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Listen to This + The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century
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Listen to This Whether his subject is Mozart or Bob Dylan, Ross shows how music expresses the full complexity of the human condition. Witty, passionate, and brimming with insight, "Listen to This" teaches people how to listen.

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49 internautes sur 49 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Read this! 2 novembre 2010
Par Christopher Costabile - Publié sur
From the first chapter of his second book, LISTEN TO THIS, in which he recounts how Beethoven's "Eroica" symphony inspired a lifelong love of music in him - to the last in which he details the pathos lingering throughout the work of Johannes Brahms - Alex Ross cements his reputation as perhaps the most dynamic writer on music today. His first outing, THE REST IS NOISE, has become an international bestseller and established itself as THE premiere survey on twentieth century classical music - an obtuse subject effortlessly broken down and made accessible by Ross's seamless prose and clear narrative structure.

LISTEN TO THIS proves to be far more episodic than THE REST IS NOISE. In contrast to that book's linear chronology, LISTEN TO THIS is simply a collection of essays on various musical subjects, most of which have already been published in Ross's primary meal ticket, THE NEW YORKER magazine. But LISTEN TO THIS is no less riveting, as Ross's engaging writing is by turns emotional (the sentimental chapter on Lorraine Hunt Lieberson), intelligent (he chronicles the entire musical history of a particular walking bass line in chapter two) and funny (the many on-campus scenes he depicts involving Marlboro College in "The Music Mountain"). Also, since it includes chapters on a wide variety of musicians, from Mozart to Dylan to Bjork to contemporary Chinese classical composers, LISTEN TO THIS truly does have "something for everyone," and reading through all of the essays is a great way to expose yourself to new music in which you may not have had any prior interest. Personally, I was less than enthused about reading the chapters on Schubert and Brahms, for example, but after making my way through them - which I ultimately considered more of a joy than a chore - I found myself researching more historical facts and seeking out samples of their music. It is a testament to Ross's skills as a writer that he has long been inspiring this effect in many of his readers. Don't be surprised if you pick up a Marian Anderson record or develop a sudden peculiar liking for obscure Chinese composer Qigang Chen after reading this book! Ross even makes it easy on us by providing a "suggested listening" section on each chapter, in which he recommends a slew of recordings.

Ross isn't without his flaws, however: he is far more comfortable when covering classical subjects than pop or rock, as evinced by the rather bland chapter on Radiohead (though he fares better with Bjork, weaving comparisons of her music to the Icelandic classical tradition throughout that chapter). Also, the chapter "Edges of Pop" is without any real thesis - only offering brief glimpses at a small smorgasbord of oddball musical artists.

Regardless, anyone with even a remote interest in classical or rock music would be hard pressed not to find inspiration and insight in LISTEN TO THIS. Alex Ross's devout love of music bleeds off of every page, without fail, directly into the heart of the reader.
12 internautes sur 12 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 An engaging and mind-opening collection 26 janvier 2011
Par P. J. Owen - Publié sur
Fans of his work know that Alex Ross writes mainly about classical music, and Listen To This highlights some of his best writing on the genre in the last decade, including fantastic essays on Mozart, Schubert, and late-period Brahms. But he also has something for contemporary music fans, with almost equally enlightening essays on Bob Dylan, Radiohead and Bjork. His knowledge of music is deep--he grew up listening to classical instead of popular music, and took music lessons as a teenager-- and he applies the same critical musical eye to Kid A and Medulla as he does the Eroica. Indeed, Ross shows us that some of our best pop composers pay just as much attention to textures, rhythm, harmony, and melody as a composer of orchestral music would, and I saw these artists from a new angle.

In fact, this conjunction of music, crossing the border from classical to pop as he calls it, is precisely the book's strength, and possibly its greatest potential benefit. Though these essays are primarily about classical music, he writes with such a contagious zeal, with such an obvious love of music, that he shades the restrictive boundaries we've created to categorize music. He does this well in the above-mentioned pieces. But nowhere is this idea better put than in his essay, "Chacona, Lamento, Walking Blues", where he ties the basso lamento of the middle ages through the centuries all the way to Led Zeppelin's "Dazed and Confused". Ross gets it. He gets that music is music and any genre of it has the ability to touch anyone.

Still, his first love is classical, and nothing seems to concern him as much as the forms lack of popularity, especially the greatly underappreciated works of the twentieth century. This concern informs many of the essays. In "Listen to This", Ross outlines the history of classical music's popular decline. He blames it partially on what he calls the "sacralization" of music, a process over time that turned the proceedings of a classical music concert into an almost religious experience. The most glaring example of this snobbery, the prohibition on applauding mid-piece, even between movements, is explained. But perhaps worse than ridiculous rules of etiquette was what Ross calls the "fetishizing" of the past, the etching of the great classical composers onto a musical equivalent of Mt Rushmore, where there's no room for new faces. He argues that this prompted modern composers to write for one another, pushing the music into territory far removed from the classical repertoire and foreign to the ears of most listeners who were untrained to catch the musical `advancements' these artists were making.

