Monday, September 6, 2010

The Rest Is Noise

I always look forward to Alex Ross' music reviews in The New Yorker, and I just finished reading his survey of 20th century music, The Rest Is Noise. It is a very enjoyable read, particularly the first 300 pages, which deals with music up to the end of World War II. Ross' style makes the imparting of a great deal of information (some of which I knew, some of which I didn't) look effortless. Ross is particularly good at looking at connections between the arts (music and painting, music and literature), and how they feed off of each other.
He is pretty snarky about the work of Olivier Messiaen, which I found surprising. Ross neglects to mention two of my favorite contemporary composers, Adam Guettel and Aaron Jay Kernis, and leaves out the recently deceased Donald Erb, though he finds room for Marc Blitzstein (is he really that important?). Most surprising to me was his nearly total neglect of women composers (Ellen Taaffee Zwilich included), despite the fact he mentions women librettists.

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