted to use either. Any the book provides the ground bass for the rest of my reading on the subject.
Not to be confused with P.D.Q's use of the bass line in an overlapping, repeating canonoid figure known as a "Ground Round"

8:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hallo, Lane!
Glad you seem to like the book.
-- Anonomous guest who left town soon after.

3:05 AM  

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