Concert Music

I have returned to Alex Ross's excellent book - "Rest in Noise". I'll let him explain the title and the idea behind the book:

The title I chose for the project, The Rest Is Noise, played off Hamlet's last words ("The rest is silence") and, more widely, the perception that classical composition devolved into noise as the twentieth century went on ...

... The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century is a voyage into the labyrinth of modern music, which remains an obscure world for most people. While paintings of Picasso and Jackson Pollock sell for a hundred million dollars or more, and lines from T. S. Eliot are quoted on the yearbook pages of alienated teenagers across the land, twentieth-century classical music still sends ripples of unease through audiences. At the same time, its influence can be felt everywhere. Atonal chords crop up in jazz. Avant-garde sounds populate the soundtracks of Hollywood thrillers. Minimalism has had a huge effect on rock, pop, and dance music from the Velvet Underground onward.

The book was nominated for whole bunch of awards and won quite a few of them. What makes this book especially interesting is the listening list. More importantly, Alex Ross has made a lot of the audio available on his website, including additional pictures and material.

Rest is Noise Audio Archive
In a perverse way, it made me abandon the reading of the book as I got sidetracking in the listening. I craved for more; and went and got myself some Debussy and Mahler. Then I got stuck there. Most people are used the Germanic traditions of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, but not the French. So, Debussy is rather refreshing, a sort of aural version of Impressionism.

Then there are practical difficulties. I needed good headphones to capture the dynamic range and subtleties. The ones that come with the iPod are mostly junk. So, I invested (read:indulged) in the Mercedes(not a Ferrari) of headphones and the difference was striking. People listen to rock music while jogging, Mahler isn't recommended. Listening to that stuff takes time and concentration. Eating McDonald's fries doesn't take any concentration, but trying to eat salmon with a delicate sauce from a French restaurant takes some engagement in the meal.

There whole serious ambiance of the classical music wasn't always the case. In this case, the much-maligned middle class IS to blame (New Yorker article on concert history ).

So, I have returned to reading the book. This time, the new notion is to chase down the live concerts at the music school. Perhaps another diversion in the works? Given my limited time left at this wonderful university, I should be getting some sort of education, right?

Hilary Hahn's list of things to watch at a concert

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