I found the error of the modern composer's way neatly summarized in Ross's essay on Mozart, which is called, "The Storm of Style: Mozart's Golden Mean". Mozart's `Golden Mean' is early advice the composer's father, Leopold, gave him. Leopold told the young Wolfgang that he had to write music that would be appreciated by both connoisseurs of music as well as the general public. As enjoyably and thought-provokingly as Ross writes, I would've liked to have seen him tie the problem of modern music to this simple rule. Because as a fan of classical music who hates just about every modern orchestral piece he's ever heard, I see this as the core problem. I often read rave reviews about contemporary composers, like John Adams, Jennifer Higdon, and Osvaldo Golijov. But they're almost always written by the intelligentsia of classical music: conductors, other composers, or the classical press, people like Ross. Modern composers must make music smart AND entertaining for regular listeners. Otherwise the music will remain as distant from most of us as the lives of the great composers are. Most people can enjoy Beethoven's 5th symphony, even if they don't understand how he spends the entire symphony harmonically taking apart the famous eight-note beginning. But will the average listener appreciate Stravinsky's Rite of Spring if they don't know about or understand the rhythmic intricacies of the piece? I doubt so, in most cases. It's all about the golden mean.

Of course, many people could appreciate classical music more if they gave it the time and attention it deserves. But given the average attention span these days, perhaps the future lies in Ross's essays on pop music. Maybe Radiohead and Bjork are our modern masters. Both are inspired by the composer Olivier Messiaen, but have used his influence in a form more readily accessible in the current world culture. In the essay, "Symphony of Millions", Ross goes to China and finds music conservatories there teaching not just classical theory, but also pop-music arranging. As we may find China driving world culture in the twenty-first century, is this a sign that blended genres and shorter works will render modern orchestral compositions permanently irrelevant? (Indeed, I think some of the more successful contemporary orchestral works already do blend genres. See Golijov, for example.)

Wherever you come down on the issue, Ross's thought-provoking work is a great guide to have in the thinking process. He hits his own golden mean with his engaging and intelligent writing, which will appeal to a broad category of music-lover, not just classical fans. It's for anyone who wants to know how music works its magic, and the artists who create that magic.
14 internautes sur 17 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 An American view on classical music 3 janvier 2011
Par Martin - Publié sur
This selection of Essays, most of them already published in the New Yorker, doesn't provide the same thrill as "The Rest Is Noise", which felt like a long and exciting adventure trip, but is nevertheless highly interesting and entertaining.

I liked most the first chapter and the one about Lorraine Hunt, probably also the chapters with the most personal involvement. And, even being a pure classical guy, I especially liked the chapters about the non-classical subjects since they told stories completely new to me. Friends who know more about this music were less impressed though.

Vice versa I was not so impressed by the hardcore classical chapters on Mozart, Schubert and Brahms. They are very interesting and intelligent but seemed to me more a summary of the latest scholary opinions than giving a real personal view.

I, as a German, also sensed much more in this book than in "The Rest Is Noise" that Americans have a different approach to classical music. Not that we don't have similar discussions about the near dead of classical music, the problems with the reception of contemporary classical music and the classification in "high culture" and "pop culture". But what's different is that Europeans consider classical music much more as part of their cultural identity, in a way that probably Americans feel about Hollywood as part of their identity no matter if they are especially interested in movies or not. For Americans classical music, even it also has a own long history by now, stays at the very bottom foreign and exotic, just as something not grown from own roots.

I believe that Alex Ross can enjoy and appreciate the sadness of the late Brahms' music. But I think he lacks the understanding of some deeper layers that are connected with the historic climate of Brahms time. Or the social and communicative implications of feudalism that still define Mozarts music.

However, this is a great book and I'm looking forward to further books by this rarely gifted writer.
2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Good, Not Great Like Its Older Brother 8 décembre 2012
Par Anne Mills - Publié sur
Achat vérifié
Had I not read the author's "The Rest is Noise" before reading "Listen to This", I would probably have enjoyed "Listen" more and might given it four stars. But that's the problem with being the pretty good younger sibling of a dazzling first child: nobody judges you on your own merits. "Noise" is one of the few books that have really taught me a lot: it's also a beautifully written book, pulling the reader along without the effort usually entailed in learning a lot.

"Listen" isn't in the same league as "Noise". Now, before going further, I should say that it clearly was not intended to be. "Listen to This", as Ross says, "combines various New Yorker articles, several of them substantially revised, with one long piece written for the occasion." The articles cover a wide range of musical topics, ranging in time from the Renaissance to yesterday, and in genre from the most popular to the most intellectualized. There is little structural linkage between one article and another, and it probably doesn't matter much if you read them out of order.

The articles are well worth reading, though some (not surprisingly) are on topics of more interest to this reader than others. But that is good feature in this sort of miscellany. Reading something about a musician or composer in whom the reader has absolutely no interest could (and in this case did) spark some interest, leading to a listen to one of the works in question, and to a broadening of horizons. The first essay is of particular interest. It traces a pair of musical figures through the whole history of "western" music. It is also demanding, whereas some of the other essays are the non-fiction equivalent of easy listening.

As usual, Ross's writing is a delight; clear, supple, and unusually successful in conveying something about music (so much writing about music brings to mind the quote about dancing about architecture) Also, thanks and cheers for his website [...] where you can listen to the music he discusses in the book.

In sum, this is a pleasant and perceptive collection of essays by a music critic who is always worth reading. Let's hope that something more major is waiting in the wings.
12 internautes sur 17 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
2.0 étoiles sur 5 Great book but no images in Kindle version! 4 janvier 2011
Par Hamish - Publié sur
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
The book is very interesting and great to read, but I was very dissapointed to find out that the Kindle version doesn't contain the images/figures that the paper version does! It would have been great if the Kindle version at least had the figures, and maybe even the audio examples built in!
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